Salesman, sell, something.
I am writing this to another ‘me’, whoever you are and I hope it is helpful. It is the advice I was once desperately looking for, a white knight of sorts.
I am a haphazard mix of the best and worst parts of character, habits, appearance and quirks, a salesperson. I am and have been, very successful. I attribute this to luck, the salespersons friend. attrition of the more senior people, and most importantly, to always selling a great ‘thing’.
Sales product can be quantifed and qualified on a spreadsheet, and converted to a letter grade. Your either an A, B or C salesperson. Some fit in an environment perfectly and are ‘right place, right time, right person’. Throughout my sales career that was me. I have observed sales people come and go. I hope everybody finds their ‘right place, right time, right person’.
According to the tests and their measurements I have a strong sense of urgency and I can be disagreeable, I am willing to argue and ‘not be liked’.
When you are lucky enough to be ‘right place, right time, right person’ you make lots of money. You are treated amazingly well. You are a revenue producer. You understand the intracacies of your company culture, personality and importantly, its bureaucracy. That is an enormous competitive advantage to rival salespeople (those internal and external) that they likely cannot overcome.
This salesperson I have described, me, is a workaholic. It is part of your existence. You pride yourself on it. Your discretionary work output is enormous. You are the interface with the client and their constituencies, your company policies and practices and the secret sauce that you wonderfully manage in between. The connectivity. It is you.
When you’re this person you are compromising time with family and friends and can’t always distinguish between work and ‘not work’. And, when you are not in the thick of it, you’re uncomfortable, it gnaws in you. You’re name must always be highly recognized and warmly received. It must always place highest.
The answer to your question, which was also mine, is that you have to leave. You have to challenge yourself, you have to do more. Either right this moment or soon. If you are that person that I described, that is ‘me’, you have to go. One way or another, now or ‘then’.
It is like in the third Matrix movie, when Neo learns that ‘he’ has existed many times before, that he is just another iteration. Worst of all, he learns that rather than being an anomaly, he was created, architected and that before he was even born, his ascent and demise was scripted.
Big, successful, smart companies created you. They need someone their recruiters can point to as evidence of ‘this could be you’ to prospective salespeople. But, they are also not stupid. You make a lot of money and they are aware of it, they possess clever long range plans to recapture your earnings and commissions and reallocate it to their shareholders. I am urging you, become the shareholder. It is the path I took.
When and why to leave.
I used to have season tickets to the NY Rangers and Knicks. My seats were on the wood and ice. The person who sat next to me became a friend of the high fiving and idle chit chat type. One day we were talking and he said “you make a lot more money then I do, but I have something you don’t have…equity. I own my work”. I took it as a casual comment. Later that same year I came across his bio in the Forbes 500. I went back to him, we met at his office and we went way beneath the surface of his comment. But for abbreviation, his comment explains it all. I should include this; he explained that he lets his sales people make a lot of money, but never get rich. His firm operated and executed on this with a precise methodology and plan. It was incorporated into unspoken truth.
Decide how restrictive and binding your golden handcuffs will be. You must do this. Those golden handcuffs will decay with time. They have a manafactured, built in obsolescence. Your frail, worn body will slip from them ultimately.
I do not mean to insist that you leave now, but just as much as your company is insidiously planning your evaporation, you must anticipate a remedy.
The history you are in moves fast. Companies go in and out of favor so quickly. Unlike some mythological time, today’s industry leaders are not assured of their market even next year. It’s that quick.
Here is the advice I looked so desperately for: it is me talking to me.
If you are considering leaving, before you leave your company, take an absurdly long vacation. You will either come back determined to stay or be hell bent on leaving. Hard work has a numbing effect on the sensory system. To restore your awareness of self and environment requires an extended time away from work. Try 2 months. Just get away.
Leave your company when you have acquired enough of its insight, its intelligence, a comprehension of the total system and its moving parts. This usually takes anywhere from 7 to 10 years. Transfer that to a young(er) company.
Do not evaluate a new company on the basis of your income potential. Consider it instead based upon equity, not just in the new company but a regained equity in yourself and your time and life.
Find the right company or start your own. The right company will permit a role that either allows you to innovate, define a process or manage it rigidly. It’s the lifecycle of a company. Know honestly which environment is right for you. It requires an honest assessment of ‘who you are’. You never had to do this when you were the superstar at your (old) company because they defined your identity for you.
The best advice I can ever give you, which is also me, is to retrain yourself.
What made you a great employee may also be your adversary. Your concept of the value of time and value has been warped. Dig deep, change is crazy hard. It is also why you must leave soon rather than late ‘cos the brain is hardwired to resist change and a bad habit like the imperceptions of time may be irreversible.
When you are working for a company your time has been bought. The largest chunk of your day, and therefore your life has been rented by them. It is your body and mind but you have sublet it. Your company decided and conditioned what is and isn’t important, they prioritized your day.
Now you must regain your concept of time and its value. It will blow your mind and it’s very difficult. It takes immense discipline. But, I know you can do it.
Here is how I have done it. It still takes me actively being aware of a bad habit(s) and correcting.
I strongly suggest three books (one is an audio book) that I constantly refer to. One helps me better understand the notion of time, one articulates a disciplined and honest philosophy and the other helps me monitor and correct myself.
Seneca: Letters From a Stoic (Letters to Lucilius)
Kelly McGonigal The Neuroscience of Change: A Compassion-Based Program for Personal Transformation
This last audio book is a new addition to my ‘self help’ category. It replaces a book on meditation. I think this is one of the best books to help guide a beginner/intermediate in meditation technique.
I hope this post has been helpful to you. I know it is incomplete but it is my attempt to offer to you the good advice I did not have.
Be well and be happy
Salesman, sell, something.