They say hindsight’s a b*tch, and I think we can all agree it’s true when we look back at certain moments in our career.
At 25, I was working for the Guardian newspaper and like many sales people at that age I thought 2 things; that I knew pretty much everything about sales and that the company was lucky to have me because I was pretty awesome. I was smashing targets, selling services that the paper had struggled to sell in the past, and was on track for a great year.
I thought I was better than my (long suffering) boss. I was cocky, arrogant, over confident and totally blind to the amount of damage I was doing to my own internal career prospects.
I wanted to go on to big things at the Guardian and thought my sales revenue alone would be enough to get me there…. but I was mistaken.
One of the reasons I was able to smash my targets was that I really cared about doing everything I could for my clients. No matter how much they might make things difficult I would always treat them with respect and deal with their issues with an impenetrable calmness and professionalism.
I would save the panic and shouting for my internal colleagues, as like a bear with a thorn in its paw, I would make a big deal out of small problems to try and get everyone to drop what they were doing so I could resolve my clients’ issues.
I thought sales was the most important cog in the machine, totally missing the point that without the amazing talent (and tolerance) of the people in other departments I would have nothing to sell and be out of a job.
(As I sit at my desk writing this, chills of embarrassment are tingling down my spine as I think of how I interacted with some of my fellow colleagues)
Looking back,I think if things hadn’t changed I would still be in the same role I was 10 years ago wondering why I had been overlooked time and time again for promotion.
I still remember the day a very wise man asked me: “Why is it that you will do anything for your clients, even bite your tongue when you have to, but you won’t do the same for your colleagues internally, to progress your own career?”
Treat internal colleagues as clients. It’s such a simple idea. Then again the best ideas always are!
Since those early days I have been fortunate enough to work with, train and manage the most incredibly talented sales people you could hope to come across. Yet in every company I have worked in since the Guardian, at least one of those individuals has portrayed similar career damaging characteristics as I have mentioned above.
This is frustrating, because as a manager you can see their potential, you want to see them succeed but you can’t promote them because they are too risky and have burnt too many bridges internally.
Every business has great sales people who will only ever be just that, because they don’t treat internal stakeholders as clients.
I was lucky enough to be given a serious reality check at an early stage of my career and I have seen others take the same advice and go on to achieve fantastic results in well deserved jobs.
So I’ll leave you with this –
If you’re a manager with someone in your team like this, then you might be able to change their ways with the advice I was given.
If you’re a sales person reading this and it’s making you feel uncomfortable because you feel parts maybe a bit close to home, then if you take just one thing from this post, remember that the people you work with deserve to be treated with the upmost respect because without them you probably wouldn’t have a job…