23 Jan Do you have the skills to take it to the next level?
We salespeople are an ambitious breed. As much as we focus on smashing our targets, we usually have our eyes on the next promotion. We work hard to bring revenue in for the company, closing bigger and more complex deals. We do this for the short term gain, and for the longer term opportunity to move into bigger roles, with bigger accounts and opportunities.
A familiar story
I bet you’ve been in this position though. You’re doing all the right things. You’re the top salesperson in your team. Everyone loves you. Then, the next level position becomes available. You’re in pole position to fill this role. It should be a formality.
Bewilderingly, someone from outside the company lands the role. Your company preferred an outsider, who has no idea of how the business works over you, the star salesperson. You feel personally affronted. You feel like quitting. How can this have happened?
The skills gap
In this situation, knowing your company inside out isn’t enough. Nor is knowing your product back-to-front, or knowing everything about your marketplace, your competitors and your customers. Something is missing.
Most of the time, what’s missing is the skill set required to perform successfully in the more senior role. The external candidate demonstrated these skills at interview, and you didn’t. Maybe they already had experience of working in an equivalent role at another company, or maybe they had just gone out there and gained these skills.
If you are going to fill the skills gap, that’s what you’re going to have to do.
The best plans win
As with most things in sales and life, those with the best plans will usually win. If you’re going to gain the skills necessary to get that promotion, you need a strategy.
Firstly, it’s important to clarify in your own mind whether you actually want that next role. While I’m sure you’d appreciate the pay rise and recognition, do you actually want the extra responsibility and pressure that comes with it? Before you jump in, make sure it’s for the right reasons.
Next, figure out what skills you need to gain to be able to perform at the next level. What are the differences between that role and what you’re doing now? What skills and experiences do you need to gain to get there? There should be job descriptions in your company that spell this out for you. If not, ask for them.
Finally, and this is crucial, draw up a robust plan to get these skills. Own your own development plan. Hopefully, your manager will be able to help you with this. If they’re a good manager, they will see it as their responsibility to help you develop. After all, it’s often easier and more effective to recruit from within than to hire from outside. Consider finding a mentor who is already operating at the level you want to be at. However you choose to do it, it has to come from you, and you need to own it.
Just do it
Once you’ve made your plan, it’s time to see it through. Get out there and gain those skills. Attend the training courses. Get the industry qualifications. Read the right books. Shadow people who are leading in your company. Take on extra responsibilities to gain experience. Prove beyond doubt you’re ready.
Don’t take your eye off the ball, however. You still have to keep on smashing those targets!
Once you can demonstrate those skills, you can be more confident that when there’s a chance for promotion, your name will be first ‘in the hat’. That doesn’t mean you’ll be first out of it though…
The obvious part
Unfortunately, possessing the skills won’t be enough to get you the promotion. You have to interview well too – expectations will be higher as you’re an insider. Brush up on your interview skills. In so many cases, internal candidates are passed over because they don’t ask the right questions at interview. Some even forget to close… Maybe they feel silly asking questions because they already work for the company? Don’t worry about this. Ask the right questions.
Hopefully, this advice should help you gain the necessary attributes to move to the next level. If you take one thing from this article, remember that the best plans lead to winning results, whether that’s selling your company’s solutions or yourself. Good luck!
Over to you now, have you been passed over like in the story I told? What did you do to close your skills gap? Let us know in the comments below.