I was lucky enough to fall into sales in my early career, but it doesn’t always work that way.
My career in sales began in media, running advocacy campaigns surrounding education, healthcare, lifestyle, technology and philanthropic topics. Collaborating with industry thought leaders for content and selling advertising space to brands that supported the initiatives was an incredible opportunity. I learned how to research, cold call, pitch, handle objections and create relationships with clients. I navigated the sales process and was fascinated by the psychology involved. Once I became a sales leader, my goals and responsibilities grew.
After the media world, I joined a C-Level technology event company that hosted intimate summits globally. They were uniting the buy side and sell side of major technology decisions for F100 companies. This was a very different space to sell in—and I loved it.
B2B sales has always been my interest, and as my career developed I found myself becoming extremely passionate about selling the must-have products vs. the nice-to-have products. Making the move to Bizzabo was exactly that. Having been an event organizer, I understood the need for an awesome event software solution. At this point in my career, I have had the opportunity to work in multiple sales roles and have learned tremendously from each.
Here are some of the key lessons that a life in sales has taught me.
1) Sales will make you a better entrepreneur
Sales is for the entrepreneurial spirit who is looking to control their future, who wants to be pushed so that they can redefine their limits. It’s for the one who craves the surroundings of people who challenge them and who needs to feel the results of their work and success. That was me.
2) Sales is more than just a job
Being in sales (whether as a profession or in life) is having the ability to express or sell your ideas. It is the opportunity to persuade, convince or motivate someone to see things as you do. Most people in our lives are selling something. The Politician, the CEO, the Philanthropist, the Revolutionist, the Teacher, the Sports Coach, the person on a date or in an interview. We sell who we are, what we can offer, what we believe and then we attempt to make people see things the way we see them. The psychology and communication behind selling is fascinating and incredibly fun!
3) Sales experience comes in all sort of forms
While I want to say that my career in sales began as a writer directly out of college, that is more something that I realize now. In retrospect, I understand that I was using language, content and my voice to sell ideas as I saw them. My actual career in sales began as a Project Manager working for an independent publishing house. I had large quotas, big goals and a tremendous amount of autonomy. After spending a while selling directly, I held a number of roles in more of a player/coach setting. This allowed me to grow and develop into a sales leader.
4) Work for something you believe in
Looking for a company to join can be difficult, especially in the crowded workforce of NYC. The first thing for me is to find a company who sells a product or service that I believe in. This is non-negotiable. “Would you sell it to your best friend,” is what I always say.
5) Define your priorities
Once that is covered most people get overwhelmed looking for a company with good roles, good salary and financial opportunity, growth, solid structure, security, great people, etc. “Culture” is what most people say they are looking for most in their company search. The irony is that many people confuse culture with amenities—big mistake! The advice I would give anyone looking for the right company to join is to define your priorities. Before searching for a company that checks the boxes on what you think you want, understand what that actually looks like.
I know that I have to work with a company that shares my values. One that sees the importance of honesty, collaboration, sportsmanship and promotes daring. Regardless of what we look for in a company, the aim has to be to find a place that makes the journey as rewarding as the destination.
6) What to look for in a sales role
Finding the right role for you is mostly about understanding your skills, your talents, your experience, what you are capable of and what you can enjoy doing on a day-to-day basis. Working in sales has a large umbrella with an incredible variety of roles. The simplest way to think about it is by creating a parallel to the client journey. Are you researching the client and contacting them or are you taking incoming requests? Are you selling the value proposition of your product or selling the product itself? And are you managing accounts or working on the success of long lasting clients?
Finding the perfect role for you is a combination of filling tasks that you are good at and those that take you out of your comfort zone. This insures your skillsets continue to grow. Put yourself in a role that allows you to work hard, shine amongst your peers and grow on a solid career path.
When you find the company that calls out to you and the role that looks like it was made for you—you grab it! Jump in, ask a million questions, put in 110% of yourself and create your future.
7) Find your sales style
Finding your sales style is literally finding what feels best and works best for you. The right kind of companies understand that there is no “one size fits all” in a successful sales professional. This is why the best culture of a company is designed by the unique group that it brings together. Most people jump into sales thinking that you are either a relationship builder or an aggressive hunter. They fail to see the many styles in between. When you find the right company and the right role, spend some time shopping around and find the style that suites you best. Then excel at it.
8) Your best competitor is yourself
If you are in sales or even think that you might want to be, you are probably the type of person who wants to be the best. As a sports fan, one of my favorite things about sales is that it allows me to constantly compete; as an individual and as a team. My favorite competitor is, and always has been myself. Compare who you are today with who you were yesterday or could be tomorrow – push yourself to new limits.
9) Continuous training is a necessity
At Bizzabo, we have a number of values that truly drive our culture. One of my favorites is We Own It. We own our effort, we own our numbers, we own our goals, we own our shortcomings and we own our success. That ownership primes us to want to learn and improve constantly. It’s important to find a company that invests in you, your growth, your development and your aim to become the best. Continuous training is not only a plus, but a necessity. There is always something new to learn about your product, your industry, your client or yourself.
10) Learn from your team
The best thing about working with a great group of people is learning from them. I have been extremely lucky in my career having been surrounded by so much talent and endless knowledge. I learned early on that as a salesperson, you have to be resourceful. You have to use your manager for far more than just checking in on your goals or running through analysis of your results. You have to use your colleagues for more than just questions on the tasks that you are unsure of. While some people become good at what they do by asking the simple questions, greatness is only achieved by truly tapping into every single resource that surrounds you. Surround yourself with people worth learning from and then allow them to teach you. Remember that if you are the smartest person in the room, you are in the wrong room.
11) Work with your team
Regardless of the company or the role you walk into, remember that every person shares a single goal. It only makes sense to use each other in achieving it. Bizzabo’s Better Together value captures this perfectly. In March, we spent the entire month focusing on how we could be exactly that: better together. We learned from each other, cross-team, cross-department and cross offices. We worked together and pulled our resources for better results.
12) The big picture
Whether you walk into an entry level or a more senior sales role—always see the big picture. Think about the skills that you are going to learn and the experience that you will gain. Every single day in any role you take is an investment in your future.
My career in sales has been a critical part of my professional and personal development. I learned about myself and my ability to communicate. And I realized how far I could go if I pushed myself. I found a voice that echoes louder than I could have anticipated and most importantly—I discovered how resilient I am. Sales has taught me how to aim, how to fall and how to get back up faster and stronger each time. Luckily, sales is ever-changing (as am I), and my education will only continue!
In summary, here are my main takeaways:
- Sales is about communicating your vision and ideas and helping someone see it.
- Selling is something that we all do in our lives.
- Sales comes in a variety of different forms.
- Finding the right company and role for you is everything.
- Decide what your priorities and values are and find the company with the same.
- Find the right role for your talents, skills, and.
- Everyone has a different sales style—find yours and run with it.
- A role in sales is an incredible way to learn about yourself and your abilities.
- In any role, continue to learn and grow—it’s essential.
- Surround yourself with people who make you better, smarter and stronger
- You and your team share the same goal—work together in achieving it.
- Take advantage of the role you are in and grow with it.
Whatever role you end up in, I hope it’s with a company that has something you believe in so strongly that it is almost natural to sell it. That is the goal.