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Top 3 Keys to Success in Sales

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Sales is an amazing career and an incredible skill set to have. However, it can feel overwhelming as to what to focus on. We all know the ultimate goal is to sell something or to get a signed contract. But, to get from point a (starting the conversation) to point z (signing a contract) there are a few key things that must be non-negotiables in your business.

#1 Discipline

There is a reason salespeople are well-paid and that business owners with a repeatable sales process are successful. It’s because sales is hard. There are few other jobs where you’re consistently rejected, ignored, or worse – hung up on…all day long. It can make it really hard to get back out there; to send another email, make another phone call, or attend another networking event.

The difference between good and great in sales is the discipline to put yourself out there over and over and over again. It’s the discipline to put time on your calendar to prospect, follow up, and start conversations with new people – and actually keep the appointment with yourself. It’s the discipline to attend the next networking event that you don’t feel like going to. It’s the discipline to ask your current, happy clients for referrals.

If you truly believe in what you’re selling – it’s imperative that you are consistent in your outreach. Letting more than one or two days go by without any new opportunities to your sales pipeline or funnel, can quickly lead to no pipeline, and in the end, no sales or signed contracts. That is why discipline is one of the most important pieces to your sales efforts and ultimately the success of your business.

I recently heard someone say, “if it doesn’t get calendared, it doesn’t get done.” And in sales, this couldn’t be more true. If you don’t have a standing, daily appointment with yourself where you work on adding new opportunities to your business – you need to start immediately. Schedule time on your calendar every single day. And keep the appointment.

If you have existing customers and clients, schedule time on your calendar to reach out to those people. Not to sell them anything. Not to ask for anything, but to see how they’re doing. Ask how what you sold them is working for them. Ask them if you can help them with anything or make an introduction. Stay in front of your customers, it will set you apart from your competition.

These two things alone, and being diligent in your efforts, will make a tremendous difference in your business. The key is the discipline to get it done and make it part of your daily routine.

#2 Prospecting

I mentioned prospecting several times when discussing discipline. I feel so strongly about prospecting, that I felt that it was the second key to success in sales and growing your business. There are a lot of different definitions of descriptions of prospecting.

When I refer to it, I mean the act of adding new people or opportunities to your sales funnel or pipeline. Prospecting can be a few different activities. It could be doing research on the people you want to reach out to. It can mean making cold call or sending emails to new people. It can mean attending a networking event and meeting new people. It can mean going to a trade show and discussing your services with new businesses.

At the end of the day, the health of your business is tied directly to your prospecting efforts. This is typically everyone’s least favorite part of the sales process, and it’s because it can be daunting. It can be time consuming. And it almost always comes with a lot of rejection and or no response at all.

This is why a lot of people give up. This is why a lot of people say they don’t like sales. This is where they blame the market, the company they work for, or their marketing and advertising efforts. But the tried and true success of a sales person comes down to their ability to have conversations with new people, and turn those conversations into sales conversations.

This is why prospecting is one of the three keys to success in your sales efforts. Better yet, it ties directly into discipline, because it takes discipline to continue to handle the rejection. The business people that show up every day and start conversations with new people, are the ones that win in the end.

#3 Relationships

How many times have you heard that people buy from people that they know, like, and trust? Do you feel like it’s overused or a bit of a cliche? Well, I hate to break it to you, but it’s true. In order to truly grow the book of business you desire, you have to build relationships that go beyond business.

This is a tough pill to swallow when you’re counting on your next sale to feed your family. Sometimes it feels like you don’t have time to build relationships and meet with someone over and over again to see if you’re a fit to work together. It can often feel like you’re wasting time and that you’re never going to get a signed agreement, despite the work you’ve put in.

Spoiler alert – you’re not going to win every piece of business and every opportunity you chase. However, you will never, ever win if you don’t start each sales opportunity by building a relationship with your prospect. Even if they don’t wind up doing business with you right now, they might be a great referral source. Or, when the time is right, they may reach out to work with you. This is why building a relationship from the beginning is so important.

The relationship building ties back into discipline and prospecting. The relationship begins with the first touch point. Whatever prompted you to reach out to that person – that’s your “common ground.” If you reached out because you follow them on LinkedIn and you love their content – lead with that in your message. If you reached out to someone you saw them running Facebook ads – let them know that’s how you saw them/found them and why you thought they fit the mold of your dream client. Coming from a place of serving, helping, and relationship building will yield exponentially more sales opportunities than coming from a place of selfishness or being self-serving in your messaging.

I’m not implying that you will be best friends with everyone you do business with. But they do have to like you and trust in order for your working relationship to begin. From there, you can move into learning more about them personally, their family, their goals and why they chose you as a partner. Set yourself apart and really strive to build relationships and begin more than a business partnership. You will be shocked at how quickly your business grows.

Putting It Into Practice

Discipline, prospecting, and relationships aren’t the only keys to success, but they should be the foundation of your sales efforts. Putting in the work every single day, starting conversations with new prospects, and starting a relationship from your first touch point will set you apart from the competition and set you up for long-term success in your sales efforts.

Questions to Ask During a Job Interview

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Gone are the days of the job interview that feels more like an interrogation than a conversation. Job interviews aren’t about answering the questions asked of you with little to no color or interaction. The job interview is a two way street. It’s a conversation, between a candidate and a company, trying to determine if there is a good fit.

Let me say this loud and clear:

You are interviewing the company as much as they are interviewing you.

I’ve said this before, but it’s worth saying again. We spend more time at work than we do with our friends and family. Therefore, we need to be darn sure that the job we’re interviewing for and the company we’re interviewing with are really, really good fits for us!

I get it, not every job is your dream job. And not every opportunity is the perfect fit for you. But it needs to serve a purpose or be part of the bigger picture to get you where you want to go! If it doesn’t, then don’t waste your time. I mean this sincerely. Do not take a job or a role that doesn’t fit into you big picture goals, just to get out of a job that you don’t love. Nine times out of ten, it won’t be worth the trouble. I speak from experience.

When you go in for an interview, I recommend having at least 10 questions prepared to ask about the role, the company, the hiring manager, your peers, and the opportunity. I recommend 10, because a few of your questions are likely to be answered during the interview. And it is okay to ask your prepared questions throughout

the conversation.

When the conversation comes back to you, and you’re asked “what questions can I answer for you?” it’s important that you still have a few questions left to ask. One, it shows that you’re interested and putting a lot of thought into your next role. Two, it shows that you’re not willing to take just any offer. Those are two really important factors when you’re interviewing for new roles.

What kind of questions should you be be asking?

It will differ from role to role and industry to industry, but overall, the questions should be around your work, your work environment, and any outstanding questions you have about the company. The goal is to have enough information to make a thoughtful, well-prepared, and educated decision.

I don’t mean questions about benefits, salary, work hours, or other details about the job –  I mean real questions that help you pull back the curtain on what life really looks like at this company.

Here is a list of questions that I suggest, that can be tailored to your world specifically:

  1. What is your favorite thing about working here?
  2. Why is this role available? Did someone leave or get promoted?
  3. What is the most important attribute for someone in this role?
  4. What is the biggest challenge people in this role face?
  5. What kind of training and development is available at this company?
  6. What are the opportunities for advancement in this role?
  7. What is the average tenure of someone in this role?
  8. How would you describe the culture here?
  9. Who would I be reporting to? What is that person’s role?
  10. What is your hiring process for this role? What is the timeline for you to make a change?

These are just examples and are by no means written in stone! For instance, if you can find out who the hiring manager is online, I suggest you do that, versus ask the question during the interview. It will show that you did your homework.

The biggest thing that I stress here is to be sure you’re having a conversation with the interviewer and that you’re checking the boxes on your end as well. It’s even more critical when you’re weighing multiple offers or opportunities.

Good luck!

 

Take ALL of your Paid Time Off!

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When people look at changing companies or changing jobs – there are plenty of factors that come into play, right? Does the company fit the values that are important to me? Does the role challenge me and make me better? Will the environment help me grow as a person and a professional? All super important things and buzz words used in job descriptions across the web.

It’s like we’ve stopped talking about the basics – benefits, vacation time, flexible work schedules and 401k. Have we stopped talking about these things because they’re not relevant or because they’re assumed (that might be another blog!)?

If you’re working for a tech company or a rapidly growing company, you might have heard of companies that don’t have PTO policies. Take as much (or as little) time off as you need to, just make sure your job gets done.

While this sounds like a huge perk and one we’d all love to have, depending upon what study you read – between 25-40% of people use all of their vacation time. Companies are throwing in the perk of “unlimited PTO” – knowing that most people won’t take advantage of it. In fact, it’s rumored that people that work for companies with unlimited time off, take even less time off than those of us with 2-4 weeks vacation time.

Why don’t we take the time?!

I’ve worked for companies that have a “use it or lose it” PTO policy – and I promise you I take every minute, hour, and day promised to me. Why? Because it’s part of my benefits package. Because time off is so important to relax and recharge. And because there isn’t a study out there than can convince me that working more is going to help me be a more engaged, successful employee.

When I first started in my career, I was afraid to take time off. I suppose you could say that I had FOMO (fear of missing out). I also didn’t want to be seen as lazy or have anyone question my dedication to my job and my career. I thought showing up was the easiest way I had to show how hard I was willing to work.

I was wrong. The work I did while I was there, the attention to detail I put into my job, and my willingness to always help out – that was what got me noticed. I was noticed and promoted because I showed interest in my job and asked a lot of questions, not because I never took a day off.

With more and more research showing the importance of sleep and down time to really be effective – companies should actually be encouraging their employees to take time off. When you finish a big project or launch a new, large account – taking a day to relax, recharge, and celebrate your success is absolutely acceptable.

On the flip side, if you’re burnt out, frustrated, and feel like you’re not giving your all at work – you could also benefit from taking a day or so off to refocus. Sometimes time and distance can give you perspective on what you need to do to get back into the swing of things.

When you take time off – take time off.

Silence your email notifications. Don’t answer work email or texts. Let your team know that you plan to take the day off and to only contact you in the case of an emergency. Do your best to really disconnect and enjoy the time away from work.

As a salesperson and as a sales leader it can sometimes feel like there is no way to “turn if off.” What if a client calls? What if that prospect I’ve been calling on for two years finally responds to my email? It’s tough to trust that a day or two away from work will NOT make or break your month or your quarter. Spoiler alert – it won’t!

We all have that friend that claims they’re “always working…” and they LOVE their job. I love my job. I love working with my coaching clients. I also love the beach with a fruity cocktail and no email access. It’s 100% necessary for your mental health to take time away.

Time away doesn’t have to be a week on the beach. We all know that #staycation is a thing right now. Grab your girlfriends, take a Friday off work, go to brunch, go shopping, have a fun dinner at a fancy restaurant and crash at a local hotel. The point of time away from work is to recharge, so when you do go back – you’re 100%.

As I’ve mentioned – your PTO is a benefit offered to your by your employer – just like your health benefits, your 401k, and your discounted gym membership. And, they all should all be used to the max!

Enjoy your time off!

Dress to Impress – What is Appropriate Interview Attire?

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As “the office” changes and the workplace becomes more and more casual, it can be tough to decide to what to wear to an interview. Depending upon the industry, there may be hard and fast rules, but for most – there will be a gray area as it relates to the appropriate thing to wear to make a strong first impression.

More and more work environments are become remote. With the rise of places like WeWork and other co-working office spaces, it’s hard to get a handle on the culture and the environment in which you might be working.

As a long-time sales veteran, the rule of thumb was to dress one “step” nicer than who you’d be meeting with. For instance, if you expect your client in slacks and a top, you might throw on a jacket w/ your ensemble. If the person you were meeting with would be in jeans, slacks and a more casual top is a good choice.

However, when interviewing, I still believe in dressing to impress. Regardless of the type of environment you will be working in – putting effort into your clothing choices are important. Nothing says “I’m not that interested…” like jeans and sports coat for a job interview. Even if the entire staff has on jeans and a t-shirt, you want to follow a business casual dress code, at a minimum.

Why though, Ryann? Unless you’re in banking or an attorney – everyone wears jeans these days. Or at the very least, dress pants and a nice top. No one wears a suit to work anymore.

Simple answer – you’re not going to work. You’re going to ask someone if you can work with them. You goal is to show them that you’re a serious candidate and someone capable of handling that job. If it’s me, I want to make sure that I show that person (or those people), that I take their time and consideration seriously.

Whether we like it or not, we live in a society where our outward appearance is the first thing that people judge us on. While we certainly hope it’s not the only benchmark, it’s the first thing we defer to assess someone we’ve just met. It’s human nature to gravitate towards someone that is well-dressed, well-groomed, and appears prepared.

I didn’t make the rules, I just want to be sure that you follow them. First impressions are important. And that means you have to dress the part.

They do say that “dressing for the job you want, not the job you have” is antiqued, outdated, and old fashioned. While I don’t entirely disagree, I always keep it in the back of my head. Even when I interviewed for an entry-level or mid-level role, I wanted to LOOK like the VP or Director of Sales. Ultimately, that’s the job I wanted.

Now that you know that dressing to impress is necessary, let’s talk about what the means. Like I said, we’re talking business casual at minimum. To me, that means slacks or dress pants, a top or blouse, and closed toed shoes. No jacket or suit required with business casual, but professional, well put-together and IRONED is necessary. Yes, break out the iron. Take it somewhere to be pressed. Ask your mom to do it for you. Just DO NOT show up looking like you rolled out of bed. Please.

If the company you will be interviewing with has a business casual dress code (check LinkedIn, their HR website, or Glassdoor for an indication), I would throw on a jacket or blazer, too. It doesn’t have to be full on suit, but it’s a nice touch and adds a level of professionalism.

Let’s go back to the shoes. Closed. Toed. Shoes. For the interview. I don’t care how pretty your toes are or how fabulous your new peep-toe booties are. Closed toed shoes. That you can walk in. 100% required. Interviews are NOT a good place to try out shoes you’ve never worn before. You don’t know if the interview will involve a tour of the office or a long walk from the parking lot to the office – but you don’t want to be distracted by throbbing and aching feet. Flats are in. Take advantage of that.

Another gray area in interviews – sleeveless tops. I love a good sleeveless “shell” that you can throw a blazer, suit jacket, jean jacket, or cardi over. However, I’m not sure I would wear it to an interview. Here’s why…I sweat. A lot. And I run warm. It’s inevitable that I will be warm and want to take off my jacket. Then, I’d have to worry about my bra showing…and sweat stains. I prefer to avoid those situations all together.

Here are a few other things to avoid when getting dressed for an interview:

  • Any top that you can see your bra
  • Maxi skirts
  • Skirts that don’t pass the “finger length” rule
  • Any top that requires a strapless bra
  • Pants with any rips/holes (I don’t care how “in” the look is)
  • Button down shirts that don’t “button down” appropriately (believe me, if this is a problem for you – you KNOW)

I know, I know…I keep telling you what NOT to do. Here’s what you should do. Black pants, professional blouse, blazer, flats. That’s my interview attire of choice. Blends in regardless of the work environment. You appear “dressed up enough” in a business casual environment and not “too stuffy” in a casual environment.

It goes without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway. If you work in banking, law, the government, etc. – wear a suit. Because you’ll be wearing a suit to work everyday. The person or people interview will have on a suit. It’s important…but you already know that.

Most importantly – be comfortable. Be yourself. And smile. Good luck!

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How to Navigate an Internal Job Change

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Career Advancement. Everyone wants to work somewhere that will give them the opportunity for career advancement. We all want to work for a company that has a career trajectory that we can follow. We want the opportunity to learn and grow within the same company. Right?!

Let me set the scene: You’ve been at the same company in the same job for about 18 months. You’re good at your job, you like your co-workers, but you just don’t get excited about coming to work everyday anymore. You’ve hit a little bit of a plateau, if you will.

You can go a couple of different ways here. Some people will automatically start scouring the job boards, trolling recruiters on LinkedIn, and thinking about their next (more exciting) role with a new company.

Other people will complain to their work bestie, roll their eyes every time their boss asks for something, and ultimately grow to HATE their job in the next 6-12 months (more later on making sure this does NOT happen to you).

And yet other people will start poking around inside their current company for new and different opportunities. It can start with simply checking out the career page on your office intranet and seeing what departments are hiring. Then, you’re wandering through different parts of the office hoping to get a glimpse of what life would be like if you made a change. You befriend someone in that department that you meet grabbing coffee and start asking questions about what they do and how they like it. Before you know it – you’ve decided you want to apply for a different job in a different department.

This is what they meant by career advancement, right? You found another thing you’d be really good at and an opportunity to add something new to your resume – win/win! Then why do you feel a little bit anxious about telling anyone on your team and in your department about the possibility of you making a change? Why do you feel like you’re letting your manager and colleagues down?

The answer is two-fold, I’m guessing.

1 – You’re worried that your manager is going to be angry and take it personally that you’re looking for something new. And, whether you make a change or not – they’re going to use it against you.

2 – You’re worried that you’re not qualified for that other role or that there is another internal candidate with more experience and seniority that will be chosen over you. And, now that you’ve put it out there, everyone on your team thinks you’ve checked out and are actively looking for a new job.

So much for the excitement around career advancement, right?

Here’s the deal – it’s pretty infrequent that managers assume that their employees are going to work for them forever. It’s also likely that your manager has aspirations for a different role or opportunity within the organization, too. The most important thing for you here, is how you approach the situation with both your manager and the hiring manager in the other department.

In my experience – you should always, always, always tell your manager that you’re interested in an internal job change before you tell anyone else. You want to control the conversation and the opportunity to tell your story as to why this is the right move (and the right time) for you.

I recommend scheduling a quick 15 minute sit down with your manager (yes, this is an IN-PERSON conversation). Jot down a few notes, as you’re likely to be nervous about their response. Your notes should cover the job you’d like to apply for and why you think you’d be great at it. They also need to include (and I would lead with this) – how much you’ve loved working in this department, how much you’ve learned, and how grateful you are to work for a company that encourages internal growth.  

I would also ask your current manager how they think you should approach the hiring manager for the new role. There is likely a Human Resources procedure for this, but it’s possible that your manager has a closer relationship with your potential new manager than you do. They might know some of their preferences, nuances, and their goals. All valuable information to have when chatting them up, right?!

It’s important that you follow internal procedure to the letter. Chat with HR and fill out the appropriate paperwork/application. Be prepared to be asked for an updated copy of your resume. I probably should’ve led with this – but make sure you are eligible for a transfer. Some companies have different policies around how long you need to work in your current role and certain performance metrics you need to meet before you can make an internal change. You want to be sure you meet those as well!

After you’ve chatted with your manager and covered your bases with HR, you can seek out the hiring manager and let them know that you are applying for a role in their department. If possible, schedule a sit down with this person as well. Not for an interview, but as an opportunity to learn more about them, their vision for this role, and if they have any useful advice or ideas as you go through the internal interview process.

Regardless of whether or not you get the role, all job searching/interviewing/etiquette things still apply. Make sure you dress appropriately for the interview and follow up with and thank all people that you met with. If for some reason you get offered the job, but decide not to take it, you want to be gracious with the people who took time to help you. If you are not offered the job – you need to do the same. You never know when the next opportunity might open up or if someone saw something in you that might be useful in another role.

Overall, remember that it’s your career and that life is too short to spend all of your time in a role that you don’t love or doesn’t challenge you. Most companies would almost always prefer their best employees stay in-house versus leaving to work for someone else! After all, they are the ones that touted that career-advancement was a great benefit to working there, right?!

 

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