Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook has recently published a new book, Lean In – Women, Work And The Will To Lead. In the book, she discusses the lack of women leaders at the top of large organizations and why it is occurring.
As I was reading the book, I couldn’t help but think of how similar the challenges faced by women leaders are similar to challenges faced by sales professionals, both men and women.
For example, in Chapter Two, Sheryl talks about ‘getting a seat at the table.’ She shares the story of where she gave a talk to a few hundred employees at Facebook on gender issues. As she walked back to her desk, one of her young female employees told her that she learned a lesson from her talk. However, the lesson wasn’t one that Sheryl expected to hear. The young woman said, “I learned to keep my hand up.” She shared that at the end of the talk, when Sheryl was fielding questions from the audience, Sheryl unknowingly called on more men than women. One of the reasons—the men kept their hands up. Of course, Sheryl was stunned—particularly because she was giving a talk on gender!
Here’s the lesson for everyone, regardless of gender. Be assertive, be confident and go after what you want. Raise your hand in the air. This young woman wanted her question answered and accomplished that goal.
Top salespeople are good at getting a seat at the opportunity table because they raise their hand and ask for what they want. When a prospect asks for a proposal too soon in the sales process, the assertive and confident salesperson raises her hand and states what she needs. “Mr. Prospect, I appreciate the request for proposal. But in my years of being in this business, I have found that if I don’t meet other decision makers and gather their input, my recommendations aren’t effective. Can you help me get those meetings set up?”
Raise your hand. Be assertive. Ask for what you need.
Some salespeople need to raise their hands more with their managers. Years ago I was coaching a young woman who was well on her way to earning the doorprize for “Head Victim.” She was complaining that her boss never gave her any time. When I asked her if she was proactive on setting up coaching sessions with him, she gave me the typical victim answer, “Well, I think that’s his job to set-up the meeting.” This young woman was eventually let go and I wasn’t surprised. She wasn’t willing to raise her hand and ask for what she needed. She was waiting for success rather than creating it.
How about you? Be assertive and confident and raise your hand. It will get you a seat at the opportunity table.