You are in an operational role, where your job is to execute what your salesperson sells. Occasionally, a salesperson asks you to join them on a discovery call or a presentation. You are being asked to join this meeting because the client’s operations people will have questions that the salesperson can’t answer as well as you can.
The questions you field are tactical, and they are posed as being hypothetical. Your answers, however, are the actual stories of the challenges you and your clients have had to overcome over the years. Because you know what the right answers are, you are popular with the client’s operations team. Even if the salesperson could answer their questions, your role as an operator gives you greater credibility.
After spending time in sales meetings, you believe you could be a salesperson. You would need to learn to sell, but your technical knowledge provides you with an operator’s advantage.
The Value of Your Experience as an Operator
It’s easy for you to do certain things that salespeople will have a difficult time matching because of your experience talking with clients, helping them improve their results, and dealing with novel problems that fall to you to solve. While it is true that salespeople have sales acumen and experience, and some of them also have business acumen, none spend the same time solving the client’s problems.
When clients have questions about how your products, services, or if you are fancy, solutions work, your answers and firsthand experience provide them with confidence. This sends the message that they are safe to buy from you. When prospective buyers ask about what could go wrong and why, you can explain what they will need to do to produce their desired results.
My Experience as An Operator
I spent five years in an operational role. Even though I wasn’t in sales, I was told to make calls to companies to try to get orders. Note: You don’t want orders. You want clients, giving you an absolute certainty of gaining all their orders. This is the best way to sell. Own the client and the relationship.
After interviewing tens of thousands of people and taking care of large clients, I won new clients. I was not trained or taught anything about sales, but I won more deals than the three salespeople in my Los Angeles office. One reason for this was that the three salespeople weren’t working. Another reason was that I knew the right answers to the clients’ questions.
With my deep knowledge and experience running a staffing office, I was an operator, so much so that I tried to avoid taking a sales role, but it came down to becoming a salesperson or losing my job. My early success was due to my five years of experience in operations. I’d also visited many companies and met all kinds of buyers and decision-makers.
The Move from Operator to Salesperson
Your advantage in moving from your role as an operator is that you know a lot of what you need to know to create value for your prospective clients. But that advantage may not be enough to create new opportunities and win them. You will need to execute as a salesperson, starting with making a cold call, scheduling a first meeting, managing the discovery process, collaborating around a solution, building consensus, resolving concerns, presenting, proposing, negotiating, and getting someone’s signature on a contract.
Your operator’s advantage is helpful, but you will have to learn to sell. The way to become a salesperson is to do several things at the same time. First, you will need sales training and the ability to go on calls with salespeople. This will help you learn how to manage the sales conversation. It will also give you an opportunity to write down and study the questions that clients have during the sales call and the statements that salespeople use effectively. The more time you get to spend with salespeople in conversations with their prospective clients, the more you’ll understand how selling works.
You can learn to make a cold call in 17 minutes. There is only one way to learn to sell, and that is by selling. You can’t learn to sell by reading about sales, but you use the strategies you learn from books to improve your ability to sell. A large part of your development will find you sitting across from your potential customer, asking questions, answering questions, and creating the value that will move a client’s initiative forward.
Learning and Growing from Your Experience
As an operator, you learned how to talk to contacts and solve their problems. You will need to repeat that same process, talking to clients to discover how to best help them improve their results. When you were in an operational role, some clients were easy and some were complicated. The same is true in sales. You will lose deals as you learn to sell effectively. You will also win deals, in part, because you have helped your clients solve many problems you will encounter.
Moving from Operations to Sales
To sell, you should start by gaining access to the sales team and start learning what their role is like and how they approach the sales conversation. Use your experience on sales calls as an operator to gain an audience with a sales manager. To offer them the highest amount of value, suggest that you could help them win new clients because of your experience and problem-solving skills.
Having done this, I can tell you that it isn’t always easy, but it is more fun than being an operator, especially if you pour yourself into it. If you win a sales role, go to the contact page, and share your success story with us. Now go and do good work.