Leadership: Ten Strategies to Build a Winning Sales Career

Sales ABC

On occasion we get asked, “What one piece of advice would you give a person who has just accepted his or her first sales position?”  That is truly an unfair question.   How do you boil down the essence of sales leadership into one slice of a whole pie?  However, that question is worth an answer.  Our best response would be, “Engage a coach.” Why? Because partnering with a sales coach can build a firm foundation to use as a springboard towards success.

We would expect a coach to help you leverage the following:

  1. Define measurable goals: Select several meaningful one, three, and five-year goals that focus on financial targets and personal growth. Without measurable goals you won’t know the direction you’re headed or whether you’ve arrived at your destination.  People without defined goals typically meander and become disappointed in their lack of results.
  2. Focus on a vertical market: Good sales people are not all things to all customers. What area are you most passionate?  Join an association in that market and become the “go to” expert.  Consider certification or accreditation to bolster your expertise.  Make sure to understand the emerging trends and have a plan to take advantage of the opportunities and to navigate through the threats.
  3. Understand your customers: Ask powerful questions of your customers so you clearly understand their needs and what keeps them up at night. Be the solution seeker and problem-solver by offering answers that address their needs.  Customers partner with sales people who create and offer value.
  4. Know your competition: Learn the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors. Strategize how you can navigate the competitive landscape to take advantage of their weaknesses by driving on your strengths.
  5. Build trust among your customers and industry colleagues: People do not do business with others whom they don’t trust unless there are no other options. Make decisions and exhibit behaviors that garnish trust.
  6. Leverage social media: Set up a LinkedIn profile that reflects who you are and what you offer. Share and publish articles that are relevant to your customers. Make sure your public Facebook represents what you want customers to know about you.  Be sure to clean up your social media of any “unwanted” posts.
  7. Establish a personal brand: When your name is mentioned in industry circles, what one phrase would you want to come to mind: “gets it done,” “always looks for the win-win,” or “sales leadership expert.”  Develop a personal brand based on your best assets.
  8. Grow your leadership: Learn from the best, get a mentor, and practice leadership.  One of the most powerful annual leadership conferences we attend is Global Leadership Summit (https://www.willowcreek.com/events/leadership).  Strong leadership will not only build your sales it will build your life.
  9. Become a servant leader: Give of your time, talents, and treasures without expecting anything in return. When you do, don’t be surprised how people will respond to you.  People will want to spend time with you, recommend you, and help you be successful.

And last, but not least, you can always benefit by going back to school to…

  1. Relearn your ABC’s (Always Be Connecting): Selling is about connecting and one person saying “yes” to another. People rarely say “yes” to people whom they don’t like or trust. Spend time with your customers in casual settings getting to know them on both a professional and personal level.  Your calendar should be populated with customer lunch dates.

Every seasoned salesperson has one or two special secrets of the trade that may have contributed to their success; however, these fundamental strategies will build a solid sales career over a lifetime. Although every salesperson can try to implement these practices on their own, most would benefit from having a sales coach who can keep them accountable.


About the Authors:

HE21118Davis_07-medSandra Dillon is a professional coach and leadership consultant with an extensive background in sales and new business development.  She coaches individuals as well as designs and facilitates workshops on current business needs.  She has a passion to help organizations fully engage all its employees.  Reach out to her at sandra.s.dillon@hotmail.com or 281.793.3741 to further the conversation and determine how she can help you grow your business.

Darin headshotDarin Dillon is a Certified Protection Professional (CPP), 30+ year business development veteran, and active leader in the electronic security and integrated systems industry.  As a business leader, he has a passion for developing long-term customer partnerships and providing solutions to Fortune 1000 companies across many vertical markets. He can be reached at ddillon14@hotmail.com or 713.204.7035.

Coaching: How to Calculate Your Return on Investment

Coaching ROI 10Have you thought about the return on investment (ROI) of personal coaching? I would probably guess not as this investment decision is somewhat analogous to the early days of personal computers.  With every new product or service, there is a small portion of the population who are the early adopters.  In the case of computers, they were likely the technology gurus, who were excited to upgrade their TI or HP hand-held calculators for 256 kB of desktop memory.  I propose this analogy parallels personal coaching.  There is a small portion of the population who are driven towards self-improvement, so hiring a coach is a no-brain decision.  What about the others?

In the early 1980’s, when IBM computers were first launched, companies struggled with the financial decision of whether to buy their employees personal computers. They intuitively knew their employees would be more productive, but did not grasp how to calculate a ROI.  Is personal coaching following the same path? Most people believe they would benefit from coaching, but they struggle with how to justify it.

How much would you pay for coaching services if you thought you would get promoted within the year, add an extra 10% to your base salary that carries forward for 20 years, or have more job opportunities?  What value would you place on coaching services that solidified your performance in a position where you felt overwhelmed? Can you calculate that value and weigh it against the cost?  What about the intangible benefits such as greater fulfillment and your impact on others.  An increase in your leadership abilities helps others lead better.  Accurately measuring all the downstream benefits would prove difficult, so I suggest focusing on what can be measured and let the unquantifiable extras be the cherry on top of the sundae.

My 5-step process to calculate coaching ROI involves answering a series of basic questions to define the opportunity, determine the gap, measure the performance, and calculate the value.  These steps are:

  1. Define the need/opportunity and determine the gap
    • What specifically do you want to accomplish?
    • What is your baseline?
    • How big is the gap?
  2. Calculate the benefit
    • What are the parameters that need to be addressed that will deliver value?
    • What is the quantifiable value if the performance gap is closed?
    • Is the growth in value linear, exponential, or binary?
  3. Develop a coaching approach
    • What is the coaching strategy and tactics to achieve the target?
    • How will progress be measured (the metrics)?
    • How frequently will progress be measured?
    • Who will be responsible for collecting and reporting the data?
  4. Implement the coaching plan
    • What is working well?
    • What needs to be adjusted to meet target?
    • What is the interim analysis and value?
  5. Calculate the ROI
    • What is the total cost?
    • What is the monetary value of the improvement?
    • What is the ROI (net benefits/coaching costs)?

Putting this model into practical use, a client may have a goal to develop and lead more effective project meetings.  After a review of the client’s work and process, the coaching plan may focus on strategies and tactics to improve preparation, organization, and execution that results in fewer, shorter, and less attendees needed at all meetings.  The costs savings is easily calculated by the reduced man-hours in meetings multiplied by salaries over the project life.  The true cost savings are immeasurable as the upgrade in the client’s skills will carry forward into future projects.

When was the last time you attended a meeting and wished the meeting leader was better at preparing himself and the team as well as more effective in leading the meeting and staying on task? Ask me how I can help? The ROI is off the charts.


HE21118Davis_07-medAbout the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach and consultant with an extensive background in leadership and business development.  She coaches individuals as well as designs and facilitates workshops that address her clients’ business needs.  She has a passion to help organizations fully engage all its employees.  Reach out to her at sandra.s.dillon@hotmail.com or 281.793.3741 to further the conversation and determine how she can help you grow your business.

Networking: How to Think of It as Fun When You Think It’s Not

Networking 5You probably read the title of this article and don’t necessarily agree that networking is fun, but you were intrigued enough to read more.  If you don’t think networking is fun, we probably have a different definition or approach.

I know plenty of people who are highly networked and consider it a necessity of doing business, yet I know far more who say they need to start networking in case they lose their job.  Sadly, many people don’t practice networking until they need something such as a job lead, referral, or recommendation.  Networking then becomes a fearful activity as they live in a tight time frame to secure a job while managing the risk of rejection.

I propose that the definition of networking extends beyond a job and the industry connections where one earns a living.  Networking is a life skill and a fun one to practice across all life relationships. Why?  Because networking is not about asking for anything but about giving to others.

People were designed for networking, because people were designed to be in relationship with one another. Networking is about building and sustaining relationships. People get off track when they approach networking as a give and take or a score to be kept. Ninety-nine percent of networking should be giving and blessing others without the expectation of receiving anything in return. When we give, how can we be rejected? If you approach every contact as an opportunity to help, you will be surprised how your relationships strengthen.

So how do you start networking with sincerity?  Ask powerful questions to learn more about people, where they are from, and their interests.  You might find some interesting common ground off which to build.  You might deepen the conversation by asking “-est” (extreme) type questions such as: 1) What is the biggest challenge you have faced? (2) What accomplishment are you proudest? and (3) What is your best piece of advice?  You may then ask, “How can I help you?”  You’ll be surprised how easy and fun it is to have a conversation when you only have a desire to connect and serve.  When you do eventually find yourself in a position of need, you may find that your network turns around and asks you, “How can I help you?”


HE21118Davis_07-medAbout the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach and consultant with an extensive background in leadership and business development.  She coaches individuals as well as designs and facilitates workshops that address her clients’ business needs.  She has a passion to help organizations fully engage all its employees.  Reach out to her at sandra.s.dillon@hotmail.com or 281.793.3741 to further the conversation and determine how she can help you grow your business.

What are Interviewers Looking for in a Candidate?

InterviewingJob searchers are asking the question, “What are interviewers really looking for in job candidates?”  If you have not interviewed in years, you may be surprised that the rules and criteria of successful interviewing have changed.  This should not come as a surprise.  Just as the where, when, and how of our work has changed, so have what employers look for in potential candidates.

The work environment has been redesigned from private offices to cubicles and open floor plans.  Many people are working remotely and share a connection desk, when they decide to come into the office.  Pad and pencil have been replaced with a laptop and virtual connection.  The typical hiring methodology which started with a candidate applying and submitting a resume, followed by the employer interviewing the candidate for skills, likeability, and references, are indicative of the past.

Today, companies are not just looking for someone with the skills to do the job but for someone who is motivated and creative.  Employers want to hire people who will take ownership, do what is necessary, and get their hands dirty.  They are looking for employees who believe in what the company is trying to build.  Interviewers are looking for candidates who have passion, values, and goals, and that these values align with the company.  Companies also want to know the strengths of the individual and that these align with the position.

First and foremost, I encourage my clients to identify their core values, because these values should drive their work and life purpose.  Conflict and stress build, when people do not live out their core values in daily activities and decision-making.  Since many people have not identified their top core values, employers are doing job candidates a favor, when they focus their interviewing objectives on understanding and matching values.

What would be examples of core values?  Two of my highest ranked core values are authenticity and leadership.  If I am not able to work under these two values, I cannot drive and leverage my strengths to the best of my ability and for the benefit of my team and employer.  I thrive in low-hierarchy, empowerment, and accountability cultures and die in command and control cultures which stifle my creativity and innovation.  I also need the opportunity to express myself and share my opinions regardless of whether they are adopted and expect the same from my team.  I am comfortable joining the consensus, even if my opinion differs, as long as I have been genuinely heard.

What are your values? If you have not taken a values assessment, I encourage you to partner with a coach, who can help you identify the values that most resonate with you.


HE21118Davis_07-medAbout the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach, consultant, and mentor with an extensive background in business development, leadership, and ministry which provides her with the experience, relational skills, and proven processes to move individuals, couples, and leaders to higher levels of personal awareness, effectiveness, and goal achievement.  She coaches in a variety of areas including leadership, life purpose/plans, business, finances, and premarital/marriage.  She can be reached at sandra.s.dillon@hotmail.com or 281.793.3741.

What Should Savvy Companies Look for When Interviewing a Candidate?

job interviewingBack in the late 1980’s, while I was working at Mobil Chemical as a technical service manager, I was selected as an employee participant to train and practice a cutting-edge initiative called competency-based interviewing.  Mobil’s intention was to always hire the best and brightest employees to join its workforce.  However, despite its best attempts, Mobil’s batting average was far less than its target.  With the help of a consulting firm, Mobil embarked on a study of its top performers to determine what characteristics these employees all had in common.  The result?  The consultant agency found that across all job functions, those employees that Mobil rated as its highest performers had an abundance of the following competencies:

  • Analytical thinking – analyzing a situation/problem, seeing trends and outcomes, and developing solutions
  • Conceptual thinking – identifying and developing concepts and ideas
  • Concern for accuracy – performing the job right the first time
  • Concern for effectiveness – taking action that balances results and efficiency
  • Effective Communication – communicating messages both orally and in writing so the intended message is clearly and easily understood
  • Enthusiasm for work – working and contributing with enthusiasm
  • Flexibility – adjusting priorities or a course of action without concern
  • Initiative – acting without being asked
  • Perceptual thinking – being aware of how people are responding to communication and behaviors and adjusting to allicit a more positive response
  • Teamwork – working effectively with other people to achieve a goal
  • Technical Knowledge – working knowledge of subject matter

Identification of these common competencies then led Mobil to develop competency-based interviewing, which was a radically different interview process and approach used up until that point. The competency-based interviewer was trained how to ask specific questions to help an interviewee unfold stories, so the interviewer could identify as many competencies practiced by the candidate in his/her past.  In the case of personal competencies, past performance was an assumed indicator of future performance.

When 20 summer interns were asked to be willing interviewees to help a group of trainees certify in this new interviewing process, the results were surprising.  These college students were only told that they were interviewing for factitious jobs and had nothing to gain or lose by participating.  Each intern was separately interviewed by 3-4 interviewers.  The interviewers then ranked each intern for competencies and compared notes.  The results?  Most interviewers found the same number of competencies for each interviewee.  What was unexpected?  The interviewers identified a handful of candidates that Mobil would have clearly offered a job based on the criteria of the past such as sociability, confident manner, physical appeal, participation on team sports, and academic performance, and yet, these same candidates had no competencies.

What does this mean for those companies who want to hire the best employees?  Every candidate should be screened for the basic knowledge that cannot be taught on the job.  Certain jobs need specific technical skills such as a design engineer or lawyer.  However, for many jobs, companies would likely be more satisfied in their employee selection, if they emphasized competencies in the hiring process.  Most technical knowledge can be taught on the job, as opposed to personal competencies, which can only be influenced and may take more time than an employer can afford to invest.  Rare is the candidate that has all the above competencies, so an interviewer should have a clear understanding of which competencies are most important for the job.

Competencies are found in both young and older adults, because they typically manifest from core values or personal characteristics of the individual.  Therefore, it is not uncommon to find personal competencies across all or several dimensions of a person’s life. Since my competency-based interview training, I have always focused on hiring for competencies over a pedigree, and I have been pleased that my batting average has been higher than most.


HE21118Davis_07-medAbout the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach, consultant, and mentor with an extensive background in business development, leadership, and ministry which provides her with the experience, relational skills, and proven processes to move individuals, couples, and leaders to higher levels of personal awareness, effectiveness, and goal achievement.  She coaches in a variety of areas including life purpose and plans, business, finances, and premarital/marriage.