I had a very interesting lunch with a friend and we talked about a topic that I have thought about many times: the access of the sales person. If you think about it, sales people (good ones) get to see all levels of the the organization they are selling to. They will meet at all levels – from the junior (if they add value to that client) to the most senior in the organization.
For myself, this has been an invaluable opportunity in a way that stretches well beyond the traditional role in sales. The opportunity is for learning. I realized several years ago that these high talent executives that I was working with are in the positions for a reason: they are successful – smart – experienced. For me, I am always looking at other people with an eye to learning – and the smart sales person uses these opportunities to watch, ask and learn. As an “outsider” you get to see the executive make a decision, see how they treat their people, watch them run a project, manage a crisis or learn about their personal philosophies while out golfing with them – and that privilege is something that many of their subordinates will never get. Be thankful for that opportunity. It is a unique aspect of the sales job that most people do not realize and use to grow. For me, over the last 4 years, it has had a profound impact on all aspects of my life – I have been privileged to work with and learn from some very talented clients – and friends.
Dilbert puts it best in “The Dilbert Principle” (Love that book): “Salespeople can set up meetings with executives of client companies anytime. Employees can’t do that. The only way the average employee can speak to an executive is by taking a second job as a golf caddy. Executives hate talking to employees because they always bring up a bunch of unsolvable “issues”. Salespeople just buy the executive lunch. It’s no contest.”
My personal philosophy: I have a lot to learn from everyone – family, friends, mentors, colleagues and yes, clients.