When your sales management team gathers to talk about their salespeople, they’re going to discuss two types: problems and stars. The problems get that way from being unreliable or unteachable. They’re viewed as a liability and management talks about mitigating their risks. The stars, on the other hand, are lauded with praise because they’re just the opposite: effective and reliable. They’re the people who don’t have to be micromanaged and take the weight off of their managers’ minds. These are the people who are given added responsibility, and entrusted with the larger deals and better territories. As a salesperson, you certainly want to fall into the star category, but how do you do it?
You can achieve this by thinking of yourself as CEO of your own territory. At its simplest, this is about taking responsibility, being consistent, and getting the job done.
What’s it like to be the CEO?
Being the CEO of a company means that the buck stops with you. With the exception of the board, you’re at the top of the food chain and that means that you’re expected to provide answers for everything. Just as employees are responsible to you, you are doubly responsible to them. Everyone’s problems are your problems. A good CEO acknowledges and takes responsibility for this, and thinks about developing everyone around him or her so that everything runs smoothly. And you know not to cut corners because, ultimately, you’re only cutting corners on your future success.
Being CEO of your territory means finding a way to achieve your sales number no matter what. It means closing good deals and setting proper post-sale expectations. Do all of this correctly and you’re going to get deals done faster, enjoy work more, and get assigned better territories.
Interested in getting started? Here are seven ways to become the CEO of your territory:
1. Manage your perception
In the workplace, perception is everything. Every sales leader is wary of the maverick, lone-wolf salesperson who is brilliant but intolerable. They’d much rather to reward a consistent rep whose heart is in the right place. Good perception also means showing up on time, and this is easy to foster by just being early for a few consecutive months. I did this in my first role on accident, for commute reasons, and found that two years later I was still the exemplar of punctuality on the team despite no longer showing up early.
Perception among peers is equally important, so don’t sit in your ivory tower. If you’re committed to your team’s success, you need to let them know that. Early on, this will mean going out of your way to be friendly and receptive, even when you’re stressed. I’ve always found that this is best achieved by practicing a little radical honesty in which you are, like the term implies, just totally upfront about what you’re thinking and how your deals are progressing. Have zero reservations about being blunt with people, while of course keeping a positive spin on things. Share what you’re working on, what’s not going well, and invite help and advice. When you’re open, others will be open, and you’ll maintain a positive perception.
2. Be consistent
Take your time to do good work. Work smart, but be thorough where it counts and don’t forget to leave notes on accounts, pass leads that aren’t yours to the right reps, and develop good relationships and alignment with marketing, sales operations, finance, and legal. Forecast realistically and do work that you’re proud of. Do this consistently, and people everywhere throughout the organization will realize that they can rely on you. There’s no ‘ah-ha’ moment for management, but rather a gradual realization that they never have to fix your mistakes, which puts you in a good position to take on added responsibility.
3. Have a “get the job done” mentality
As entrepreneur and motivational speaker Jim Rohn famously said, “If you truly want something, you’ll find a way. If not, you’ll find an excuse.” As the CEO, you can either find a way or you can fail. This means showing up at people’s doorsteps with a contract on the last day of the month and not leaving until they talk to you. This means staying at work until 9pm on a Friday because a client is willing to sign a deal before the weekend. It means sending breakfast sandwiches and coffee to a prospect that has assembled their team to discuss your product and paying out of pocket. CEOs get the job done, no matter what, and they never find themselves scratching for an excuse.
4. Take responsibility
This is by far the most important one. And it isn’t a one-time act, but an ongoing mindset. Everything that happens in your territory is your responsibility. It might seem counterintuitive at first to apologize on your colleague’s behalf for his/her mistake, after all, won’t it tarnish your stellar record? But just the opposite, this will actually enhance your perception. Mature individuals take responsibility while immature ones make excuses. When you do this, you’re broadcasting to management, “I’m in control here, and you can trust me to keep this from happening again.” You’re handling their job for them and they’ll love you for it. The same is true for admitting to mistakes that you’ve made: skip the blame game. Admit to it, fix it, and move on.
This also means not bringing your boss in on every deal cycle. Many reps get in a bad habit of deferring to authority and instinctively telling clients “You’ll need to speak to my boss about that.” And what is the client to think? What they hear is, “I’m not the right person to be dealing with, and I have no authority here.” They’ll start to walk all over you. Know your worth, and make it clear that you’re the person that they need to deal with. Being assertive here will help you avoid bringing more people into the conversation, and you’ll close more deals and faster.
5. Delegate things
This is much ballyhooed and rarely done correctly. While assigning tasks is easy, trusting people to accomplish them is devilishly difficult. It’s only through delegation that you can actually let go of things. Many of us in sales can be hard-charging, and we find this difficult as we expect perfection. Ever had a peer fumble for words on the phone and felt compelled to chime in and save them? Think twice about doing this because you’d actually be doing them a disservice by depriving them of the feedback that they need to learn how to operate on their own. Lessons, especially painful ones, are the only way people can get better. If you protect them from ever making a mistake, they will have no idea how to take care of themselves and recover from one when it happens. Be a CEO here and when you delegate, trust people enough to let them make mistakes. Master this technique and you’re well on your way to reducing your workload and not secretly increasing it by having to micromanage everyone.
6. Trust yourself
Let’s say that you’re faced with a client situation that’s new to you. Do you run to your boss or a colleague and ask what to do? First, pause and ask yourself, if it were up to you, what would you say? What would a CEO say in your position? Oh right, you are the CEO. Nine times out of ten, the answer you come up with is the right one and you’ll train yourself have good answers. Over the course of several months you’re going to shift from being the person that asks questions to the person that answers them, and you’re going to increase your confidence working with clients. Not having to hunt down the right people within your organization to ask them questions will steeply decrease the length of your deal cycles.
7. Care for your team
Part of being a CEO is being a social leader and being a resource for others to come to. A rising tide floats all boats and by sharing openly, both the good and the bad, you’ll set a precedent for everyone to share their tribal knowledge. Do this by providing encouragement and actively seek their input and advice on your deals. Take people out to coffee and lunch frequently and check-in just to see how they’re doing. And when everyone is called into an early meeting, be the one to bring donuts.
Being a CEO of your territory means that when management gathers at the end of the year to plan for the next one, your name is going to come up. With your track record of being the go-to person for questions, for consistently hitting your number, and for being in the office early and dressed the part, you’ll be in great standing. No one will be able to recall the last time they had to correct you on something, and you’re the star who’s going to be place in a position of greater responsibility and reward. And of course, most importantly, you’re setting yourself up for a great paycheck.
Are you owning your territory like a CEO? Share your tips below in the comments section!