As a sales rep, it’s easy for us to get complacent in our daily tasks and stay in the status quo. We become so focused on the day-to-day tasks of adding new leads to our pipeline and nurturing existing prospects that we miss new opportunities to challenge ourselves and paste a bigger a stamp on the business.
Whether you’re working in a small startup or a large, multi-national business, taking on a new challenge could be a chance to increase productivity on your team, expand your existing product into into new verticals, or add new revenue opportunities to the business.
From my time at Akamai to Kaminario to HubSpot, I’ve seen time and time again that the salespeople who take on these projects and align themselves with company initiatives are the reps that get visibility and vault ahead in their career. And whether I was challenging myself or helping others challenge themselves, I've found that there are two huge steps involved in taking on new challenges.
Step 1: Champion your new idea internally.
First and foremost, you have to step up and make the business case as to why it makes sense to invest time in the project you’re about to take on. For example, while at Akamai I discovered an opportunity to provide more products to our existing customers. After several instances of going out and talking with prospects/customers, I soon saw an opportunity to strengthen relationships with customer on the margin side via a new “application performance solution” (APS).
The APS required me to champion the cause and convince the company to invest on the business merits. I concluded from my own research that this product would increase customer stickiness and protect against margin compression in our original business. I even invested my own time in writing the business case on why Akamai should invest in the APS, and what resources would be needed for this product to be successful.
Step 2: Incentivize colleagues to embrace your change.
The second step in attaining success with your new challenge is to figure out how to incentivize your colleagues to embrace change. At Akamai, this involved changing the compensation plan and setting sales requirements for the APS.
As a result, I was asking the sales team to do something different, something they weren’t used to. The change in the comp plan essentially told the sales team, “There’s a new product, its going to be very successful, and what we really need you to do is to pay attention to it and drive adoption. It’s going to help with stickiness and margins long term.”
Incentivizing colleagues could also mean figuring out how to get your colleagues to adopt the new idea/practice/resource you have created into their day to day work.
Once you've completed these two steps, you can actually get to work executing your project. It's imperative that you first complete these steps -- otherwise you'll end up investing endless hours into an initiative that may never take off.
In the end, following these two steps at Akamai led me to a new opportunity focusing on Application Performance Solutions full-time at Akamai. Even at HubSpot, I've seen multiple sales reps promoted to new roles as they pitch and execute new ideas. If you come with a proposal that will benefit the business, you'll be given the responsibility to make it happen, too.
What projects have you taken on in your sales organization? What were the results? I’d love to here in the comments.
Originally published Jan 8, 2014 8:00:00 AM, updated October 20 2016