The Best-Kept Sales Secret: Owning Your Personal Development

There’s a lot of hype and opinions about the “right” and “wrong” ways to do sales.

Don’t connect and pitch on LinkedIn. Don’t ask questions like “How are you?” or “How’s the weather?” to build rapport. Cold calling is dead. Don’t leave voicemails, and don’t ask for 15 minutes on a calendar. 

Or, leave voicemails. Ask questions in your email subject. Use 1-2 words in your email subjects. Personalize every outreach. And, the list goes on. 

While we’re all looking for ways to improve our sales performance, we often take advice from the wrong people.

The Problem with Industry-wide Sales Data

Too often we get caught up in the latest reports and industry stats, which can be misleading. These macro level data points rarely measure down to the micro level of a single sales rep at specific company in a specific company with targeted buyers.

For example, let’s say you read a new report that says “47% more customers reply back to a sales email with four or more paragraphs.” 

Before you rewrite all your emails, does that statistic really mean anything? If you look at it critically, that stat alone doesn’t tell us the whole story. It assumes that the length of the email is the ONLY reason why someone replied or not. It doesn’t consider or comment on the timing of the email, its content of the message, or the product/market fit, which could all matter. 

Too often sales managers read the latest sales stats and headlines and blindly implement them into their programs. It shouldn’t be a surprised that they’re usually disappointed. But, then they move onto the next trend and get caught in a never-ending cycle that never produces.

When reading these reports or opinions, you must take them with a grain of salt. While they can make great headlines, the industry-wide data usually doesn’t tell the whole story or could even matter to your industry, company, buyers, and more. There are just too many variables in the data to apply directly to your own sales programs. 

How to Cut Through the Noise 

So, if you’re trying to improve your performance, how do you cut through the noise to find something that does make sense? 

The answer is to research and test through experiments with your own controlled environment: a single sales rep performing sales activities for a specific company, in a specific industry, selling a specific product(s), with some specific (or non-specific) targeted personas, etc. 

And, don’t think that research and testing is a luxury just for large organizations either. You don’t need dedicated sales ops, data science teams, or expensive software to do it. It also shouldn’t be left to the leaders and managers on the teams to execute.

Any individual contributor who wants to can test different tactics that— in the words of my friend Brandon Bornancin from Seamless.ai—  maximize their sales success! 

Now, I’m not suggesting any contributor go lone wolf and stray from the playbook. What I do advocate is working with your leadership to invest time and experience into testing so you can understand what will make a difference for your performance. 

Owning Your Personal Development in Sales

Now that you’re ready to test, how do you know what to try? 

This is where you must own your personal development. Read that sentence again and don’t forget it! 

You must have complete ownership and investment in yourself. With anything in life, don’t wait to be trained or given knowledge—  go seek it for yourself!

(Read more about this topic in my blog article for an amazing organization I’m part of called #GirlsClub and how not to overthink long term career goals.)

Because if you aren’t learning outside of work, you aren’t progressing. Invest in yourself first so you can be better at work and in life. Take the initiative, jump-start your learning opportunities, and don’t wait for someone else to train you. Always bet on yourself—  I guarantee it will be the best bet you will ever make!

To get you started on your own journey to learn anything and everything on sales, here are a few of my go-to resources. 

Sales Podcasts

Sales Articles, whitepapers, video content

Sales Networking groups and forums

Sales Leaders on LinkedIn

Sales Training material

Sales Blogs


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