According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average salary for sales representatives was $61, 960 in 2014. The top 10th percentile earned $112,160. Sales managers, on the other hand, boasted a mean yearly salary of $126,040. The top 10th percentile of sales managers took home an annual wage of more than $187,199. Of course, a pay bump is only one of the reasons why sales reps may want a promotion. Another motivating factor is the opportunity to lead a team and take their career a step forward.
The most deserving candidates demonstrate analytical skills and leadership abilities. But to get noticed, salespeople need to sell themselves. Before you ask for a promotion, consider when to make the ask.
I. Find the right time
When sales are strong, companies can afford to splurge. Often, the end of a good quarter puts managers in a more accommodating mood. So, share your career aspirations with your boss when the company is financially sound. Two events that make asking for a promotion easier are:
- Fresh fundraising (if your business leverages the financial support of investors)
- You and your team beat sales targets early
But do not mention a promotion when:
- Sales drop or slow down
- Revenues grow but profits suffer
At a macro-level, what happens in your organization affects how management may respond to inquiries about promotions. But, sometimes, bigger changes open new doors for your career.
To identify opportune times to discuss a promotion, gather an understanding about current staffing needs. During mass layoffs, employees may be hesitant to broach the subject of a promotion but those who are not let go have a good chance to move upward in the org chart. Layoffs create vacancies which can lead to a massive skills gap. Workers who are able to sell their boss on their ability to fill in those gaps win a promotion and a raise. On a micro-level, you may want to wait until someone with the job title you want leaves the firm. This, too, creates a vacancy that you would be eligible to fill.
Before you approach your boss, consider their current emotional state too. A good time to ask for a promotion is when he is in a good mood. Avoid conversations about your career prospects when your supervisor has recently received bad news.When your boss is upset, he may be too distracted to discuss your promotion. Find a day when he is in a better mood and is available to chat.
Also, do not request a promotion during on your work anniversary. Many employers loathe workers who pull out the seniority card. To show that you deserve a better job title, reiterate past performance and explain how everyone can benefit if you get promoted.
II. Build a foundation for success
To advance their careers, salespeople must be proactive about getting promoted. Of course, they need to earn the privilege. First, you should calculate how much value you have created for your employer. Then, deliver a strong case that explains how much more the business can benefit when you are in charge. For sales reps and aspiring sales managers, here are 11 tips that will improve your odds of getting a promotion.
1. Be accommodating and open-minded
“Do the jobs no one else is willing to do,” advises sales expert Barry Maher. Every single company operates with limited resources. Many workers prefer to maintain the status quo. To stand out as a leader among your peers, volunteer to tackle the company’s ever-growing laundry list of responsibilities. Never say that a task is beneath you and be sure to try anything once. Usually, people learn more from their mistakes than from accomplishments. So, do not be afraid to apply yourself and fail. Management will commend you for the effort as long as you find at least one actionable takeaway.
2. Coach colleagues and boost their sales performance
Share your strategies for sales success with your peers. To prove your abilities as a leader, collaborate with your colleagues to improve their sales performance. Dr. Christopher Croner, co-founder of SalesDrive, LLC, recommends, “Continuously push yourself and others.”
Boost your chances of getting a promotion by helping other sales reps better themselves and exceed their sales target. Avoid rivalries and create a collaborative atmosphere.
3. Exercise creative thinking
“To be a successful salesperson, you need to be able to think outside of the box to find creative solutions for hitting your sales mark,” says Dr. Croner. When long-proven sales strategies produce diminishing results or lose their effectiveness, sales leaders become resourceful. Rather than optimize failing tactics, they pursue new ways to generate leads and close sales.
4. Gather coworker support
Your peers can improve — and ruin — your chances of getting a promotion. For example, positive peer reviews indicate likeability. Colleagues who are willing to follow your direction prove your leadership skills too. Do not focus only on trying to impress your boss. Gather support from your coworkers who already rely on you to lead them.
5. Market yourself externally
Position yourself as a thought leader in your niche. “Be active in the industry and if possible gain an industry-wide reputation,” suggests Maher. Author a blog, present at conferences or write a book. Prove your expertise and educate your peers. In turn, you help your employer gain free publicity. For U.S. News & World Report, human resources expert Lindsay Olson writes, “In your bio on your blog or at a speaking event, your work experience is highlighted typically. Your employer gets the benefit every time you use your thought leadership skills.”
As you build your personal brand, you promote your business too. Soon, others will tell your boss how awesome you are, making you a prime candidate for a promotion.
6. Practice persistence
When you ask for a promotion, your boss may not have an immediate answer. Even if she believes you deserve a better job title and a role with more responsibilities, she may need time to gather approval from management and coordinate those changes with human resources. To ensure you get the promotion you deserve, follow-up with your supervisor. Exercise your sales skills. If she is not convinced you are the right person for the job, share more information that supports your case. Reiterate the value you have created since you joined the firm and illustrate the value you expect to contribute in your new role.
7. Prioritize self-improvement
Good leaders never stop learning. Stand out among your peers by showing management that you have the right skills for the job now. Then, prove your ability and willingness to continue developing those skills. Participate in sales-related workshops, track industry developments and learn through calculated trial-and-error.
8. Sell a mutual win
“When going for that promotion, be ready to articulate the business case for giving you the job,” urges Maher. Ask yourself: “How are you going to make the company more profitable, save money, increase efficiency or productivity? Okay, you may DESERVE a promotion, but what is promoting you going to do for the company?” Position the promotion as a mutual win for you and your employer. Explain that with formal authority to lead a team and fulfill more responsibilities, you can drive more results for your firm.
At the same time, be conscious of the individual needs of each involved party. “Obviously you need to know the benefit to the company in promoting you specifically. But what’s almost as important, you should able to show a benefit to the people who will be making or recommending the promotion,” says Maher. “How is giving you that promotion going to advance their interests? In simple terms, if you want them on your side, what’s in it for them?”
9. Show a collaborative spirit
Bridge the divide between sales and other departments — marketing, finance, customer service, product, etc. — within your company. Marketing and sales teams should partner to align their audiences and the value proposition they offer to prospects. Sales should consider how specific contract terms impact cash flow and profitability. Customer service teams may enjoy knowing exactly what clients aim to solve when using certain products. Engineers must gather an understanding of major buyer requests and reservations. It is a sales leader’s responsibility to unite the different business functions to achieve a shared goal.
10. Stress performance over activity
Be productive, not busy. To one day lead a high-impact sales team, you must stress performance over activity. Help your colleagues qualify leads better and convert higher-budget and higher-margin sales.
Early in his career, Dave Gimbel worked at LivingSocial where he stood at the frontlines as a sales rep. In four years he earned four promotions. Now, as the director of sales development at Yotpo, Gimbel manages a team of sales specialists he calls “Architects.” Gimbel shares,
“Not only are [our sales reps] responsible for building and shaping the outbound sales efforts for the company, a necessary foundation for any successful sales organization, but also for building the path of their own careers. In order to succeed in advancing both, it requires three main things: Accountability, Responsibility and Communication. A [sales rep] must be accountable to their daily KPIs. This goes beyond counting the number of calls you make; if your conversations are generic you’re not doing your best job and it will impact your output. Take responsibility for your work. In most cases, [salespeople] are the first touch point for the company with a potential client. You have a responsibility to yourself and your brand to do your job in a smart and meaningful way, even if it means spending more time on research and admin. Finally, it’s absolutely critical to maintain consistent communication internally. It really stands out when my team is flagging things that are working and, more importantly, things that aren’t working. If my SDRs are accountable, responsible and communicating regularly, it builds my trust in them and allows me to back off and put my attention on other tasks. This is when I know they’re ready to go to the next level.”
11. Take a data driven approach
Bill Fish, president of ReputationManagement.com, believes, “The best ammunition you can have when asking for a promotion is tangible data.” As a business owner and former sales manager, Fish says, “I don’t want to hear, ‘I’ve been here two years’, or ‘I feel like I’m a leader.’ It should be handled as a presentation of sorts. Lay out your case with sales numbers, or legitimate factual occurrences as to how you helped someone else on the team.” Using facts and figures, salespeople can easily sell their bosses on a promotion.
“Many people fail at seeking their promotion because they come in unprepared,” continues Fish. “You display your leadership, as well as your sales skills when you can give a compelling case supported with data as to why you deserve the promotion.”
III. When all else fails…
Find a new job.
Sometimes, management will fail to recognize the results you have driven and the value you would create in your new role. In that case, they may never acknowledge or reward you for all the work you do. As a successful salesperson with demonstrated leadership skills, your opportunities are endless. Maher knows, “If it turns out your company doesn’t appreciate you, maybe another company will.” So, if you have followed the tips above yet you still find your career at a standstill, seek better opportunities elsewhere.