I’m usually on the younger side compared to my coworkers given that I’m still early in my career. Working with older and more experienced coworkers can be a huge blessing, as it gives you the opportunity to learn from them and ask them questions about their journey through life and work. I try to ask many I come in contact with a question that resembles one of the following:
- What has helped you the most in your career?
- What is your number one piece of sales advice?
- What would you say to a young person starting out in their career like me?
By asking questions we can discover and glean wisdom from others. Some of the answers I have received from questions like these have stuck with me and I am reminded of them often in my work life. I may be paraphrasing but below are some of the answers stand out.
In seeking sales advice…
- Humor is an asset – I once asked a senior salesman what has helped him in his sales career. He proceeded to tell me that humor has helped him in dealing with people and relating to clients during in person interactions. This wasn’t the response I expected but it made sense. I definitely have used humor in my job, both with clients and coworkers. Humor most assuredly can be a tool to relate to people, lighten the mood, and ease a tense environment. What a creative answer.
- Just listen – Another season salesman I worked alongside gave me the advice to just listen. This is not new information, but in a society that values taking charge and initiative, listening can be undervalued. By listening we learn new information and have a better understanding of a customer’s needs.
- Don’t listen to anyone – This seems like the opposite of what I just wrote, but understand the context. The point my boss at the time was trying to make was that as a new sales person, don’t get caught up in the assumptions of sales people that have been selling a certain product in a certain market for an extended time. Learn from them yes. But the advantage to being new to a role or a market is that you may just be naive enough to cold call a prospect who may have been given up on by others, but for whatever reason is ready to buy now. Use outside the box thinking to your advantage and don’t assume things just because someone else does.
In seeking general business and career advice…
- See the world – A military veteran I recently conversed with said he strongly advocates that young people join the service and/or see the world. Even if you’re not in the military, you can make an effort to get outside of your bubble. It’s a great big world we live in, and he spoke so fondly of the places he’d been and cultures and people that he had mingled with. Sometimes it is easy to think that your town or state is it. When I stop and think for a moment, it almost seems surreal that there are people on the other side of the world, living in a totally different culture, working in very different jobs, with very different schedules. Let’s just say I feel inspired to travel more.
- Don’t underestimate the value of little accounts – One of my former customers told me this. He had been apart of and led his small family business for decades. He explained that large accounts can seem glamorous and have prestigious names that are recognizable to your industry. But many times, landing these large accounts can result in massive amounts of work and lower margins. Sometimes large accounts, though appealing in terms of revenue, are not the most profitable. And lastly, it is risky to put all of your eggs in only a few baskets, and losing a large account can result in significant financial hardship, especially for small businesses. A larger amount of small accounts can help companies diversify their customer base, and decrease the risk of downturn. They can also prove to be more profitable from a gross margin percentage standpoint, as certain small accounts may not beat you up on price like a large account. Finally, they can be easier to manage in the long run.
I’m sure there are other noteworthy pieces of advice that I could have mentioned, but the point is this:
Learn from those around you, especially those with years of experience
Be a student of life by being a sponge in the workplace. Everyone has a different career path and story, and maybe if you ask a simple question, you can learn something impacts the rest of your life.