Sales professionals are usually an ambitious group of individuals and as with any career, you would like to progress your career in sales with a promotion. Promotions don't just happen by chance usually and it does take preparation, planning and follow up to help move your career in that direction.
This article explores 8 different ways to help you get promoted in your sales career. Promotions do vary by company, industry and also your own professional goals. With this in mind the first step of having a plan in place will help you develop your sales career over time and to set your own expectations that promotions will not always come. Inaction will also not result in a promotion and it does take work to be selected over many others that just might want the same for themselves. Use these 8 ways to help you along your way and work towards getting promoted.
1: Have a Plan
I have had many discussions with ambitious sales professionals about their interest in getting promoted to a senior sales person, sales trainer, other roles etc. but when asked what plan they have in place and where they are with it, most will not have a plan in place. I used a career map for myself with great success. A career map is simply a career plan that explores my career interests and career aspirations. I include the 8 different techniques listed on this article, but also have an end goal for my career as well. For example, my goal is to become a VP of Sales for a large sales organization. I then go backwards from there and learn about the necessary steps and experience needed to reach that level. I usually do a search for the specific title and see what the required experiences are. In this example, 5 years of being a Sales Director is needed to be qualified for the position. I then place Sales Director and move down the line from there.
The plan you set in place should help support your overall career goal and not just get a promotion for promotion sake. Setting up a plan helps you manage your career to sell yourself for the promotion. I have used a career mentor who has gone through the process of getting promoted and to help work on my career plan. Now a career plan is an ever changing document and needs to be managed by you.
On your career plan you need to chart the course on how you plan to get to the next level and what actions are needed to get there. You also need to set achievements that will help prove that you are worth the promotion and over others. Doing your job well does not usually result in a promotion, and if it does, how does that fit into your overall career plan. Take control of your career and chart the course for your career. Remember to be realistic in your timeline and patience is a virtue. Be prepared to be passed over or not promoted but keeping with your plan and you will see results. Getting promoted is never easy, and as you move up, it gets even tougher. Without a plan in place, you will be traveling an unknown road without a map or gps. Know where you want to be and plan the steps that you need to get there.
2: PERFORMANCE: DO YOUR JOB WELL
This is usually an obvious and in sales the immediate measurement of your success can be seen with your sales numbers. Now this is an important factor but there are also many other factors that come into play when pursuing a promotion. You should also learn what are the criteria to getting promoted to lets say a Senior sales rep or to sales manager etc. Performance also needs to be consistent and also communicated. Many other sales professionals in your own organization also perform well in sales, but what matters is who is paying attention and how you position this to help with your story on getting a promotion. Sales awards is an excellent way to show excellent performance. Remember, in sales, your primary duty is to bring in the numbers and make goal. If you have not performed well, don't expect to get promoted and work on your responsibilities first.
Along with performance you must perform well on the other measurable criteria that your company has set for you. One example is administrative items and keeping a handle on expense reports, items due and being on time for assigned work without someone having to micromanage you. When coupled with reaching sales goals, you show that you have a handle on your business and you are ready for more.
3: Key Stakeholder Perception
Perception is key and in your career plan, it is wise to list the names of individuals that might influence the selection or approval of your promotion. One question to ask is, "do I know what this person thinks of me?". One of the best ways to approach this is with an open mind and setting ego aside and reaching out to each individual key stakeholder and asking them about sharing their perceptions of you. Ask for honest feedback and share your career plans with them. The information they provide to you might not be what you want to hear, but perception is reality and by having a discussion with this person, you could ask, "what could I do to prove that... etc" versus just letting negative perceptions stay. In knowing what you need to work on, you can set an action plan and revisit the key stakeholder in the future to update them on the previous conversation. It is important not to be offensive and to ask for open and honest feedback. Show your professionalism and build trust by listening to their concerns (if any) and works toward building a better perception so when it comes time for key stakeholders to sit in a room discussing you as a potential for a promotion, you have addressed as many roadblocks as possible.
4: ADD VALUE
Ok, so you you have done your job well. Congratulations, you did what you were hired to do. In seeking a promotion, a respectable promotion is one that is earned by an individual that goes above and beyond the norm. The best way is to add value to your team, company and boss. Seek ways to provide positive ideas and projects that help others achieve excellent performance or handle a problem. If you are capable of doing your job well as well as add value, the conversation about promotion comes much easier.
5: BE VISIBLE
How would you expect anyone to get promoted if nobody knows you. In outside sales, a big challenge is that we work remotely and with a large sales force, key stakeholders and upper management has limited visibility to the sales team and their accomplishments. What I mean by being visible is to communicate through the proper channels to keep your name in front of these key stakeholders and upper management. Now make sure these communications are positive. A perfect example is sharing a best practice or taking a leadership role in a project or task.
If you work in the field, when you have the opportunity to go in-house for training or at a sales meeting. Get on the upper management's or key stakeholder's calendar for a quick 15 minute discussion over coffee. Simply send out an email and ask for some time during the next sales meeting. Now have a topic in mind or share what you are working on that is positive and involve that person. It they know you, it makes it easier for them to give you the thumbs up for the promotion.
6: YOUR BOSS
Now your immediate boss is the main key to your promotion as they can help you and set expectations for you to progress towards a promotion. You should take your performance reviews more seriously and put in time and effort to develop your career. Use discussions with your sales manager to put together a plan and to ask for opportunities to meet the requirements for a promotion. The conversation should be on-going and followed up on with updates and review. When you accomplish the tasks and goals set in front of you by the sales manager, ask for the promotion and if denied, ask what you can do to get promoted.
7: LATERAL MOVES
Adding additional experiences in other departments within your own company can help you develop your career as you add different skill sets and experience. For example, if an opportunity is available to participate in a sales training project, present at a sales meeting, working with the marketing department or different roles other than your core responsibilities that could add additional value added experience will help fuel your value. If an opportunity is available in terms of a lateral move, this could help open up additional promotion options for your sales career.
Taking the initiative and displaying leadership in your role will help with your pursuit for a promotion. Research and learn ways others before you that were successful at obtaining a promotion and learn what they did to accomplish their goal. Leadership skills can be developed and is an ongoing development in your professional career. If you are the go to person on your team, this is perceived as a leadership position and helps with your case for a promotion. Read up on books on leadership and execute on the suggestions. There are also online certificate programs that offer courses to learn and gain additional credentials.