Paying It Forward: 4 Lessons Learnt Through Experiencing Success And Failure In Professional Sales

They say, "One can achieve all kinds of professional successes if he/she has the ability to SELL!". Here are some guidelines from a professional who has survived all ups & downs to excel globally in the domain of Sales!
Mohy Shams
Published on: 4th January 2016
There is certainly lots of value from studying the world’s greatest CEO’s and business leaders especially when it comes to improving your ability to thrive in life, leadership and professional sales. However, their massive success seems a little far out of reach for the average young professional like myself! This is why I would like to share with you, 4 lessons I have learnt during my experience in professional sales. Let me briefly set the scene so you can better understand my story…
I graduated from university in 2009 and secured myself a sales role at one of the world’s leading IT research and advisory organisation. I am now 27 years old and feel that, I have achieved some success and had my fair share of ’failure’ since joining my organisation.

The following timeline is how my professional sales career path looks like:

  • 2009 – Performance was average.
  • 2010 – Performance was good
  • 2011 – Global top sales performer (At the age of 24, the youngest ever to achieve this since 1979).
  • 2012 – Bottom 20% sales performer.
  • 2013 – Global top sales performer (Top 2%)
  • 2014 – Top performer (Top 10%).

My objective is simple – I would like to share with you a few practical lessons that I have learnt so that you can avoid a rut year like my 2012!

1. Importance of surrounding yourself with the right people.

Think of your brain like a muscle – In order to get good results, you need to combine training and the healthy intake of food. To get great results, you must further do this consistently and have the best personal trainer.

Surrounding yourself with the right people directly impacts your behaviour and the subsequent decisions you make. During my career, I have created many opportunities to network with the right people and I now leverage from their expertise when required. For example, I use my unofficial mentor, Rob Wirszycz, to soundboard ideas and opportunities that I am looking to embark on, so that I get an experienced and trusted opinion before making any big decisions.

However, it is not always that easy to have access to the right people to become your advisors. Therefore, one of the easiest ways you can get guidance, is to immerse yourself with the right type of online learning material. I have many ’virtual mentors’ and I have listed out just some of the resources I seek inspiration from. I believe if you create a habit of reading, listening or watching something ’healthy’ for 15-30 minutes every day, this can directly impact your behaviour (attitude), which then impacts the decisions you make:

2. Importance of defining who you are.

I have always been told that in order to be successful in sales, you will need to actively listen and demonstrate an understanding of the client. Whilst I agree with this, I would say that you must first understand who you are by defining your own brand, principles and standards.

"At the end of every feeling there is nothing, but at the end of every principle there is a promise" – Eric Thomas

How many times do you wake up in the morning and the first thing you feel is that you just don’t feel like getting up? Feelings like this often lead to nothing but when you have guiding principles and standards defined for yourself such as “I am fully committed and stand accountable for my actions“ that is when you see a difference in yourself.

Your guiding principles stem from your core values which are personal choices that are usually associated with your own beliefs. These beliefs evolve throughout your life and are influenced by many factors such as culture, religion, experiences, etc

I have put the following guidelines together with my mentor and these principles are printed and stuck at my desk:
3. Importance of looking back.

Working at a high performing organisation, creates an environment where you are always steaming ahead and planning on how to achieve your next big goals. However, we often fail to pause and look back at what we have already achieved and the lessons learnt from our personal mistakes. Oftentimes, one of the reasons why people give up so fast is because they tend to look at how far they have to go, instead of how far they have gotten.
If you have ever studied any successful business leader or athlete, you will notice that the times where they have learnt the most is when they have faced the toughest challenges and endured enormous pain. If you consciously take the time to look back and understand the following questions about yourself, it will help you plan even better for your future success:

  1. Why was it so important for you to achieve your goal?
  2. Why do you think you did not achieve your goal?
  3. How did you get out of a challenging situation and then achieve success?
  4. What are the specific steps that you took in order to overcome your challenge?
By answering the above questions, you will become consciously aware of the following:

  1. What was your emotional driving force behind the goal (Why).
  2. The strategy to achieve the goal or not (How).
  3. The specific steps you put in place to achieve your goal (What).
So why is this important?

Because, the next time you are faced with a challenge, the pain you will have to endure will not be as intense as before as you now know WHY, HOW, and WHAT you must put in place to achieve your own success.

4. Importance of giving back.
You will understand why this is so important, if you have ever experienced prolonged feelings of giving somebody something whereby you expect nothing in return, whether it is feeding the homeless or coaching somebody to improve them. This feeling is argued to be one of the most pleasurable feelings we as humans can feel. When you do something like feeding the homeless, it creates an emotional state for us whereby a chemical reaction takes place in our body. A chemical called oxytocin is released, which allows us to connect and understand other people’s situation – it is sometimes referred to as the ‘bonding hormone’.

From my own studies related to leadership and sales, one common factor that is required in order to be successful is ‘empathy’. By exercising these types of emotions, you can become emotionally stronger and this opens us up to better understanding and relating to others.

There are so many benefits of giving back and I will list down a few that YOU will gain from giving to others:
  • You gain a new perspective: Seeing people who are worse off than you are, yet still hanging in there, can help you see your life in a whole new light.
  • You gain a sense of appreciation.
  • Your self-esteem boosts and you develop a greater sense of self-worth.
  • You develop and grow as a person by learning new skills.
[Above/Below: A group of friends going to the streets of London with Humanity First charity]:
Closing Thoughts. The 4 lesson's I have shared with you are just some of the basics I feel that are important and that could help you focus on doing the right things to get the best and most consistent results. And if you will allow, I will leave you with one last thought:

If you focused and applied these 4 lessons, how do you think it would impact the other aspects of your life other than your professional career?
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