Sales Mastership: How to be an Exceptional Sales Professional

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It rained on Wednesday night in San Francisco and the last thing I wanted to do was attend a sales meet-up. But there I was with about 50 other sales professionals in the BoomTrain office, eagerly waiting to learn.

I’m so glad I had the opportunity to listen to two incredible speakers hosted by my friend Dan Smith through the Sales Mastership event series. The topic was “The difference between good and great sales professionals.”

Right off the bat, the first speaker Ralph Barsi (Global Sales Development @ ServiceNow) thanked everyone for showing up, acknowledging that it is easy to skip events and blame it on bad weather. We were already setting ourselves apart by showing up. It was humbling to hear someone like Ralph thank me for attending, and set the tone for the event.

I’m obsessed with bullet journalling. So naturally, I pulled out my notebook and started jotting down learnings and action items for sales professionals. Here they are.

Ralph started off his chat stating how everything connects to:

  1. Shaping the attitude of gratitude
  2. Building your brand
  3. Differentiating yourself from the ordinary

Shaping the Attitude of Gratitude

The first point resonated with me, especially since my partner and I practice gratitude every night. We started a ritual inspired by Neil Pascrich called Rose, Rose, Thorn, Bud. Before bed, we take turns talking about “roses” — something that made us happy or grateful that day. Then we talk about “thorns” — something we need to get off our chests to make peace with. And finally, we end on a happy note sharing our “buds” for the next day — something we look forward to.

Ralph put everything into perspective by saying “If you earn $40,000/year in the U.S., you’re in the wealthiest 3.5% of people in the world.” What’s the takeaway here? Take a step back to appreciate everything you have and recognize how lucky you are to have the opportunities in front of you. It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day tasks.

He then dove deeper into Simon Sinek’s theory of “Start with Why.” For sales people, it’s important to be grounded in why you do what you do. Hopefully, it’s to be a part of something greater than yourself. For me, my mom worked so hard to build a life for herself when she moved from India. I think about making her proud and giving her what her heart desires (early retirement and a home where it never snows).

Building Your Brand

Ralph stressed the importance of building your brand and allowing your reputation to precede you. You want your results to speak louder than any statement on your resume ever could. It’s a similar version to the quote “Work until you don’t have to introduce yourself.”

Differentiating yourself from the ordinary

You will succeed if you work on yourself harder than you work on your job. This point ties back into Point #2 about building your brand. If you think about your job being “just a job,” then that’s what it will be. Ralph encourages you to show your work, write well, and read. (More on that in the action items section).

Q&A

How do you hire great sales people?

It starts with the signals you put out there. Do you have a company page where they can see who is on the team? Does your careers page have information about the culture and the type of people you want to attract? Ensure that you create a process where certain people on your team ask questions and then score them on certain attributes that you are looking to hire.

What do millennials want from their leadership?

Millennials want coaching and they want to learn. They want attention and most managers don’t have the time, or worse, they don’t care.

Side note: Don’t call them millennials. Most millennials hate that term because it’s really condescending. Plus, most people cannot spell the word ‘millennial’. Call them people instead of categorizing them.

What’s the difference between sales vs. marketing?

Sales focuses on forecasting and closing the deal. Marketing is always thinking about to attract the right people and is customer centric.

What mistakes do new managers make?

As a manager, you assume that your team members are going to be exactly like you. It causes you to hold false expectations. Your goal is to uncover each member’s strengths. And do not be possessive over your team — it’s not your job to prevent them from growing into a new role or transferring to a new company. Plus, if you pave the road for them to be successful as a person, they will represent you positively in the future. Your reputation = key.

Action Items

  1. Read Neil Patel’s guide on Personal Branding
  2. Read Seth Godin’s Why Bother Having a Resume?
  3. Subscribe to Ralph’s Blog (perk: he writes back to each person!!)
  4. Read “Writing that Works
  5. Read the Wall Street Journal’s ‘What’s News?’ section
  6. Read Selina Soo’s Guide to Meeting People at Events

Misc. Tips

  • If someone puts content out, tell them about how something resonated with you and how you applied that learning in your life. Creating a connection is how you get people to reply to your emails.
  • Always solve problems before bringing it up to your manager — have at least two solutions.
  • Don’t write emails that require scrolling. You instantly lose their attention. Also Saturday and Sunday mornings are optimal times for some people. Test it out.
  • Colour scheme + font + branding = it’s important and it matters. Pay attention to the details.
  • Always carry a notebook with you whether you are in a meeting or at an event. Write your notes on the left side and action items on the right.

5 Things your managers know that you need to know

J. Ryan Williams is the VP of Sales at LeadGenius. He started off by making everyone laugh, asking if we thought we were confident. (Context: He was confident his presentation worked and didn’t test it out. As Murphy’s Law goes, of course the presentation did not work). He reminded us to be humble.

  1. Understand the Buyer’s Journey. We all remember marketing class and learning about the buyer’s journey. As sales professionals, we need to think about how the buyer’s journey overlaps with with the seller’s journey. Take a step back and remind yourself that being a buyer is someone else’s job, so it’s important to understand them (i.e. someone’s job is to buy a certain type of bolt for all Boeing airplanes).
  2. Your manager already knows who needs to be in the deal. As a sales person, you need to understand your industry and who typically needs to be in the room to make decisions. He suggests testing the power line by asking them to sign an NDA. Check to see who returns the NDA — is it their manager or someone from a different department? This information will allow you to ask better questions.
  3. Ownership is priceless. J. Ryan tells a story about someone drilling a bike rack in the office. Let’s call him Mike. Mike feels invested in the company and feels like the company is his. It’s important to apply this feeling of ownership to everything you do. For instance, if a client calls you with a problem, take ownership and fix it. Don’t think “It’s not my job. They should talk to support.” Remember that buyers have pain points and problems too — they are human!
  4. You are an expert. While it’s easy to get caught up and feel insecure, don’t be scared of your prospects. You are an expert. Show them value.
  5. Your reputation matters. Always. Don’t steal deals from other sales people. Do right by the client. By the team. By the industry.

Action Items

  • Understand your client personas. Talk with your marketing team and dig deep to really understand your buyer’s journey.
  • On a whiteboard, map out the buyer’s journey and seller’s journey. Where do they overlap? Where do you add value?

Q&A

How do you find a mentor?

J. Ryan’s reply was “There’s a passage in Lean In that describes how to find a mentor — it’s not just a book for women. Go and read it.” 👏👏👏👏👏

Don’t go up to someone and ask “Hey can you be my mentor?” Add value. Most of the time, people like Ralph and J.Ryan do not have the capacity to mentor anyone else. But if you ask them something along the lines of “I read your post on X, Y, and Z. I am trying to improve ABC — who should I know? Who should I talk to?” Chances are, they know some up-and-coming sales leaders that have the time to mentor you.

Thank you Dan for hosting this event. If you’re in the Bay Area, I hope to see you at the next Sales Mastership event. Also shoutout to my new friend Matt from QStream. They’re building a great product that allows your sales people to play a game daily to test their knowledge (aka be more effective).

So what did I learn…?

I’m striving to build my own brand and it starts by writing content. I’ll start by sharing my learnings from the events I attend. With my previous experience at Universe / Ticketmaster, I know it comes naturally.

I will also be working to create content about building healthy habits and learning more about the HR / Benefits space. It’s relevant to my new career at LifeDojo — we create 12-week wellbeing programs that inspire health behavior change that lasts.

Overall, this event was great in terms of timing — it really fired me up. And remember….

“We don’t compete. We dominate.”

A bit about me…

During the day, I’m busy hustling at LifeDojo.

In my spare time, you can find me powerlifting at the gym, creating art in my studio, or exploring San Francisco.

If you liked this article, give it a heart, comment, and share it! You can follow my blog or connect with me on LinkedIn.

P.S. Yes I noticed the URL says “How to be an exceptional sales professionals and is grammatically incorrect. However, I can’t change it on medium without deleting the entire post but at least I learned to double check everything including the URL.

Product Manager during the day. Artist all day. Advocate for reading fiction and meditating. Ask me about why you should love BTS.