The best advice I can give to new sales professionals is this: Be intentional about everything you’re doing and why you’re doing it. If you can do that, you can channel your intentions into a successful sales career.
Here’s how I’ve developed my own sales career through the principle of intentionality.
Sales is a Mission
My earliest foray into sales came in the sixth grade. My friends and I were inspired by the Babysitters’ Club books and decided to start our own babysitting agency modeled after the books. We created flyers and passed them out on the streets together. Alas, we didn’t have many customers. But the joy of sisterhood was real, and for me that was the bigger point.
So even though that wasn’t a huge success from a business perspective, I learned an important lesson about sales. You have to understand your mission and prioritize it. That lesson has stuck with me since.
I began my career in staffing, around 2002. That was the worst time to be selling a non-tangible product, but I was able to find meaning in that job once I understood the larger mission.
One day I talked to a candidate who was crying because her husband just lost his job and desperately needed a new job. Then, I’d talk to clients on the other end of the transaction and they would talk about desperately needing people despite not having the budget for it. I realized then that my mission was connecting people, and that was something that sparked joy for me (as Marie Kondo would put it).
When it comes down to it, that’s what the mission of sales is—connecting people with opportunities that provide value. If you can understand and embrace that, you’re in a better position to succeed.
Understanding Your Motivation
To succeed in sales, you also have to really know yourself. It’s not just about what you want, but why you want what you want.
Think about it. What motivates you on an intrinsic level? Be honest with yourself. I’m incentivized by financial freedom. So for me, sales gave me total ownership over my income, which was incredibly motivating. I loved always having an incentive to hit or exceed my number knowing that I could see my success in my earnings.
Taking Ownership Over Your Career
Women tend to think that if we keep our heads down and work hard, our work will eventually be noticed because we don’t want to be the squeaky wheel. But for better or worse, those who raise their hands “Why them? Why not me?”
To avoid this trap, you need to take ownership of your career and be intentional about everything you do. You need to be willing to ask other people for guidance.
I am one of those people who had a plan at 25. I’ve changed it about a hundred times, which is fine. At one point I wanted to be a CEO at age 35, and I’m not. That’s okay. Readjust the plan as necessary, and share it with your mentors and managers. When I worked at LinkedIn, I learned that feedback really is a gift. It enables you to learn what you need to get better and further refine your plan.
Your hard work won’t be noticed unless you tell everyone how great you are, and it is okay to do that. When you’re being strategic about your career development, it’s necessary.
Creating Time for Learning and Thinking
Jeff Weiner, the CEO of LinkedIn, saves two hours out of every day for thinking. I thought that was super-weird when I first started there—I just didn’t know what he could possibly be thinking about for two hours a day.
Now, I schedule time on my calendar for thinking and researching. Now I don’t always have two hours of time or two hours of things to think about, but that’s okay. The point is that I’m being intentional about time for education and reflection.
Even if you can’t devote two hours a day to it, taking the time to develop your skills will lead to new opportunities. Like with everything else, it comes down to being intentional about how you use your time so you can attain your goals.