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Managing Yourself

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Managing Yourself

Be an A-Player
No matter what job you have or what company you sell for, you can and should be an A-Player. That means being the best at what you do. You don’t have to be a celebrity or a person who went to Harvard.

According to blogger Auren Hoffman, an ‘A-Player’ by definition is incredibly productive and smart and has that rockstar factor that makes everyone want to work with her. [1]
Managers want to hire the best person for every job. So you don’t have to be an A-Player in everything, just be an A-Player in the one thing you do best. [2]

The best part of a career in sales is that it is undefined, according to Ann Devine in a recent article on The Black Collegian Online. [3] Every day is completely different; some days you will be researching leads, and other days you might be making a presentation to a prospective customer.

It is this lack of structure that can present a challenge in choosing priorities and accomplishing goals. Those who are successful realize how to manage themselves and their time and use the resources that are available to them.

You might be wondering what managing yourself means. When you are in sales, one of the most important jobs you have is being sure that you have clear direction about what you want to accomplish and what you need to do to get there.

It can be a daunting task to be responsible for calling on customers and generating sales, especially if you are based in a location remote from the company office such as your home office. So first things first-identify your resources. Even though you’re traveling solo, you are not alone.

Use Your Sales Manager
Many salespeople don’t realize that their sales manager (the person to whom they report) is ultimately responsible for delivering the company’s sales goals.

As such, the sales manager wants to do everything he can to help his salespeople be successful. It’s always a good idea to keep your sales manager updated with the status of your customers and prospects. He will appreciate your proactive and regular updates about the standing of each lead and customer.

It’s important to understand the organizational structure of a sales department.

While each company is different, the basic structure of a selling organization is the same.

In some companies, salespeople may be responsible for specific brands, products, or product categories. In the case of food manufacturers, these categories might be non-carbonated beverages, prepared meals, or dairy products.

In the professional services arena, the organization might be vertical, such as retail sales, financial services, or health care. This product or category approach may require salespeople to travel to customers in various parts of the country based on the needs of the customers. It requires the salesperson to develop expertise in a specific product or discipline.

The company you work for, whether it is large or small, has resources. A laptop, the customer relationship management (CRM) system, an expense account, the company owner, the human resources department, accounts receivable department, and others are all resources that can help you do your job.

Take the time to explore all the resources when you start with the company. It is your responsibility to explore and understand your resources.

Remember that all the skills you use when you are communicating with customers are the same when you are communicating inside your company.

Human Resources department

Whether you work for a large company or a start-up, it’s a good idea to know the key people in HR. Chances are, you interviewed with someone in the department, but don’t stop there.

Continue your relationship by learning who handles employee relations (for questions about the company policies or an ethical dilemma) and who handles benefits (for questions about medical, dental or other insurance and pension plans, and any other
company benefits).

Finance department

You’ll want to get to know the people who handle accounts receivable. Since most salespeople are responsible for collections, you will most likely be working closely with people in finance.

They can provide helpful information about company processes and policies for payment of invoices, take advantage of their knowledge and experience.

Procurement department

Whether you are selling a product or a service, you will want to know those who make the decisions about exactly what will be available for sale.

Building a relationship with people in this department will help give you insight into what will be available in the future. More important, it will help you provide input and feedback based on the customer’s perspective.
strategy, rather than a selling strategy. [8]

Marketing department

The people who are responsible for getting the word out about your company’s brand are important to know. You can get insights about advertising, promotions, and other communication activities.

You can also get important information about future plans and help shape the marketing plan for the future based on your experience with customers.

IT department

Everything from your laptop to your reports is supported in the IT department. It’s especially important to get to know the people who man the help desk.

Chances are, you will have a technology emergency at some point in time so it’s best to build a strong relationship from the start.

One of the best ways to learn the ropes and get the inside track is to go on ride-alongs with colleagues, traveling with an experienced sales rep or sales manager to make sales calls.

This is an opportunity for you to experience first hand exactly what the job entails and for the company to see how you react in the selling environment. Take advantage of as many opportunities as you can to ride-along with experienced salespeople and view it as a training opportunity.

How to Maximize the Ride-Along Experience

Always be professional. Remember your role on the ride-along.

Avoid inappropriate topics. It is best to avoid controversial topics.

Mind your manners. The person with whom you are riding will be watching your social behavior.

Be yourself. You won’t be able to learn if your focus is on acting in a way that isn’t natural. [5]

A great salesperson starts with great habits.
Here are a few tips from Richard E. Goldman, author of Luck by Design: Certain Success in an Uncertain World.

Learn by doing. Take the initiative to seek out information and teach yourself how to do things.

Make your own choices. You might not have all the information you need at the time, but the best decision is the one you make.

Believe in yourself. You got this job because you are smart and talented. Don’t ever believe you can’t succeed. [4]

Create relationships with the best-performing salespeople in the company so you can learn the best practices. Go on ride-alongs and learn what makes them successful.

Also explore the CRM system and company intranet, especially the online communities. This is an excellent way to learn about how sales were won, see examples of successful proposals, and learn about best practices of the top performers. While resources are important for you to be effective in sales, it’s resourcefulness that will make you successful. [7]

Helen Hast, a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Business, has identified managing technological change as of the five core competencies for the twenty-first century.

According to a recent article on BNET, she said, “When we have a new tool, we first use it for what we are already doing, just doing it a bit better. But gradually, the new tool changes the way we do things.” [6]

Evan Williams, Biz Stone, and Jack Dorsey figured out a way to make Twitter-the micro blogging site they founded in March 2006-one of the most popular Web sites in the world without the use of traditional advertising to spread the word.[8]

It would be hard to argue that Williams, Stone, and Dorsey had all the resources they needed to launch this hugely successful Web site; they had no money for advertising, or anything else for that matter. But they were resourceful about getting people to try their new service, use it, and engage with it.

Organizing and Prioritizing
How do you determine which customers to call on each day, how much time should be spent on prospecting, travel or paperwork.

There is no hard answer, your goal should be to spend as much time as possible with customers. Consider this: Salespeople spend approximately fourteen hours a week engaged in face-to-face selling. That means that 70 percent of the time, salespeople are doing something other than face-to-face selling. [9] [10]

Since your objective is to spend as much time as possible with customers, you’ll need to balance where you physically spend your time and with which customers you spend it. This is where territory management strategies come into play.

Based on the call cycle, the frequency at which you call on each of your customers, and where each is located, you’ll develop a plan to call on your existing customers and allow time for prospecting. In other words, you will need to have a plan to invest your time wisely to meet your goals.

To plan your sales calls, you’ll need a map and sales information by customer, and your call cycle.

Identify the location of each of your customers. Then, divide your territory into sections (designated as one, two, three, etc.). This will become the basis of your territory management plan.

Time Management
Salespeople get paid on results, not on the number of hours worked.

As a salesperson, there are so many demands on your time: client needs, internal meetings, follow-ups, proposals, phone calls, e-mails, text messages, emergencies and so on. According to renowned sales consultant and motivational speaker Zig Ziglar, “Nothing happens until someone sells something.” [11] There are three key reasons that time can get away from you:

Poor Planning

Avoid getting caught up in the moment and make a plan every day of selling activities you want to accomplish. Activities include things like identifying new prospects, setting up appointments for the coming week, or closing a sale.

“Write your top three outcomes at the top of your plan” is good advice. [12]


Fear of rejection causes many salespeople to stay involved in meaningless tasks. It’s hard to get an appointment with a customer, as they don’t always have time to give to salespeople.

Customers want true solutions, not a sales pitch. It takes time, research, and creativity to really understand a customers business. [13]

Making Tasks Too Big

Thinking about how long it takes to go from identifying a prospect to actually closing a sale can sometimes make the job seem overwhelming.

It’s best to set short-term goals to make steady progress toward the larger, longer-term goal. [14]

Managing Your Time

There are many theories on the best way to manage yourself and your time, one of the best resources is The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by best-selling author and management expert Stephen R. Covey. [15]

If you think your time is valuable, think about how valuable your customer’s time is. When your customer thinks that doing business with you helps her save time, it can be a reason she won’t do business with anyone else.

Ask Marcia F. Borello, who praises Bank Atlantic in Tampa, Florida, USA: “I do my banking exclusively at BankAtlantic because I save so much time. At so many other banks, I waste my precious free time in my lunch hour waiting in long lines. Bank Atlantic’s long hours and seven day service make it convenient for me to do my banking when I choose to.” [16]

Top Three Time-Wasters for Salespeople

Selling is all about making things happen. According to Ray Silverstein, “When you’re selling, time is your most valuable asset.” [17] But sometimes salespeople can get sidetracked doing tasks that don’t really generate sales. Here are the top three time-wasters:

Focusing on the urgent. E-mails, phone calls, paperwork, and even meetings can be unnecessary tasks that appear to be urgent but take time and focus away from selling.

Being too comfortable. Habit, routine, and being comfortable can be barriers to breaking through to sell the next big idea.
Lacking trust in other people. Salespeople can miss a huge opportunity for teamwork and sharing the workload when they think that no one else can do it as well as they can. [18]

While most sales positions include commission, some positions pay a combination of salary plus commission.

This helps provide some steady income for a salesperson, especially during businesses that have peaks and valleys. The lifeblood of every company is its sales force, those people who connect to customers and generate sales for the company. That’s why most selling jobs provide at least some portion of compensation based on performance.

Salary is a regular payment from your employer in exchange for your services. Salary is a set amount and is usually the same amount for every pay period for which you are paid. A pay period may be weekly, monthly, or quarterly depending on the company and the position. A salary doesn’t provide incentive for a salesperson to sell more since it is paid no matter what sales are generated. [19] If a company pays salary, the salary usually makes up 15 to 40 percent of total compensation. [20]

Commission is income that is based on the percentage of sales or gross profit generated. Most companies pay straight commission, which means that the salesperson makes only a percentage of what she sells without any guaranteed salary. [21]

Depending on the company, commission might be paid on sales dollars, on gross profit dollars, or as a percentage. Gross profit dollars are calculated by multiplying the gross profit percentage times the sales. [22] When salespeople have control over pricing, commission plans are usually based on gross profit to ensure that the company makes a profit on each sale. [23]

Sales Goals and Success
Managing yourself, your time, and understanding compensation plans are important to success in sales. All these elements are linked to the company’s goals, which ultimately determine your sales goals.

The most important aspect of sales is to understand your sales goals: exactly what is expected and by when. Most companies establish annual sales goals or quotas by salesperson, and then break down the goals by month and sometimes by week. Establishing specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, and time-bound (SMART) sales goals provides clear expectations.

Many companies use key performance indicators (KPIs) to help gauge the productivity of each salesperson. KPIs are a measure of efficiency and effectiveness.

So while sales or gross profit might be included in a SMART goal, KPIs provide insights into performance; they can act as a way to diagnose problems in the selling process.

KPIs are used to evaluate performance and compensation. Results are how salespeople are evaluated and paid. If a salesperson is not generating the desired results, chances are he won’t last long in his position at that company.

Sales goals or quotas are used by companies to align sales force performance to the business plan. [24]

In many instances, sales quotas are used as the basis of incentives, such as additional commission, cash, and other incentives. It might seem a little overwhelming to think about achieving a specific sales goal. But it’s easier than you think when you use these tips of the trade to help you plan.

Write Down Your Goals
Believe it or not, you actually increase your chances for success when you put your goals in writing.

Whether you are setting goals for your career, for the year, or for the day ahead, write them down and prioritize them.

Achieve Your Goal

If your goal is to generate a 10 percent increase in sales over last month’s sales, do the math and determine what that means in dollar sales, then determine how many sales calls you will have to make to achieve your goal.

Schedule success. Once you determine how many sales calls you will need to make to achieve your goal, plan your schedule so you plan the time it takes.

Track Your Progress

Track your daily progress against your goal and make adjustments where necessary.

Stay Focused

It’s easy to lose focus, especially if things aren’t going according to plan.

Review your plan and see where you have opportunities and start each day with determination to reach your goal. [24]


Companies want to hire A-players for their sales positions, people who can connect with the customer and help the company achieve its goals.

Resources such as ride-alongs, your sales manager and other technology tools can help you learn more about the company, especially during the onboarding period.

Territory management is the practice of managing your customers or territory; you determine whom you call on and when you call to minimize your travel time and maximize your selling time.

Time management is the practice of organizing and prioritizing your activities to achieve your goals.

Time management is especially important in sales because your goals can only be achieved by maximizing your selling time.

Compensation can include many elements such as salary, and commission. Commission is designed to provide incentive to the salesperson to increase her income by achieving and exceeding the sales goal.

Key performance indicators (KPIs) provide a roadmap to improve performance and achieve sales goals.


Identify three resources that are available to you through your school. How do these resources help you succeed? Do you use these resources? Why or why not?

Think about a situation in which you have gone through an onboarding process. What information or resources were available to you? How did you learn about these resources? Did you use these resources after you learned your way around?

[1] Valeria Maltoni, “How Do You Become an A-Player?” Social Media Today, April 17, 2009, http://www.socialmediatoday.com/SMC/85675 (accessed September 4, 2009).

[2] Auren Hoffman, “The A-Player Janitor,” Summation Blog, April 9, 2009,http://blog.summation.net/2009/04/the-aplayer-janitor.html (accessed September 4, 2009).

[3] Ann Devine, “Is a Career in Sales Right for You?” The Black Collegian,http://www.black-collegian.com/career/career-reports/sales-grad05.shtml (accessed August 19, 2009).

[4] Richard E. Goldman, “Managing Yourself First,” Focus, July 8, 2009,http://www.cuckleburr.com/book-excerpt-managing-yourself-first-from-luck-by-design(accessed August 18, 2009).

[5] “What Do I Do on a Ride Along?” PharmBoard.com, http://pharmboard.com/what-do-i-do-on-a-ride-along (accessed August 29, 2009).

[6] Sean Silverthorne, “5 Personal Core Competencies for the 21st Century,” BNET, August 13, 2009, http://blogs.bnet.com/harvard/?p=3332&tag=nl.e713 (accessed August 19, 2009). [7] Tony Robbins, “Tony Robbins: Why We Do What We Do and How We Can Do It Better,” video, January 16, 2007, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cpc-t-Uwv1I (accessed September 5, 2009).

[8] Ashton Kutcher, “The Twitter Guys: The 2009 Time 100,” Time,http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,1894410_1893837_1894156,00.html (accessed September 5, 2009).

[9] Gerald L. Manning, Barry L. Reece, and Michael Ahearne, Selling Today: Creating Customer Value (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2010), 31.

[10] Data from Gerald L. Manning, Barry L. Reece, and Michael Ahearne, Selling Today: Creating Customer Value (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2010), 31.

[11] Ann Devine, “Is a Career in Sales Right for You?” The Black Collegian,http://www.black-collegian.com/career/career-reports/sales-grad05.shtml (accessed August 19, 2009).
[12] John Hacking, “Time Management for Sales People,” Buzzle.com, October 15, 2007,http://www.buzzle.com/articles/time-management-for-sales-people.html (accessed September 5, 2009).

[13] “Procrastination Costing Your Sales Team,” ArticlesBase, April 29, 2009,http://www.articlesbase.com/education-articles/procrastination-costing-your-sales-team-893170.html (accessed September 5, 2009).

[14] John Hacking, “Time Management for Sales People,” Buzzle.com, October 15, 2007,http://www.buzzle.com/articles/time-management-for-sales-people.html (accessed September 5, 2009).

[15] “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” Businessballs.com,http://www.businessballs.com/sevenhabitsstevencovey.htm (accessed January 2, 2010).

[16] Marcia F. Borello comment, Bank Atlantic,https://www.bankatlantic.com/Customerfeedback/default.html (accessed September 13, 2009). [17] Ray Silverstein, “Time Management for Sales Pros,” Entrepreneur, March 20, 2007,http://www.entrepreneur.com/management/leadership/leadershipcolumnistraysilverstein/article176034.html (accessed September 5, 2009).

[18] Dave Kahle, “Biggest Time Wasters for Sales People,” Business Know-How,http://www.businessknowhow.com/growth/timewast.htm (accessed September 5, 2009).

[19] Jim Kahrs, “Sales Compensation: Creating a Plan that Works for Your Dealership,” Prosperity Plus Management Consulting Inc.,http://www.prosperityplus.biz/ArticleSalesComp.html (accessed May 16, 2010).

[20] “Sales Compensation Plan Components,” Online Business Advisor,http://www.onlinebusadv.com/?PAGE=178 (accessed August 19, 2009).

[21] “Sales Compensation Plan Components,” Online Business Advisor,http://www.onlinebusadv.com/?PAGE=178 (accessed August 19, 2009). [22] Jim Kahrs, “Sales Compensation: Creating a Plan that Works for Your Dealership,” Prosperity Plus Management Consulting Inc.,http://www.prosperityplus.biz/ArticleSalesComp.html (accessed May 16, 2010).

[23] “Sales Compensation Plan Components,” Online Business Advisor,http://www.onlinebusadv.com/?PAGE=178 (accessed August 19, 2009).

[24] Renee Houston Zemanski, “Tough Truth about Quotas,” Selling Power 22, no. 6,http://www.sellingpower.com/content/article.php?a=5998 (accessed March 16, 2010).