As a kid, I was convinced that I was going to play professional basketball.
It wasn’t because I was the best player in my town, at my school, or even on my team. But I had an insatiable love for hoops. As soon as I’d get home from school, I’d lace up my shoes, grab the basketball and head outside.
Fast forward the tape and I’m working as an entry level sales person at a staffing firm. Huh?
[I did get 1:06 seconds of playing time at Oregon State University, and hit a 3, but that’s a story for another day.]
I didn’t attend college with the intention of becoming a salesperson. It wasn’t my major or even an option to major in. My parents didn’t work in sales. It just… kind of… happened.
At first, I was excited, but that enthusiasm quickly faded. Cold calling was intimidating and nerve-wracking. The only thing worse than dialing was when they actually answered. I spent more time thinking about what to say next than actually listening to what the other person was saying.
In short, I missed basketball.
Fortunately I got an opportunity to attend a training session at our corporate office, and one of the founding members of our company shared some advice that has stuck with me over the years.
He wrote three simple yet profound principles on a whiteboard:
To be successful in sales, you need to embody these three principles.
Know your Industry: Your first responsibility is to learn. Dive deep into your company, its products and services, what sets you apart in the market, your competitors, your client base, the key stakeholders, and the industries you serve. You must understand your company's history and share its success stories as if they were your own.
Know You Know: Confidence is key. By dedicating yourself to learning and putting in the effort, you'll start connecting the dots. Over time, you'll know the right questions to ask and, more importantly, when to ask them. You'll know the stories to tell and when to tell them. This isn't about "faking it until you make it." It's about earning your confidence and acting accordingly.
Be Known for What You Know: This is the pinnacle for salespeople. You become an expert in your field. Clients and strategic partners trust you with referrals and introductions. They know you're the one who can and will help the people they send your way. Your business development shifts from hunting (cold outbound) to farming (word of mouth), making selling more enjoyable and significantly easier.
And then it hit me…
I might never be a professional basketball player, but I can be a professional salesperson. That day, I made a commitment to myself to be the very best seller I could possibly be. I approached my training and development with the same intensity, rigor, and discipline. Instead of trainers, weights, and conditioning, it was mentors, books, and role-plays.
My goal was to be a "varsity" salesperson, then a "D1" salesperson, then a "pro," and eventually an "all-star," with the long-term aspiration of being a "hall-of-famer." That mindset transformed how I approached my profession, treating it with the utmost professionalism. I have a coach, I'm always reading a business book, and I seek ways to improve every single day.
Like many people, I may have stumbled into sales accidentally, but I wouldn't change it for anything—unless, of course, the NBA comes knocking!
Carver Peterson helps growth-minded leaders of B2B professional & technical services firms achieve predictable and sustainable revenue growth through a refined strategy, defined process and aligned structure.