Tiffany wrote to ask me how she might set herself apart. She asked whether training and certifications might help her distinguish herself, especially as it pertains to becoming a leader in a few years.
Many of the best salespeople in the world would be judged to have been poorly trained, if you look only at their formal classroom training. All who have been trained would say they enjoyed training, learned something useful, and they will tell you what part they apply to their work today. They will also describe how they were taught in more informal ways every day.
Very few of the best salespeople credit certifications as being what sets them apart from their peers, even while telling you they are happy they had a chance to go through the process and that they learned a lot they still use.
Distinguishing yourself isn’t a matter of formal training, even though it is still worth your time. This recipe will serve you whether you have the formal training and certifications or not.
Outwork Them: This is nowhere near as difficult as it sounds. Most people aren’t willing to work hard. They count their hours instead of their outcomes. They are “clock punchers” who try to keep busy between normal business hours, even if being busy isn’t productive. Being out-hustled is a choice, as is out-hustling everyone else.
Out-Study Them: There are all kinds of statistics about how few sales books salespeople read. Some suggest that 95 percent of salespeople have never read a single book on sales in their life. Assuming that number is correct, or close enough, that means reading a single book is more than almost any of your peers. Reading, especially non-fiction, will help you develop faster than your non-reading peer group.
Learn Faster: This is different than studying. Like most human endeavors, sales isn’t something you can learn to do by reading a book. You can’t learn to swim or ride a bike by reading a book, and you can’t learn to sell that way either. Books are what provide you with a framework to understand what you are doing and what you might do while you are actually selling. They multiply the speed at which you learn, but only if you take time to reflect on what you are doing, make meaningful adjustments, and apply new ideas.
Get Coaching: The performers in almost any field have coaches, or they had someone that coached them as they developed. Some had different coaches at different stages of their development, even if the person wasn’t a formal, professional coach. A good coach can help you see areas for improvement that you haven’t recognized. They can also tell you directly how to do some things that will literally compress your learning curve by decades.
Be Better with People: The more effective you are with more people, the better your results in sales (and in life). The more you develop empathy, the ability to take someone else’s perspective, the more you will differentiate yourself from the crowd. The more willing you are to commit to helping others, especially when it comes to dealing with difficult challenges and situations, the more you set yourself apart from others. Even though very few people are willing to talk about these issues, choosing to believe that sales is a science, this is where the action is.
The intention to be the best, when followed with consistent action, will propel you to the top of your field. Ambition is a powerful force, especially when coupled with a willingness to put in the time and effort.
If you want to be a leader, then you have to lead. You have to take accountability for outcomes, and then you have to lead others in helping you to achieve those outcomes. You never have to wait for someone to make you a leader. You just have to do the things that allow them to recognize it in you.