After describing my perspective on sales, in this second blog post I’d like to take a step back and take a look at the experiences I’ve had that convinced me of those ideas. I realize everybody loves the sound of their own voice, and everyone is their own favorite topic, but I promise not to get too introspective – stick with me for a bit and I hope I can deliver some useful insights.
My career has been defined by attributes: an entrepreneurial drive, competitiveness and a desire to mentor and empower people. Because everybody’s unique, I’d be very surprised if you have the exact same mix of these traits. But I hope that reading about how I’ve used each of them, and all of them in combination, will generate some idea for how you can use your unique set of gifts to benefit your organization.
I realized the value of entrepreneurship at a very young age: I learned from my father’s example. He was a Polish immigrant in New Haven, Connecticut, at a time when people were flocking to factories to work. But my dad didn’t want to work in a big organization; he wanted to be his own boss, so he set up in business as a plasterer, later investing in real estate.
You could say he was too stubborn to work for a boss – or you could say he was too entrepreneurial. The lesson here is that every aspect of your personality has two sides; which one you choose to focus on is up to you. The same is true of your employees. Some of them will be good leaders, others will be good followers. Make sure they’re in the roles that will allow them to flourish.
An entrepreneurial spirit may not be so useful in a factory, but it can be in a large sales organization. If you’re running a sales organization and you’re not giving people freedom to develop in line with their performance, to build something new, you’re doing it wrong. And if you find yourself in an organization that’s stifling your entrepreneurial spirit, leave.
Secondly, I’ve always been competitive, in everything I do. Growing up in America gave me outlets for this energy that kids in other countries don’t always get, in particular playing sports (baseball and basketball, in my case) and selling things (usually candy) in fundraisers for my school – something most American kids do several times when growing up. In both cases, I always had to win – both on the scoreboard and on the list of who sold the most candy.
A competitive streak can be a blessing or a curse. Fortunately, I had parents, coaches and teachers who helped me channel mine into positive outlets.
That brings me to the third point: mentoring and empowering people. From a young age, starting as the captain of my sports teams, I learned that I was good at leading by empowerment, and I was also given opportunities to develop this skill. I progressed all the way up through the level of college basketball, after which I turned my hand to coaching. I’ve realized that to grow a business, you also have to be good at empowering people – at focusing on what you do well, and delegating the rest. Put together a team of people with the right mix of skills, then step back and let them use those skills. You have to coach and lead your team, not compete with them.
After some time coaching and doing social work, I started selling financial services and then managing a sales team, and I quickly found that all of those attributes served me well in that role. I got immense satisfaction from using my training in psychology to help people develop. That allowed me to grow the company from 22 agents to 250, and annual revenue from $2 million to more than $50 million.
That’s when I decided it was time for the next challenge. After selling my stake to my partner, I’m now working with senior sales management teams to help them catch the same vision and see how they can get their salesforces working on a higher level – helping them to unleash the entrepreneurial spirit, competitiveness and desire to empower that have served me so well.