In sales, we hear a lot about professional development, things sales representatives can do to improve in their career. These include being up on current events, reading business blogs, attending sales training or coaching workshops. While these are all necessary for development, a topic less discussed but equally important is personal development—the things you can do, individually, to learn, grow, and be the best you can be. These are traits acquired over time that create a winning mindset. Anyone can develop skills that benefit physical processes, such as lead acquisition and prospecting. However, it’s more difficult to train the thought process needed to succeed, both personally and professionally. Here are some personal development ideas sales representatives should think about:
Remember, as a kid, being curious about everything? Maybe you drove adults crazy, elbowing them, asking countless questions that only led to another “Why?” Or maybe you’re a parent, and you’re now the one finding age-appropriate answers to satisfy a precocious child. This need is still there. It’s why we incessantly tap on a website so popular its name became a verb. In sales, curiosity is an asset. It drives you to discover everything about a client and their needs or learning and investing in new ways you can help. Nurture your curiosity, just don’t elbow your coworkers every time you have a question.
From this curiosity, become your client’s Google. You don’t need to know everything to be the person others go to for information. You just need to be the one who is always learning and sharing. Your reputation will do the rest. Maybe a client has questions about distribution in the Midwest. Fortunately, you posted an article on LinkedIn about supply chains in the Quad Cities. The more you share—articles, blogs, white papers—the more clients will see you as their go-to expert and as someone they trust.
Along with this, form stronger relationships at work. While sales can seem like a solitary and competitive profession, with reps being protective over their accounts and territories, this shouldn’t stop you from recognizing that you and your peers play for the same team. Make yourself available to your colleagues and make decisions that benefit your organization, not just yourself. There’s a lot to be said about fostering a team-oriented attitude–and that’s a collective team effort everyone should strive to improve upon.
It’s been said positive people achieve positive results, and this starts with improving one’s work ethic. Of course, there’s no substitute for hard work, but there’s a lot to be said for projecting a positive attitude. When you enjoy what you do, you are better prepared for the challenges you face. One benefit of the coronavirus pandemic was our ability to overcome obstacles we never imagined. Though it seemed we were flying by the seat of our pants, it was trusting ourselves and our processes, doing the work needed to meet our goals. That same work ethic will carry us through temporary slumps, lost deals, or even economic downturns.
Another lesson learned is those who think outside the box achieve more. True, we didn’t have a choice, and it felt like an insurmountable challenge, but the memory of transforming ourselves and adapting new processes makes us better. Those sales professionals who tried something new, either on a hunch or because routine processes no longer yielded satisfactory results, will continue to find creative solutions for clients. Remember, the biggest difference between a crackpot and a genius is whether their idea works. But to get there, we must be willing to fail. The reward of finding the right solution is worth it.
Personal development derives from a desire to be better, in our lives and work. It’s cultivating the traits that form a winning mindset. Sales professionals who only focus on skills can neglect the interior world that creates the basis of our attitude. Though this cannot be quantified on a spreadsheet, it influences everything we do, and, whether we realize it or not, clients will notice. It’s easy to exhaust ourselves with the physical process of selling, making calls, writing emails, analyzing data. Our minds whirl so fast, we wonder if we’re doing enough. Often, it isn’t only what we do but how we feel doing it that determines the outcome. Understanding the traits that lead to personal development, combined with the hard work you do, achieves a life/work balance that produces greater results.