The biggest obstacle I faced early in my sales career was this: I just wasn’t vocal enough. Too often, I let opportunities to speak up and share my mind pass me by. So now my top piece of advice to junior salespeople is to use your voice. If you feel like you’re being too timid, you probably are. Learn to get out there and be vocal.
I understand from my own experiences that learning how to use your voice isn’t always easy. So here are my top four tips for making yourself heard:
1. Get out there and create opportunities.
The people who succeed in sales don’t just wait for great opportunities to fall from the sky. They go out there and create their own opportunities–and there is always an opportunity to create something whether you are at a small start-up or a large corporation. At my current company Stack Overflow, someone created a sales enablement role. This role didn’t previously exist, but we desperately needed it. Someone was passionate about it, so she stepped up and created the role. Keep your eyes open for these types of opportunities and things will fall into place.
But while I encourage people to create and seize opportunities, this needs to be done thoughtfully. When you take on a new opportunity, it’s important to consider why you want it before jumping in. Earlier in my sales career, I worked in outside sales at CitySearch.com, which was basically Yelp before Yelp. I loved selling to SMBs and was successful at it, which led to an opportunity to get into management when a position opened up. I didn’t have any management experience. But I stepped back and thought about it and why I wanted to enter management.
Now, I always talk to my sales representatives about why they want to go into management before they take the leap. You have to know your why: why you want to sell and why you want to go into management. It will help tremendously when you are doubting yourself or having a bad day. Your why should give you the strength to push to your goals.
2. Promote yourself—even if it sometimes feels awkward.
Navigating a sales career can be tricky. You rely on your coworkers for support, but sometimes you’re in direct competition with them. So while it’s great to root on your peers, at the end of the day you need to learn to prioritize yourself. Be transparent with the rest of the team about your goals and sell yourself when opportunities arise. Make time to discuss your goals with your manager. You are your best advocate.
3. Ask the right questions and listen to other people.
Speaking up is critical, but you can’t be that person who only talks about her own needs—especially when you enter a management position. Use your voice to ask good questions and position yourself as a team player similar to what a good salesperson does on a cold call. When I first entered management, I made a point to ask a lot of questions so I could learn more about the company’s big picture.
Just as importantly, I asked my team for honest feedback. As hard as it was to receive sometimes, I wanted to know about the good and the bad. To become a really good manager, I needed other people to tell me what I was doing wrong or what I needed to improve upon.
4. Just do it.
Ultimately, the secret of using your voice is this: just go out there and do it, but do it respectfully. Before I started in management, I didn’t wait for someone to tell me what to do. I just started being a leader on the floor, mentoring others and sharing my sales process. I didn’t always feel 100% confident about what I was doing, but I didn’t let that stop me. Once I started taking on a leadership role, other people took notice.
I know for a lot of us, speaking up doesn’t always come easily. But learning how to use your voice is one of the best things you can do for your sales career.