I am so excited to report that in my journey of trying new things I wrote an eBook in my spare time (right!) of just 2-3 hours/week on nights and weekends over the last 3 months. It’s called Everything I learned about sales I learned from my dog.
It is now live on Amazon at:
Here’s Chapter 1 to give you a teaser:
- Quotas always go up
- Get your needs met or look for something else
Just like dogs, sales managers are always hungry. I’m going to say something revolutionary here….quotas always go up. If you haven’t figured that out by now, you are either not in sales or are in sales and have been surprised and frustrated year after year that no matter how good you are, your quota is always higher the next year. If you hit your quota one year, management tends to increase your quota by at least 10-15% for the next year. (It may go up even more if you are in a fast growing industry or at a start-up.)
As a career sales person, I have never been a big fan of this top down way of forecasting. I think realistic forecasting should be bottom up rather than top down. Top down is when your company has set expectations i.e. a 20% growth rate year after year and they push down those expectations to the different business units to achieve/beat that goal. For public companies, if they have publicly stated they will grow 15% next year, they may push that number down the chain to achieve that. It doesn’t have to be the same for every business line or product but they need to set expectations/quotas that average at least a 15% yearly growth.
To do bottom up forecasting, you look at what you have in the pipeline and factor in any changes (i.e. new products, more marketing, extra people/resources to assist the sales people etc.) and then come up with a realistic goal. You may need to spread out expectations across the organization where some high growth areas are going to be expected to grow more (i.e. 30%) than an older established product line that is not releasing any new products (i.e. 5%). You still need to achieve your goals but you do it in a realistic way based on what’s in the pipeline in terms of new products and possible opportunities and not just “you need to achieve a 20% growth even though we have no new products or no potential sales.” I’m all for having a goal that you may have to stretch for but it should be realistic, attainable and based on what a territory actually has the ability to achieve.
Once I had a 25% year over year quota increase with nothing new coming out in the next year, no extra marketing scheduled, and no large potential sales in the pipeline. When I looked at the last five years of my territory, I noticed that when you took the five year average and increased it by 10%, it became my new 25% quota. I pointed out to my management that one of those years was the best sales year ever for the territory because we had just released a revolutionary new product. I suggested that we throw out that one crazy high year as an outlier and then average the remaining years and apply the ten percent growth. The finance team did not agree to that so I started the year knowing that I was set up for failure and ended up moving into a new role in the same company mid way through the year because I was given an impossible goal with no extra support or new products to help me reach the goal.
I am on a sales team now that appreciates having seasoned sales people. My management team (who were all sales people who were promoted from within the company- yeah!) realizes that if you make quotas unrealistic or not attainable for a particular territory, you will have salesforce turnover. Then you have to spend more time and money finding a new person to hire and to bring up to speed.
I think good managers realize that veteran sales people are not a dime a dozen. There is a huge value in keeping your sales people happy so they don’t company hop. If you are reading this and are in management, just remember that we in sales are all getting emails/calls/LinkedIn requests from recruiters all the time and every time we don’t take a new job, it’s a choice to stay because we are happy and/or see potential where we are.
For the sales folks reading this, make sure you are getting what you need from your company to be happy. And remember: Happiness doesn’t always come just from money. Make sure you feel the company is providing you with quality products and appropriate compensation such as salary, commission, bonuses, stock, good health insurance, life insurance, vision insurance and maybe extras like a company car (or at least pay for gas and car usage), phone, computer, tablet, marketing support, and technical support. Make sure your company provides a culture that fits with your values and your lifestyle. If you do not feel valued for what you do at your current company, make a long term plan and work backwards to meet your goal.
My dad always said it’s easier to find a job when you have a job. This is so true. If you are not happy at your current job, try to fake it until you find a new job. In my experience, the easiest way to find a job is when you are happy in your current job and not even looking. If you are truly unhappy, pull from that reservoir of strength that I know is in you. (You are a salesperson, after all, so I know you are strong!) Go ahead and grit your teeth, put on a fake smile if you have to, make a plan to get yourself a new job, put your feelers out there to friends, family and recruiters, and get that new job. Don’t look back.
If you are doing well at your current job and a recruiter contacts you, let that happiness and confidence shine through. I am lucky to be in the position that I am content in my current role at my company of six years. In the last few years when a recruiter has asked if I am interested in a different role, I have honestly said, “I like my current company and am knocking it out of the ballpark this year. But if you brought me the perfect job, of course I would consider it.” Recruiters have stopped bringing me lateral moves. It saves both the recruiters and myself time and energy, knowing I am only willing to listen to job opportunities that will catapult me into a new sphere.
The culture of a company that values its employees and supports work/life balance is very important to me. As a working parent, I’m cautious when a recruiter brings me a position from a start-up. I worked at several start-ups when I was younger and have found that the pay wasn’t that great and they overwork their employees based on the premise that everyone is going to make it big.
I find that start-ups also tend to be unrealistic about what you can make as a salesperson. Since it’s a new company, there tends to be more optimism than data. They tend to say, “You have to ability to make $X — a huge number — a year.” The problem is almost no one ever makes a million dollar in sales a year at a start-up.
“What did the sales people make last year?” I always ask the recruiter. I usually get something like, “Well, they made a lot less but that was the first year and now the company is more established and the product is selling like gangbusters.” Or if they keep talking about that one salesperson who made a milion dollars, I ask if they can put something in writing guaranteeing a minimum about that makes the jump to a start-up worth if for you. Don’t be surprised if they don’t (they never have for me).
I also see red flags when a recruiter says things like, “It’s mostly millennials.” Then they talk about the five cafeterias with all different kinds of food their world renowned chefs will prepare. (This means you will be working around the clock and eating all of your meals at work!)
I see a really BIG red flag when I am told that it’s a start-up and they are not offering any equity, which means that they aren’t willing to do what it takes to attract high level employees and if they do make it big, which is unlikely, the employees won’t get to share in the profits. I bow out quickly and politely and move to the next stage.
At this point in my career, I’m not willing to move to a start-up that doesn’t want to compensate me in both pay and stock to make up for all of the risk of leaving a good job at a stable company. If you are young and not supporting a family, go for it. For those of us who have been around a while, we have watched so many start-ups begin with optimism and passion but then they fizzle out and die in a few years. Many are not even throwing in equity for the stress of riding on the roller coaster with them. I won’t even consider a start-up who won’t offer equity to someone with my experience. I don’t feel it’s my job to take all of the risks of a new company but not get any of the rewards. For now, I’ll stick to my big, established company with strong brands, good benefits and consistent pay.
I want to add that I never talk negatively about a company where I work to a recruiter. We are only as good as our current job and that job could be taken from us tomorrow. Watch out if your boss asks you to meet with him/her in person in the next 24 hours with HR present. Hello, pick slip.
Things look a lot different when you are unemployed. Remember, if you get laid off, you need to contact recruiters ASAP. I’m a believer that you should throw things out to the universe and see what comes back. I also keep a list of recruiters and am generous about sending that list to friends who have been laid off. One friend got a job in two weeks and credits a lot of the speed to my list of recruiters I gave her. Always bring people up when they are down because it’s the right thing to do and people will remember if you helped them when they needed it.
Recently, a recruiter was telling me about a role that was a complete lateral move at a company not as well known as my current company. I wanted to keep on his list for future roles so I decided to take a very honest approach that he would either appreciate or not. (If he did, he’d only bring me the cream of the crop of future job openings.)
I am copying the wording I sent to him for your reference:
“To be totally transparent, I have found that every time I’ve talked to a recruiter in the last few years, the prospective company can’t come anywhere near my current compensation so I have had no motivation to change companies (fyi- I made ~$X last year and, in full disclosure, was a good year). I have been doing high tech/educational sales for almost 30 years and am happy at X company; however, I’d never turn down my dream job. Here is my dream job: in a field that I love (i.e. education, writing, travel or something that allows me to be an entrepreneur), doing meaningful work, mostly home based without too much travel (I’m tired from traveling for so many years), making a guaranteed $X/year for a company that values its employees above all else with an amazing culture and truly supports work/life balance.”
The funny thing is, after sending this email back to a recruiter the conversation switched from trying to place me in that lateral job to trying to hire me for the recruiting company. It turns out it wasn’t my ideal job so I’m still happily at the same company but he has me on his radar if he ever comes across anything that sounds like my perfect job.
Think about those dogs at the dog park. You can never throw down a treat without them going for it. They stay hungry. They know what they want and they go for it. Decide what your perfect role looks like, write it down, and then put it out there. You can’t expect people to read your mind. It’s like expecting your dog to retrieve the ball before you’ve thrown it. It’s unrealistic and won’t happen. Know what you want and don’t settle for less.
Sometimes, you are in a situation where you have to get a job ASAP. That’s OK. It happens. Just secure employment and then make a longer term plan to achieve something better. One of my dog park friends got laid off from a secure, well-known company in Silicon Valley. He ended up taking another job with a terrible commute. He knew he couldn’t do it forever but he took it knowing he could do it for a year. In the meantime, while he was working, he is working on finding a better job closer to home. We all have to make short-term sacrifices to get to our bigger goal. You’ll get there. Just stay hungry. Remember what you want.
Here are all the chapters titles:
- Spoiler alert! Quotas always go up
- Make sure you are getting your needs mets or look for something else
Needs lots of attention
- Build customer trust through engagement
- Remember to nurture relationships
You are the center of their universe
- Focus on their needs
- Build long term relationships by being attentive and authentic
Got to go now!
- Customer urgency
- Figure out the customer timeline upfront so there are no surprises
- Mistakes will happen- clean them up quickly without anger
- How you handle mistakes is more important than the mistake itself
- Listen first, talk later
- Take time to get to know the customer and what they need
Scratch me behind my ears
- Give your prospects and customers lots of attention
- Let them tell you what’s important to them before diving into your sales pitch
Fetch (again and again)
- Continuous customer contact is key
- Continue to market to the same group
Roll down the window and let me take in the smells
- Be passionate about your product/service, it will show
- Notice customer signals along the way and be prepared to go off track
I’m not going in there (the vet)
- Check ups and check ins are important to any relationship
- Use dashboards to measure your progress and see where you need to put more attention
Dog park rules
- How to work with complex organizations
- How to navigate various personalities
- How to handle bad customers
- What to do if you have a bad boss
- Focus on work/life balance
- Take care of yourself and put your safety mask on first or you’ll never survive long term in sales
Shake off the mud and get up
- Change your mindset
- Things don’t always go the way you planned so remember that instead of always moving forward, you may have to move left or right
Some times their bark is worse than their bite
- Dealing with difficult customers
- Letting angry customers vent
Be true to yourself- don’t try to be a pitbull if you are a poodle
- How to navigate the old boys network if you aren’t part of it
- Things will go badly at times so how you handle them creates your brand
Don’t forget to roll around in the mud, get your fur dirty and have some fun
- Work hard but don’t forget to stop and laugh
- It’s ok to share customer stories with your associates but be appropriate and never be mean
Would love any support if anyone wants to buy it. I hope it teaches you at least one thing and makes you laugh.