When I was in my 20's I consciously became a professional, b2b seller because I was a single mom and I wanted to be able to support my family well. Yes, I was motivated by the big bucks a sales career could bring- and a career that rewarded me by my work ethic, smarts, and relationship building regardless of whether I was male or female. Already I was a young teacher but making a very low wage. Since I had grown up in a family owned business, I had some idea about sales so I worked to get a job in the booming technology sector. Somehow I mustered up enough courage to make the switch, but I was pretty scared and unsure of myself. Now I was in a profession where I was only going to make money when I sold something.
As a sales professional I needed to learn how to clarify and convey my ideas with confidence - true years ago and as true today. If you cannot clarify what the value is to the buyer, or instill any sense of urgency, then you may not be able to help the buyer buy. The buyer moves on - or more realistically today, they never engage because your message or value was unclear online.
Three things that I did when I was younger radically and profoundly helped my multi-million dollar deal sales career, and still do today:
1. I joined Toastmasters. This is an international organization with very inexpensive dues ($6/month) which, if you find the right group, can support you to become an amazing speaker, presenter, and leader. Toastmasters is so successful because it has not changed it core offering - to help people present their ideas and to teach leadership. Leadership it taught through the running of the group, where each member plays a different role, and those roles change over time. Sometimes you evaluate others' talks, and sometimes you step up as an officer of your local group. If you enjoy delivering periodic talks, you can even compete locally, regionally, and internationally. Highly recommended - with this caveat: not all groups are the same. Visit more than one before you decide it is not for you, since different groups have different energy and different characters. You can find a local group here.
2. I made a conscious decision to be a Student of communication, psychology, and selling. Because I came from a teaching career, I didn't know anything formally about sales. I did know what I had learned from the family business but that did not make me confident as a seller. So, I dove into books and audio. I put a part of every paycheck toward my "professional development" and then made time (even as a single mom) to read, learn, and grow. I talked to my co-workers who were much more successful than I in closing business, to learn what they knew so I could have a quicker road to success. I attended every training session that was offered by my company - even optional ones. Some of my colleagues couldn't be bothered - back then a lot of this was on my own time. I think what was different for me was that I saw this as a long term career, and now was the time to learn.
3. While this is not for everyone, I invested my own money to attend the basic Dale Carnegie course on human relations and effective communication. There I saw timid speakers alter their lives forever - through coming out of their shell and communicating well. At the very least, pick up the Dale Carnegie books (most likely someone you know has them in their bookshelf or you can buy them for a couple dollars used). If you buy a physical book or two, actually take a highlighter and mark them up - highlight important parts. This is sage wisdom that has not changed much through the ages. There are many, many workshops and seminars one can attend to improve confidence and build communication skills - I've just never seen one with the power of this program.
What steps are you taking to become more of a professional? Do you care about areas you are not as strong in, and how will you make a 1% improvement today, then tomorrow, and then the next day?
Lori Richardson speaks, writes, and trains on sales strategies for B2B mid-market technology front-line sales teams. Why not sign up for our twice-monthly newsletter, “Sales Ideas In A Minute” or the award-winning blog rss feed?