College graduates are embarking on their next journey to becoming full-fledged adults. They’ll be charged with making a living, making their own decisions and…living with the consequences of those decisions.
If I was making an appearance as a commencement speaker, here would be my advice to graduates with college degrees in sales.
#1. Work hard. Stop scrolling through the news and posts about quiet quitting or work life balance. You didn’t spend four years (and all that tuition money) to just show up, do the bare minimum. Don’t be afraid of putting in the hours needed to master the profession of sales. You have the time and energy---use both wisely.
And remember, there’s no shortcut to success.
#2. Step up and ask to do more. Ask for more responsibilities. By doing so, you’ll be learning how to do your next job, while on the job.
For example, when I was a regional sales manager, I often assisted our overworked and overwhelmed national sales manager with some of his responsibilities. It didn’t even cross my mind to resent the extra work. I don’t recall being burned out because I was fired up about learning the skills required to be a national sales manager.
Stepping up paid off when I stepped into my new role as Vice President of Sales.
#3: Seek out mentors. I’ve been fortunate to have great mentors, however, looking back this happened more by luck than proactive action. Be proactive and reach out to mentors. Be mindful that mentors are busy people because they are successful people.
Come to your mentor meetings prepared and organized. Show gratitude for your mentor’s time by applying the wisdom they shared. Tell them specifically when and where you used their advice.
Then, pay it forward. Never forget the help you’ve received from wise mentors. Give your time and new found wisdom to others.
#4: Build your network. There is a wise Chinese proverb that says, "Dig the well before you are thirsty." In our busy world, people neglect to dig their wells, build their networks. They are caught up in what the late Stephen Covey coined the tyranny of the urgent.
Building a strong network requires the EQ skills of self-awareness and delayed gratification skills.
Be aware of when you are defaulting to instant gratification behaviors and apply delayed gratification skills. Put in the work to develop meaningful relationships.
Goodwill is built by helping others---which goes beyond liking their social posts.
Schedule time for conversations that aren’t hurried or harried.
Get to really know people on both a personal and professional level.
Trust is earned over time. Trust isn’t an app you can download.
The power of a strong network was the reason my last two books were published by Harper Collins, without a book agent. Jill Konrath, a friend and colleague, made a very warm introduction. Our relationship had developed over several years. It didn’t happen with one or two conversations or meetings. It happened over many lunches, dinners and conversations.
Here’s my final advice.
#5. Never stop learning. Learners are high earners. There is no reason to be an average salesperson today. You might say, “Well, my company isn’t providing training.”
Stop the whining.
Purchase one of the many great sales books out there in the market. Listen to a podcast or even better, invest in your own training.
Graduates, get ready to embark on the great journey of professional sales. Do the work, step up, seek out mentors, build your network and keep on learning.