by Stephen Gray – May 2015
Many of the tips I’m about to share I received in the classrooms at Baylor as a student. Others I learned during my time at Spurs Sports and Entertainment. They helped me grow into management. I hope they help you with your career. Some may seem obvious; but sometimes the most obvious advice is the most overlooked.
- Win! Regardless of what else you do, the most important thing at the end of the season is: Did you take home the gold? “It doesn’t matter whether you win by an inch or a mile. Winning is winning,” – Dominic Toretto from The Fast and the Furious. If you are working next to others that have been with the team about as long as you, then make sure you come out on top of the sales board. Or, surprise everyone by beating out a veteran. A great place to start winning is in a sales contest. Winning a few sales contests to start off my career at SS&E helped get my name out there to the entire sales floor. I started receiving nicknames like “Stone Cold Steve Gray” and won multiple trips. I know it’s not possible for everyone to win, but what is always possible is to hate to lose.
- Trips with teammates, whether for fun or business, are always company trips. Congrats! You’ve won the sales contest and are on your way to a free vacation with your teammates. This will very likely happen at some point early in your career, so it’s important to understand that what happens on these trips DOES come back to the office with you. Be sure to have fun, but be responsible. Managers want staff members they can depend on. If you want to make a great impression, be the responsible one of the group that is looking out for your teammates.
- The days of sales calls are not over. Thanks to the S3 program, I came out of school knowing I needed to hit the phones harder than my peers to be successful. As a hiring manager, I now know how truly rare that mindset is. Many candidates say they’re ready and know it’s a big part of the job, but saying and doing are completely different things. If you land a sale job, focus on making as many quality calls and face-to-face meetings as possible. Never make calls just to hit the numbers your manager gives you. Your goal for every call is to move that lead further in the sales funnel. Every person you speak to should receive your full attention. Have effective, open-ended questions ready to go. Most importantly: Listen. Learn what they are passionate about and this will open longer conversations and higher close rates.
- Take bullets and give accolades. To be a leader everyone can trust and depend on, you must be able to take responsibility, even for things not fully in your control. Attendance may be down and your manager jumps on the team. Take ownership: We (I) should have done a better job selling & we (I) will make up for it the next time. Make sure you do make it up. Next, don’t wait or ask for praise. Instead, give it out as much as possible. This is one of the best tips I’ve received for building a positive culture in the office.
- Always under-promise and over-deliver. Before unloading all of the great benefits and gifts available to a buyer, stop to think about which ones to save to add value later. Especially do this when putting together proposals and contracts. Hold some of the good stuff back that isn’t essential to getting the deal closed. That is how you go from a salesperson to a hero in your client’s eyes.
- Find a mentor. Find an in-office mentor (who holds the position you seek one day) and an outside mentor. Meet with the inside mentor every other week to discuss those matters s/he is most familiar with. Visit with the outside mentor each month to gain a broader perspective. Always bring a note pad. Always take notes. This shows respect, indicates you are listening, and demonstrates that you plan on using what you learn.
- Limit wasting time during work hours. Are you tempted to browse ESPN, Facebook, or fantasy sports at work? Instead, when you need a break, pick up a book or listen to an audio book for professional improvement. This goes over a lot better when your manager sees you not making phone calls or sending e-mails.
- When you succeed, share it. Nothing makes a worse teammate than making a sale and not sharing anything about it. Share how you found the lead, how you approached it, and how you closed the deal. These stories fuel sales teams to keep going and close more deals. Become a mentor to others. Find a college student or new teammate that appreciates advice and wants to learn. Help them find their way and it will often lead to you developing as well.
- If a teammate needs a boost, call a meeting–regardless of title. One of the most impressive things a sales representative can do is call a meeting with teammates to get them fired up about calls, season ticket campaigns, or the upcoming theme night. Sales managers can be motivational, but sometimes they need help from the leaders on their teams. When a sales representative calls a meeting, it is typically much more effective in motivating the team than the manager calling a second or third meeting that week. The leader of the meeting doesn’t always have to be the veteran. You just have to be passionate about what you are saying and remind them that as a team you can accomplish the task at hand.
- Think outside the box. To separate yourself from your peers, you must think for yourself and come up with new ideas and strategies. Once, I met with the principal from a San Antonio ISD elementary school to present why her school should participate in our annual School Day game. Afterwards, she said what I had heard before: “We don’t have a field trip budget.” How could we get these lower-income schools on board? In the corner of the principal’s office was a brand new Xbox 360 and a bicycle. I asked, “I’m just curious, what are those for?” She said, “Our school bought those to use as an attendance incentive with funds provided by the state for this purpose. Students with perfect attendance are entered into a drawing for a big prize each month.” I asked, “So eight students win prizes throughout the year? What if we made our School Day game the attendance incentive next year? That way every kid with perfect attendance will win a prize.” The principal loved it and bought over 300 tickets for the game. We used this model for all of the lower-income schools I met with and my School Day sales numbers quadrupled. Soon, I was teaching my teammates and other sales teams on how to sell the game to schools without field trip budgets.
Whether these tips are obvious or not, you would be amazed by the number of people that don’t follow through on most of them. Without these tips, I don’t know if I would’ve made it this far in sales. It can be tough at times, but the thrill of winning, sharing, and helping others develop in their own careers has made every minute worth it. The next step for anyone that wants to be a leader, mentor, or just a good teammate is to take note of the best advice you’ve ever received and be sure to share it with your peers.