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The Best Way to Grow Your Sales Career (Hint: Don’t Be a Jerk)

You’ve probably heard that people buy from people they like. And in business, people promote the people they like, too.

You may not be thinking about what you can do to be liked to advance your career; however, you need to have a career strategy, whether you have ambitions to move into sales management or keep your current job. What’s your strategy to be liked so you can advance your sales career?

Watch your behavior at meetings

Meetings are a common occurrence in sales, so you may not think too much about those weekly, quarterly or annual sales meetings—you should. Your actions are noticed by the people around you and from them they will make judgments about you. Watch how you express your disagreement with other people’s ideas.

I’ve seen people attack the person instead of the idea when they disagree. Name calling is never a good business strategy. I’ve also seen people who might be having a bad day erupt in meetings—having a bad day is never an excuse. Then there are people who denigrate others and think it’s acceptable because their numbers are good. They’re wrong. I’ve seen top performers get bounced out when management recognized the team would suffer; good sales numbers will only go so far.

Here’s the best way to disagree with someone else’s idea. First find something positive to say about the idea. If for some reason you can’t find anything redeemable in the idea, simply thank the person for contributing his or her thoughts, and then follow that with “Here’s where I differ…” or “Here’s something else to consider…”or “What if…?” Never say, “Here’s why you’re wrong” or “That’s a bad idea.” The point is not to judge; the objective is to get a meaningful discussion of the idea.

Keep emotions out of your comments and stick with fact-based observations. The person who first offered the idea will save face and you will maintain your good reputation.

Treat everyone the same

I’m sure you’ve worked with people who change the way they behave around different people, depending on the person’s place in the company org chart. Lower level people get one type of behavior; higher level people get more respect and flattery. These sycophants, however, are not fooling all that many people. Most people easily see through this caste system favoritism, and it’s a sure way to be perceived as a phony and earn the dislike of others.

A better strategy is to show everyone respect. Avoid being selective about whom you say hello to in the hallways at work. You’re already in trouble if you only compliment the people that you perceive can help you advance your career. One of my friends had a politically powerful father who became sidelined by a new regime. My friend’s dad told his son, “Life is a Ferris wheel. Sometimes you are up on top, and then it turns, and you’re on the bottom.” He’s right. This man said that when he was on the bottom.

You may one day be working for the person below you. A subordinate or lower status person might be the one whose recommendation you need. Treat everyone with respect, not to advance your career, but simply because it’s the right thing to do. As a side benefit, kindness and good manners will advance your career.

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Sometimes you need to break the rules in business. One rule is respecting the chain of command. I broke that rule when a job promotion was at stake. My manager had promised to act on my getting a promotion, but the months went by and nothing happened. I realized he was thinking if he did nothing, then I would stay in my current position. Apparently, he didn’t want to lose a top salesperson to another job.

I realized my options were limited. I could wait helplessly and get nothing, or go over his head. I also recognized that it would be impossible to work for this manager if the promotion fell through; his dislike of me would turn out badly for me. I decided to accept the consequences and spoke with his manager. I got the results I wanted and, fortunately, I was able to transfer to a different job. You can break rules, but just be very careful when you do. Evaluate the possible outcomes, and be ready for both the good or bad.

Be a top salesperson and people will notice. Be a jerk and they will notice, too. Given a choice, the nicer person will be selected among equally qualified candidates. Start working on being that choice.

RELATED: Ten Tips on Career Advancement

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