Do you think politics only applies to elected officials? It also applies to sales and your sales career success. You may not realize how your political savvy in sales will determine whether or not you are successful in sales.
1. It’s better to treat everyone with dignity and respect.
I went to university with a very nice student whose father was in politics. His father was president of a country. Yes, engineers come to the states to study from all over the world! His father, sadly, was at the time imprisoned. While once he was running a country, he now sat in jail because his opponents overthrew his government.
I remember what my friend told me about his father’s advice. His father told him, even while sitting in jail, “Remember, a Ferris wheel goes up and comes down. It’s just like life. Remember how you treat people on the way up.”
Your career is going to advance more quickly with the help of others. Do you treat powerful people differently than you do other less powerful people? That’s not a good idea. You don’t have to worry about who will support you on your way up if you treat everyone with dignity and respect.
2. Who do you think has power? Know who has real power.
You probably think those in position of authority wield the most power. Think again. I worked in a large corporation where a senior leader’s admin had worked there for decades. Her experience included working with 80% of all the senior leaders when they were first hired. She saw the senior leaders as they were climbing the corporate ladder. As a result, she knew a lot about them and also had earned their respect. She also knew the ones whose career didn’t advance.
Who do you think these senior leaders went to when they were making important hiring decisions? They asked her. She didn’t have any positional power. Her personal power was off the charts. Promotions only went to candidates that made it past “Shirley.”
Who at your organization influences powerful executives? What do you think they say about you? Do you even know? Have an idea of how others perceive you, both those with and without power. Here’s how you know. Others will say thanks to you and give you compliments when they think highly of you.
3. Earn the respect of others.
Notice I didn’t say others need to like you. It’s always nice when others like you, but that’s not the objective. Respect is important. I’ve seen over the years that respect rather than being liked gets far more attention in sales. Sure, it’s fun to be around the nice guy, but does management promote him? It’s more likely that management promotes the salesperson who earns respect .
Here’s how you earn respect. First see item 1 above. Then learn to support decisions you believe in. You are probably going to have to go against other opinions some times. That’s where growing a backbone will earn you respect. Yes, you can contribute your contrary opinion to business discussions in a respectful way. If the votes go against you, learn to accept the outcome. There can’t be whining or sabotage after the fact. Wishy washy people do not earn the respect of others. The philosopher Maimonides said, “The risk of a wrong decision is preferable to the terror of indecision.” I’ve stood alone many times in business. Sometimes I’ve won and sometimes I’ve lost. I’ve earned the respect of others and I can look in the mirror at the end of the day.
The smarmy politician who promises everything to everyone without delivering isn’t what you’re trying to emulate in sales. What you’re trying to do is respectfully serve customers, your company and yourself. That’s the politically savvy thing to do in sales.