This Exhortation to Undergrad Sales Students Applies to All of Us!

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The student leaders in the phenomenal sales program at Kansas State University (read about it in Chapter 11 of Sales Truth) asked me to lead a session covering “How to Get Your First Promotion.”

It was a great request that forced me to reflect back on the early days of my career and others’ successful careers as well. I truly enjoyed drafting the list below and then unpacking these points with stories and illustrations for these bright, hungry, energized undergrads about to enter the workforce.

The feedback from the faculty and students after this session was so strong that it prompted me to share this list with the broader sales community. I think the reality is that these suggestions/exhortations really do apply to all of us, not just young people seeking their first promotion.

So, here’s what this 53 year-old sales guy/coach/speaker spent an hour discussing with his favorite college sales students:

Own it. Internal Locus of Control. No Victim Mentality. – Winners own their outcomes; they look in the mirror and say, “it’s on me.” They don’t point fingers, blame others, circumstances, bad leads, weak territories, dirty competitors, crazy customers, or aloof managers.

Be as Proactive as Possible. Don’t wait for instructions, leads, permission, etc. The most successful people are out in front of the support curve, pushing, creating, charging ahead, and asking for forgiveness rather than permission. I did not do this well very early in my career and my first boss was sharp enough to point this out and challenged me to stop waiting for instructions. That advice changed the trajectory of my career.

Invest in Yourself. YOU are Your Most Valuable Asset. YOU are responsible for your own development. Period. Today, there is zero excuse for not regularly sharpening your sales sword – blogs, podcasts, books, online courses, conferences. (Side note: I’m blown away by the number salespeople listening to my Sales Management. Simplified. Podcast and love the fact that they’re schooling themselves on sales leadership even though they are in individual contributor roles!). Carve out time every week to invest yourself. Nothing will pay greater dividends.

Professionalism Still Matters. Dress the part. Actually, dress for your boss’ job. No worn-out shirts, frayed belts, cheap carry bags. Even for virtual meetings, demonstrate that you care about appearance (background, lighting, etc.). And speaking of “virtual,” think twice, or three times, about what you put on social media. You have one life and one reputation. Whether it’s alienating half the population from perpetually posting about your political passions, or posting pics while partying yourself into oblivion, think how senior execs at your own company and your customers’ senior leaders would respond. And while on the topic of partying, it’s not cool to drink yourself silly at business functions or on business trips regardless of what those around you are doing.

Build Your Team.  Most successful people have a support network. We were not meant to journey through life alone. Look at the Acknowledgment page in any of my books; I have so many people to thank for helping me, investing in me, caring about me, mentoring me, challenging me… Three powerful roles for building your team:

1. Peer Coaching – friends or colleagues (in or outside your company) with similar jobs and with whom you can idea-share, experience-share, encourage and support each other

2. Mentor – someone ahead of you from whose experiences and wisdom you can benefit

3. Mastermind Group – similar to peer coaching but in a group setting where members commit to meet regularly for mutual edification, experience sharing, diagnosing issues, problem-solving, and mutual brainstorming for each member’s benefit

No Whining. No Gossiping. This one doesn’t require additional editorial comments. Complainers and gossips are a cancer within an organization.

Play to Win. Quota is the Minimum (Pass/Fail). Aim Higher.

Read Chapter 15 in SalesTruth where I profile two of the very best, highest-performing sales professionals on Planet Earth. Note what they do that makes them perennial top producers. And be strangely encouraged that they are not freaks of nature with superpowers. Follow their lead. Master the fundamentals. Stop looking for shortcuts and hacks. There are none. You can read Chapter 15 for free; download it HERE.

My Dad Was Right: “Your goal in sales is to help your customer win. If you keep that top-of-mind, you will always win in sales.” Sales is a worthy profession. You are not a bother, not a pest. We pursue prospects because we have their best interest at heart. We are motivated to solve their problems, deliver great value, and help them achieve improved results (outcomes). Those are pure motivations. Never be ashamed that you are in sales. You exist to help improve lives and businesses. That’s a high calling.

Regardless of Your Title, YOU are NOT a Territory Manager or Account Manager (Caretaker). Your job is to grow revenue, not to caretake a piece of God’s earth or babysit an account list. The most valuable salespeople CREATE opportunities.

There Are Only 3 Verbs That Matter – Create. Advance. Close. So, if you’re spending an inordinate amount of time “working” on things that have nothing to do with creating new sales opportunities, advancing existing opportunities, or closing hot opportunities, then something is very wrong. There are no prizes for being busy or getting to inbox zero.

You Cannot Do Everything. Productivity is about prioritization and focus. Multitasking is a myth. Time-blocking is the key to success. Own your calendar. Dedicate chunks of time to doing nothing but a specific, high-value, high-payoff activity. Super successful people are typically really, really good at avoiding low-payoff activities and they have learned to delete or delegate distractions and diversions that keep them from the precious few activities that actually move the needle and drive results.

Integrity Above All Else – Always. There are no exceptions to this rule.

If you ever wanted to hear what a super-strong sales leader sounds like, this new episode is for you!

No executive has challenged me or pushed me harder to raise my game than Dennis Sorenson and I promise that you will be stretched as you hear how he stretches both his managers and his salespeople to produce mind-blowing results!

We have committed to THREE, that’s right, a minimum of three in-person SUPERCHARGE YOUR SALES LEADERSHIP elite events in the second-half of this year.

These events have been some of the most energizing and satisfying days of my entire career and I cannot wait to get back together with sales leaders to focus on radically increasing sales management effectiveness! All of these sessions will be at premium venues in major cities. Get more info at

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