Sales is the foundation of the way we work. It’s the nature of the candidate job search, recruitment, and how we build our influence, or clout. In the tech industry we may sell products or services, but we also sell ideas, experiences, and the promise of something better.
One person who seems to be thriving in the sales arena is Justin Boldt. After more than a decade in the profession, starting in retail sales, his consultative approach has translated into managing high volume accounts and surpassing sales goals. Currently 80% of what he manages are mid-market accounts, 150 customers, and some named accounts. He says, “it all comes down to what you’re trying to achieve and the problem you’re trying to solve,” especially as the Puget Sound is an “explosive market for opportunity.”
Another person who is succeeding where others struggle is a Recruiter I’ll refer to as B. Smith. He is at a local enterprise-level company where his persistence and focus has earned him a promotion in less than five months, and he is five years into a career that is already mapped out. His goal? Build a track record of success that will crescendo before the age of 30, and then carry that clout with him into living the startup life.
What You Need to Know
“You really need to understand how to make a sale from soup to nuts,” says Boldt. A really good sales person can “identify potential roadblocks and how they’re going to overcome them for the customer.” Rookies tend to make the mistake of thinking they’re going to close the sale, when they’re not even talking to the stakeholders or decision makers. For Boldt, who has had to learn on the go, that meant talking to the Office Managers and not Office Assistants when it came to selling supplies for Staples.
Boldt is a believer in not reinventing the wheel. “People buy from who they like, but it’s based on research in a tough economy,” he says. “They want to talk to someone who is a subject matter expert and challenges their way of thinking.” In what he says is going beyond the Zig Ziglar books, you may have to “ruffle some feathers in order to help the customer understand.”
To Smith, this comes down to quality over quantity. You can spend three minutes on 100 emails, but you won’t be as effective as you would if you invested 30 minutes on 10 emails. Personalizing your approach takes time, and asking questions will not only help you become more informed, you will have a better sense of how to achieve your goals whether you are aiming for joining upper management or starting your own company.
To best focus your efforts, you will need to know (or figure out) how to do the following:
- How YOU solve problems
- WHO you need to talk to
- UNDERSTAND what it takes to be effective
- Make it PERSONAL, but don’t take it personal
- ASK questions so you can do what works
Secrets to Success
The secret to success in sales is finding “the best mentors on the planet,” says Boldt. These are people who will take you under their wing, take you on appointments, and give you good questions to ask. Despite how talented they are in their own right, they will still ask you questions in order to get your thoughts so that you can think through the process for yourself.
Because no one knows everything about sales. The secret according to Boldt, is collaboration. If you’re facing a difficult situation, talk to your colleagues. They can open you up to a fresh perspective. Smith agrees. He says, “people fail because they don’t ask questions.”
Where you Work Makes the Difference
Since so much of the way we work involves sales, making a change in industries (i.e. what you sell) will depend on the foundation you have and what you do with it. Boldt made the pivot from an enterprise-level company to a startup. The difference in the way the two company’s initiated him was clear, and had a lot to do with the size of the organization. The enterprise-level company had a 2-week orientation process, while the startup handed him a training manual, walked him to his desk, and wished him luck after assigning him about 300 customers.
The secret to going from an ‘ordered’ onboarding process to a ‘firehose’ approach is in taking your time to find out the right answers. Boldt would listen to his voicemail or read through his emails and try to figure out the solution before responding, rather than just jumping right into writing or calling the customer back. It’s tricky because, as Smith points out, there is “always work to be done” so there is a challenge when you think “you got to get it done right then.” Boldt combats that by realizing everybody’s busy, it’s important to do what you can to come with answers.
Milestones that Matter
For context, Boldt offers these key milestones as a way to track your onboarding progress (and acknowledge your success):
- First 90 days is a firehose experience, so hang in there and ask a lot of questions. This is key when working for startups because there may be no defined training.
- First 3-4 months is the ramp up period.
- First 6 months is when you’re starting to feel comfortable. In fact, you may realize you can answer about half of the client’s questions on your own: That’s a win!
- First 12 months is when you can answer all client questions on your own.
The important part to emphasize here is that there is marked progress that you can make, but also you will be able to notice your growth which can help you stay motivated as you work toward meeting your (and your organization’s) goals.
What it Takes
Sales, as a profession, isn’t meant for everyone. To do it well, Boldt insists, takes a special type of person; someone who has:
- An entrepreneurial spirit, who can survive when there is no process
- A desire to succeed and compete, which will drive what you do each day
- Strong work ethic because there’s no such thing as a 40-hour work week in a startup
Smith has been willing to take on the jobs that no one else would do in addition to intentionally sticking with enterprise-level companies. He is career-oriented and money motivated so that he can give back to the family members and mentors who have helped him along the way. If you know how you like to work, that can make all the difference when it comes to your learning curve. “If you drop the ball in a Fortune 500 company, it’s no big deal,” says Boldt.
With selling as the foundation of our interactions, whether we are the Candidate selling our skills to the employer or the Recruiter selling the job or the Candidate, it is important to know what it takes for you to be successful. Boldt likens it to having one moment that can be like hitting your head against the wall, and the next which could be the most rewarding feeling ever. Ultimately, according to Boldt, “you have to have a temperament that can handle all that.”
Boldt, himself, has evolved into a mentor. Recently promoted to Team Lead, he has always been the go-to person throughout his career. How does he succeed in sales? He has a passion for helping people and, from a very young age, he never liked to fail. As the son of a retired Colonel he also has perspective: “We’re not taking lives here. Failure’s part of life; don’t take yourself too seriously.”
Posted by Tiffany Dedeaux
Tiffany Dedeaux is a Recruiter and Trainer for Cloutera. She is passionate about supporting developing teams, people, and careers through meaningful user experiences. She combines action and heart from 4+ years of experience as a Career and Job Search Coach, and 6 years as a Trainer and Consultant in the tech industry, with 14 years as a Video Editor for local TV news stations. She looks forward to recruiting you for a cup of coffee to talk about your vision for the future and how she can help get you there.Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Google+