The Sales Success Stories Book – 60 Stories from 20 Top 1% Sales Professionals was published October 16, 2018. Learn more: http://top1.fm/book
In between the regular interview episodes, we’ll continue to release sample stories from the book like this one. You can either listen to the episode and hear Scott read his story, or read the full text below.
“Be Specific About What You Want”
By: Scott Ingram
As you may have already heard in my fired up story, my career hasn’t always moved straight up into the right. I’ve made a couple of wrong turns, which have been the most costly. You’re going to make mistakes on deals or maybe you screw up a quarter, but you can always recover from those mistakes relatively quickly. When you go to work for the wrong company, the negative impacts can last a lot longer. Hopefully, this saves at least one person from making one of those wrong turns. Maybe that one person is you. When you’re looking for a new opportunity, it helps to be specific for so many reasons. First, you want to find the right fit for you that is going to move you towards your long-term career goals. Second. When you have that specific clarity, it’s much easier to narrow your focus because you’ll know what your target company and target role look like. Third, it will be easier for others to help you in your quest because you can ask for exactly what you need.
I used to speak a lot about networking and often told a story about being specific when asking for referrals. That I think will be very instructive here. So here’s your story. Within a story. I was once at a local networking event. This was a lunchtime event where everyone gets up and introduces themselves. Over the course of listening to a few dozen introductions, almost all of which I immediately forgot. There was one great example of asking for referrals and one downright miserable example. Let’s start with the miserable one. A chiropractor stood up and explained that a great referral for him would be anybody with a spine. Seriously, that describes over 90% of the people that I know, but I don’t have any idea which of that 90 % to introduce you to. Shortly after a woman stands up and explains that a great referral for her would be somebody who owns or manages a cleaning company, either commercial or residential. Now, because she was so specific, I immediately thought of three people that fit that description, look them up on my phone, wrote down their names and numbers on the back of my card and handed them to her. At the end of the meeting, people often worry that they’re going to miss out on something because they didn’t ask for everything. When the reality is that asking for everything gets you nothing. When you ask specifically, you often get exactly what you’re asking for. Knowing all of this, I spent some time getting really clear about what my career goals were and exactly what type of organization I’d like to sell for.
Here’s my resulting list. At the time, I wanted to be in B2B Sales. I wanted to sell technology, SAAS, Social Media Services. I wanted to sell a solution that targeted top-line growth, so typically sales and marketing. I wanted to go after a large customer target market, so billion-dollar companies, fortune 1000 companies. I wanted my travel to be 40% or less. I wanted a place where I could make a meaningful contribution and not just be a rounding error. At that point in my career, I wanted the opportunity to advance in the direction of sales leadership. The beauty of this list is that it not only guided my focus, it also helped me to quickly qualify opportunities. Not only that, but you can share it with your network and see way better results than if you were to send them your resume, which most people don’t know what to do with anyway. Unfortunately, to prove how powerful this concept is, I get to share a counterexample. After creating a list, I was a little bit more desperate than I would like to admit something which often leads to poor choices. I got a great introduction to the hiring manager of a company who will remain nameless. I’ve even removed the company from my LinkedIn profile at this point because it’s so irrelevant this many years later. I had the skills to do the job and based on the strength of the referral and my background, it was a quick and easy hiring process. Unfortunately, this role only fit about half of my criteria I’d be selling to IT, not to Sales and Marketing. There was no particularly clear ROI and the solution would have absolutely no impact on top-line revenue or company growth. As you can imagine, this just didn’t work out. Fortunately, I was only in the wrong spot for about seven months and I stuck to my criteria for the next role, which was a near-perfect fit. Had I been a bit more patient and stuck to my own rules, I wouldn’t have basically wasted the better part of a year running in completely the wrong direction.
Lessons learned. Define your career goals and aspirations in detail, both short term and long term. Make a list of your criteria for the right fit. Where will you or won’t you be willing to settle? Ask for specific help and specific referrals using your criteria as a guide. Don’t settle, find what’s right for you. It’s out there even if you have to take a step or two back and pay your dues in order to get there.
Want more from Scott Ingram? He was the star of episode 62: Scott Ingram – Inspiration Squared