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Interview: Secrets to Starting A Career In Sales

On this episode of the Salesman Podcast, Gorick Ng helps new salespeople start a career in sales the right way by breaking down his book The Unspoken Rules: Secrets to Starting Your Career Off Right.

You'll learn:

Featured on this episode:

Host - Will Barron
Founder of Salesman.org
Guest - Gorick Ng
Author: Secrets to Starting Your Off Right

Resources:

Transcript

Will Barron:

This episode of the show is brought to you from the Salesman.org HubSpot studio. Coming up on today’s episode of the Salesman podcast.

 

Gorick:

Sink or swim, that it’s trial by fire, that, if you’re going to be a top performer, the mindsets, strategies, talking points, all of those intangibles, are things you’re born with rather than things that you learn over time.

 

Gorick:

What I realised really quickly in my interviews is, yes, there is such thing as a stupid question. It’s the question you could have answered on your own. And so, the idea behind asking questions in the workplace is to prove to the other person, convince the other person, that, “Hey, I’ve exhausted all of my options for helping myself before involving you.”

 

Will Barron:

Hello Sales nation. My name is Will Barron. I’m the host of the Salesman podcast, the world’s most downloaded B2B sales show. On today’s episode, we have Gorick. And he is the author of the book, Unspoken Rules: Secrets to Starting Your Career Off Right. And that’s exactly what we’ll get into on today’s episode. Whether you are starting your brand new, your first ever, B2B sales role, or whether you’re moving off into leadership, consulting, something sales adjacent, sales opps, whatever it is, we’ve got you covered. Gorick shares what you need to do on the weeks, days, and hours, before you start in your role, and what you should be doing during that first 30 days to really get rocking and rolling fast.

 

Will Barron:

Everything we talk about is available in the show notes [inaudible [00:01:26] over at Salesman.org. And with that said, let’s jump right into it. Gorick, welcome to the salesman podcast.

 

Gorick:

Will, thanks so much for having me. I’m thrilled to be here.

 

Why Are There No Frameworks to Help Salespeople on the First Day of The Job?· [03:38] 

 

 

Will Barron:

I am thrilled to have you on, sir. Okay. So, on today’s episode, we’re going to take a look at the secret… I know I’m going to say that word mysteriously… the secret to starting your very first sales job the right way. But before we get into some of these secrets, I want to ask you this. I want to frame the conversation with this, Gorick. Why is there… Other than your book, the Unspoken Rules, which we’ll cover in a second, why is there simply no framework? Why is there no play book for starting your first sales job, other than: Get there, hope that someone tells you what to do, and then get on with it?

 

Will Barron:

Because this is something that we’re going to do for our first sales job, our next job, and multiple times throughout our career. Why isn’t this really common that it’s taught to individuals?

 

“Companies have this mentality that it’s sink or swim, that it’s trial by fire, that, if you’re going to be a top performer, the mindsets, strategies, talking points, all of those intangibles, are things you’re born with rather than things that you learn over time.”  – Gorick Ng · [02:36] 

 

Gorick:

I was asking myself this question all throughout this research project, when I was talking to over 500 professionals across different industries and job types. What I came to realise is two things. One is that companies have this mentality that it’s sink or swim, that it’s trial by fire, that, if you’re going to be a top performer, the mindsets, strategies, talking points, all of those intangibles, are things you’re born with rather than things that you learn over time. So that’s the first reason. And the second reason is something called tacit knowledge, which is a fancy way of saying that there are all these acquired behaviours, like looking both directions before you cross the street, that we take now as common sense.

 

Gorick:

But ask a toddler, go to a day care, and you’ll quickly realise that looking both ways before you cross the street really isn’t common sense. And so, a lot of what separates top performers at work from mediocre performers at work, those who stay from those who leave, those who make it up to the top from those who plateau… A lot of these ultimately go from things we don’t know we don’t know, but should know, to all of a sudden, “Oh duh. This is common sense. Why even pass it down?”

 

Are Organizations are to Blame for Not Setting Clear Expectations for New Salespeople · [03:28] 

 

Will Barron:

And whose fault is it? Is it the organization’s fault for not telling us and having clear expectations of what we should know, what we shouldn’t know, what we should be doing, what we shouldn’t be doing, on day zero, the week before we start our role? Or is it on us? When we’re starting off a career in sales, do we need to take personal accountability for this and ask the questions, and make all this stuff happen, even if it’s the framework, the pathway, is not laid out in front of us?

 

Gorick:

Yeah. We can point fingers in a whole bunch of different directions here, where… Absolutely, I think we could point some fingers over at the organisation for assuming that people know what they don’t know. And the reality is, just by definition, we don’t know what we don’t know. So, there’s definitely that element of it. I understand as well where sales leaders, management [inaudible [00:04:18]. And so, even though manager might be in their title, managing downwards is only a part of their job. They’ve got to manage sideways, upwards, they’ve got to deal with their own fires.

 

Gorick:

So, I see where they’re coming from, but there is certainly a responsibility on that front. There’s a responsibility, to your point, on the individual to be proactive. And it seems almost counter intuitive that we have to tell people to be proactive. That’s almost an oxymoron there. But there is some responsibility on the individual. And frankly, that’s why I wrote the book. It’s for the individual to set themselves up for success, even if others aren’t necessarily doing it for them. One other piece of it is, I think, school, quite frankly, where…

 

“We’re taught that succeeding in school is about keeping up, not stepping up.” – Gorick Ng · [05:09] 

 

Gorick:

There’s all that we’re conditioned to do in school, which is we’re taught to wait for the next assignment. We’re taught that succeeding in school is about keeping up, not stepping up. So, as long as you’re filling in the bubbles correctly, you’re answering those multiple choice questions, if you get them wrong and it’s your manager… In a school situation, if it’s your professor or teacher’s fault that the question wasn’t worded correctly or wasn’t worded clearly, there’s an unspoken rule that you can go argue for more points, for more marks, to get your test regraded. In the workplace, it’s not so clear cut. When there are misunderstandings at work, when you’re underperforming? Yeah, it’s on you, but it’s also on the other person for not being clear.

 

Gorick:

And a lot of these, we could have mitigated by demystifying some of these unspoken rules that we take for granted in school because they’re just so well laid out in that rubric.

 

Will Barron:

I love the way you aligned that, Gorick, because you took the words out my mouth. Some of this is just moving into the real world right. There’s an element of school… I know in the UK, the US, elsewhere, you’re paying for it. They’re providing a service. It’s somewhat their responsibility to help you and coach you through this. Where in the real world, especially in the sales role, when you’re just dumped in, trial by fire to your description that you kind of shared with us earlier on.

 

Why You Need to be More Proactive as a New Salespeople · [06:40]

 

Will Barron:

If you don’t hit your target, you’re done. You’re gone. You’re out on your ass. And you have to take total responsibility for all of it. Because otherwise, you’re going to be eating beans on toast for the next six months trying to find your next sales job. So, with that said then, how do we be proactive? How do we understand the expectations without looking like we are… not stupid, but… How do we suss out what we need to do without asking seemingly stupid questions to someone who’s perhaps making assumptions that we should know some of this already?

 

“There’s this age old mantra of, there’s no such thing as a stupid question. What I realised really quickly in my interviews is, yes, there is such thing as a stupid question. It’s the question you could have answered on your own.”  – Gorick Ng · [07:02] 

 

Gorick:

Right. There’s this age old mantra of, there’s no such thing as a stupid question. What I realised really quickly in my interviews is, yes, there is such thing as a stupid question. It’s the question you could have answered on your own. Now, that’s easier said than done though, because there’s going to be a mismatch between what you know and what the person you’re talking to knows. It comes back to tacit knowledge, where something that may come across as common sense to the other person may not be common sense to you.

 

“The idea behind asking questions in the workplace is to prove to the other person, convince the other person, that, “Hey, I’ve exhausted all of my options for helping myself before involving you.”  – Gorick Ng · [07:35] 

 

Gorick:

And so, the idea behind asking questions in the workplace is to prove to the other person, convince the other person, that, “Hey, I’ve exhausted all of my options for helping myself before involving you.” And so, by definition, this can’t be a stupid question. What does that sound like? So, let’s say I’m onboarding onto a new role, and I don’t have access to a certain database, and I need to log in to a software platform. I could ask this question in two ways. I could say, “Will, what’s the password to this database?” Or I can say, “Hey Will, I’m trying to log in to this database. I couldn’t find the log in, in my email and in the onboarding materials. I asked John over there, but he doesn’t seem to have it either. Has the password been changed?”

 

Gorick:

Now, it’s a long winded way of asking that question. And it’s also reframing the question in a way. But what I’m doing here is I’m saying, “Will,” wink, wink, nudge, nudge, “I’ve exhausted all my options before involving you. So, that’s an unspoken rule that I call do and show your homework, where you’re helping yourself. You’re going through emails. You’re googling for the answer. You’re looking through internal documentation. And if you can’t answer the question there, then you go to the most junior coworker that’s at your level. And if that person can’t answer the question, then you go to the person above them, and then above them, and then above them, which I call bundle and escalate, where you’re bundling all these questions as well, and you’re escalating it one rung at a time, before you can get it fully answered at whatever level.

 

Gorick:

So again, common sense maybe looking backwards, but maybe not common sense for someone starting out.

 

The Role of Internal Politics in Successful Sales Careers · [09:15] 

 

Will Barron:

For sure. So, we’ll take a step back in a second as perhaps a framework to work on, to implement all of this in a structured manner. But before that, how much of getting started in the workplace, again, especially if this is your first sales role… Perhaps you’re not going to be used to all of the stress that’s just about to be thrown on top. Not to really disappoint anyone who’s listening to this whose just got into sales, but there’s going to be a lot of stress thrown your way.

 

Will Barron:

And before that happens, how much of our success in the role comes down to what you alluded to there, which is straight politics, knowing how to ask questions, knowing how to go to one person without pissing off another person unintentionally within the organisation? How much of success comes down to just managing the internal politics within your internal stakeholders within the organisation?

 

Gorick:

Oh, massively. Massively. And I would say that perhaps folks in sales have it slightly easier, where… I think about jobs as being a combination of inputs and outputs, where outputs is what you produce for the organisation. Inputs is all the showmanship that goes into producing your work. And so, in my book, I actually talk about how, if you’re a baker, we can tell clearly how good of a baker you are. All we need to do is taste your cake. If you’re working in human resources, if you’re working in operations, if you’re working in marketing, it’s much more difficult because you’re working in teams, the feedback loop to how well you’re performing isn’t immediate.

 

Gorick:

Sales folks have… Some have maybe the advantage of having quantifiable metrics. But at the same time, it’s a people business. And so, when you have people that you’re working with on a daily basis, you’re necessarily going to have those politics.

 

Will Barron:

For sure. And the politics, I’ve covered that on the show a lot of times, so I won’t dive into it too much. But that was always my downfall in my medical device sales roles I’ve had over the years. I would always hit quota. Typically, it’d be right until the end of the year. And then, there would seemingly, out of nowhere, be a massive deal that would hit me and get me over quota. My sales manager would be on my back, on my back, on my back, and then be my best friend for the last two months of the year.

 

Will Barron:

And then, he would revert back to normal. And it was because I wasn’t as skilled at dealing with these internal politics, as skilled as having these relationships and effectively communicating. And that did hold me back in my career. It’s something I didn’t learn until starting a business and doing what we do over at Salesman.org now. It’s a lot more of a focus for me when I’m managing our team: developers, designers, marketing and all that stuff, and editors, that go on. I’ve learned from my mistakes. But I wouldn’t have learned from my mistakes if I hadn’t had the experience of now being in the leadership role.

 

The Three Cs of Effective Onboarding For New Salespeople · [11:48] 

 

Will Barron:

So, with all that said, is it worth taking a step back here? Is there a framework? Is there a system? Is there a playbook of what we can do, I guess, if day zero is before we start, what we need to do to make day one an effective onboarding for everyone involved?

 

“The minute you step into a professional role is the minute your coworkers, managers, clients, partners start asking themselves three questions: One, can you do your job well? Which I call competence. Are you excited to be here? Which I call commitment. And do we get along? Which I call compatibility” – Gorick Ng · [12:13] 

 

Gorick:

Yeah. It’s a framework that I call the three C’s, which stand for, Competence, Commitment, and Compatibility, where the idea is this. The minute you step into a professional role is the minute your coworkers, managers, clients, partners start asking themselves three questions: One, can you do your job well, which I call competence? Are you excited to be here, which I call commitment? And do we get along, which I call compatibility? Competence, commitment, compatibility, the three C’s.

 

Gorick:

Your job is to convince the people around you to answer yes to all three questions all the time. And so, when we think about something like asking questions without coming across as lazy or incompetent, that feeds into all three C’s, where if you come across as asking a rudimentary question, that’s going to lead people to maybe question your competence of, “Ooh, if you’re asking me this question, what else do I have to do for you?” And if you’re asking too soon, without having done and shown your homework, people are going to question your commitment of, “Ooh, are you going to ask for help at the first instance all the time?”

 

Gorick:

And the, if you’re bothering people when they’re in the middle of something, and doing it on a frequent basis, people are going to think, “Hmm, do I want to be around you all day?” And so, it’s interesting as I peel back some of these otherwise benign interpersonal interactions in the workplace, just how much of a tight rope we’re always walking between overshooting our three C’s and maybe coming across as threatening or overbearing, and maybe undershooting, where you’re coming across as clueless or apathetic. So, when I think about starting your career and really even just…

 

Gorick:

I say that this is about starting your career in sales, but I’d like to think that this framework is just as relevant for all of us, really, from the first day in our careers all the way through to the very last day. It’s about balancing those three C’s. And it’s about keeping in mind under what circumstances may I be overstepping versus under stepping.

 

Tips on How to Be Proactive and Develop Valuable Work Relationships · [14:38] 

 

Will Barron:

How much of this, Gorick, needs to be done proactively in that I should be asking people smart questions to show that I’m competent? Should I be going in at lunch and saying, “Hey guys. I love this company. This is amazing. This is the best thing I’ve ever seen,” to demonstrate the commitment? Or do we need to be more subtle about this.

 

“Practise doesn’t necessarily make perfect, it just makes better.” – Gorick Ng · [14:43] 

 

Gorick:

Yeah. There is a lot of subtlety. And I think that’s where practise doesn’t necessarily make perfect, it just makes better. We’re always improving in these areas. I would actually maybe take this even farther back to before you join a company, where there are certain things that you could do to set yourself up for success, even though you aren’t getting paid yet. And maybe, that takes a little bit of a mindset shift of, “Why am I doing all this extra work before I’m even starting to get a paycheck?”

 

Gorick:

But little things can make a big impact longer term. I think about this as really just a great school exercise of fill in the blanks, coming back to school, where before I join a company… And I advise this to the folks that I work with as well, that I coach and mentor, think of this as five blanks that you could be filling in. Blank number one is, “My company does blank for blank for these reasons.” The second blank is, “My company competes with blank for blank reasons.” The third is, “Recently, my company has been doing blank for blank reasons.” Number four is, “Blank is my manager. Blank is my manager’s manager. Blank is my CEO.” And then, lastly, it’s, “Based on all of the research that I’ve done from looking online, subscribing to newsletters, reading the blog posts, blank, blank, and blank are things that get me really excited about this job.”

 

“When I think about a job, I think of it almost as you and I walking down a museum corridor, where we could be looking at the same painting, and come to two wildly different conclusions about what that painting represents.” – Gorick Ng · [16:31]

 

Gorick:

The more you can fill in those blanks for yourself, the more you can see how your role fits in with the bigger picture, the more you can see how you can help those high up the food chain, high up the chain of command, get their work done better, and the more you’ll be set up for success because… When I think about a job, I think of it almost as you and I walking down a museum corridor, where we could be looking at the same painting, and come to two wildly different conclusions about what that painting represents. And I think of opportunities in the workplace as being very similar, where you and I could be thrown into the same setting, and one of us could come out with professional relationships, with a stretch assignment, with an invitation to a meeting high up that we wouldn’t have otherwise had access to, to more information. And the other person could come away and say, “That was a cool conversation.”

 

Gorick:

And it all has to do with coming into this being prepared, having blanks that you’ve already filled in so that you can show up not just starting from step zero, but starting from, let’s say, step 10. You’d be setting yourself up for success so much more than someone who’s just showing up with both hands empty.

 

Will Barron:

Two things. One, I’m assuming what you just described is in the book. Right?

 

Gorick:

It is. It is. Lots of fill in the blanks. Lots of frameworks. Lots of circles. Lots of diagrams.

 

Will Barron:

So, there’s your workbook to go along with this episode. Grab the book. And I will, in the show notes of this episode, will include some of those as well to give the audience a taste or so. If you’re listening to this, and you’re on the treadmill, and you’re trying to scribble those statements, those blank statements, on your hand, and you’re falling over, or you’re riding your bike as you listen to the episode, don’t panic. It will be in the book, and over at Salesman.org in the show notes as well.

 

Why Successful Salespeople Set The Right Expectations ·  [18:03]

 

Will Barron:

So, I love that. How much of this comes down to that extra hour or two of… or three or four, whatever it is, of preparation? Can we almost consider this few hours of preparation, or just thinking about this kind of stuff, an investment into our career?

 

“Meeting expectations means you’re not getting promoted in a lot of organisations.” – Gorick Ng · [18:40] 

 

Gorick:

Absolutely. Absolutely. I mean, when I think about performance evaluations… In the workplace, you have… Broadly speaking, you have meets expectations, exceeds expectations, and falls below expectations. I feel like one of these unspoken rules of the workplace is meeting expectations means you’re not getting promoted in a lot of organisations. And so, that’s another one of those things that no one really tells you. If you meet expectations in school, “Yeah, I am getting promoted to the next grade, to the next level.” That’s not the case in the workplace.

 

Gorick Dissects The Nine-Box Matrix For Potential and Performance · [19:15] 

 

Gorick:

And so, exceeding expectations is almost the bare minimum that people expect of you, assuming you want to rise up through the ranks. I also think about this in two additional ways, where organisations, whether they admit to it or not… Sometimes, it’s formal. Sometimes, it’s informal. But there’s something called the nine box matrix, where you have the X and Y axis, and then you have potential on one axis and performance on the other axis. Performance is how well you can perform your current job. Potential is how well you can be expected to perform in your next job. What people don’t often realise, another one of these unspoken rules, is it’s not just about performing your current job well. It’s about finessing your way to convincing other people that, “Hey, I can do my current job well, and I’m ready for that next position as well,” to get to that top right hand quadrant in that nine box matrix.

 

Gorick:

And then, the very last piece is around expectations. I mean, so much of what it takes to reduce your stress, to build better relationships, to get more work done, is about managing other peoples expectations of what you can do and what you can produce. And when I think about that, I think of, again, meeting expectations, exceeding expectations, and falling below expectations, where so much of whether you’re perceived as a top performer comes down to what others think you’re capable of. And so, there’s an element here of maybe not over promising to the point where people are expecting a lot more from you than you’re actually able to produce, but at the same time, not setting expectations so low that people aren’t even paying attention to you.

 

Gorick:

And of course, then we unravel this into talking points, checklists, dos and don’ts.

 

Will Barron:

So, some of this is subjective. Right? Some of it’s objective, but what you described there is subjective. And sales people do this every year. If you’re listening to this and it isn’t your… this isn’t your first rodeo, isn’t your first sales job, you will understand that come January, if you’ve got a yearly target, you will be telling your sales manager, you’ll be demanding that you’re not going to meet the target, the criteria this year, that this customer has just left, this relationship’s not happening.

 

Will Barron:

Whatever it is, you’ll lie, cheat, fight, whatever it is to get your target as low as possible, so then you can smash it over the course of the next 12 months. And as soon as it sets, then you turn back into positivity mode, everyone’s happy, and you’re gunning to crush that target because, obviously, you’re financially incentivized to get as far above it as possible. Now, that is expected from sales person. A sales person who doesn’t do that… And this may be a tip from my side if you’re starting a new sales role. If you’ve got the job, and you’re secure, and then… Perhaps your past year, if it’s a probation period, I wouldn’t be complaining about sales targets at that moment in time where they could still let you go in an instant.

 

Will Barron:

Once you get past all that, it’s almost expected from you. And you look like a bit of a schmuck if you’re not keen to negotiating, I guess is a better way to describe it than complaining. If you’re not willing to negotiate on your targets… Because the sales manager is going to look at you and go, “Hey, if you’re not willing to negotiate to make you’re life easier now, with me, someone who you should feel relatively safe with if you’ve got a good relationship, you’re never going to get to negotiate for a better deal with a customer, you’re never going to stretch the deals and increase deal sizes.” And so, that might be a red flag for a sales manager.

 

Meeting Expectations: Why You Need to Negotiate and Set the Correct Internal Expectations · [22:40] 

 

Will Barron:

And aside that, a tip from me, if this is your first sales role and you’re starting a career in sales, you’re not experienced with this, once quotas are set… or before quotas are set, they are negotiable and you’re expected to negotiate on them. So with that said, Gorick, some of this like that is relatively clear cut. It is objective in the fact that you should definitely do it. If you don’t do it, you’re going to look like you’re unprepared and not understanding how the system works. But for thing that are… or expectations are more flexible, or aren’t written down in a contract, how do we know that fine line where we’re setting the correct expectations, we’re not setting up ourselves for failure, and we’re not, also as you described, setting expectations so low that people think, “Well, maybe you’re not suited for this job whatsoever”?

 

Gorick:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah. It’s a tricky balance, for sure. And this is also, depending on who’s listening, going to be either common sense or not common sense, but I’ll throw it out there anyways. Where someone has been in your shoes before, and worked with this particular sales manager, worked with this particular CEO, they’ll know better than anybody what they’re looking for and not looking for. And so, to the extent possible, what I advise is build a relationship with these veterans, with these influencers, with the people who have the ear of these higher ups, who’ve at least worked with them before.

 

Gorick:

And ask them, “Hey, what’s…” And here, we also have a bit of a song and dance that we have to go through of, how do you appropriately ask without coming across as saying, “Hey. I know there’s a test tomorrow. Can I just take a look at your… Can I look at what you wrote down?” The way I frame it is, “If I’m not mistaken, you’ve worked with so and so. I’d love to learn about their working style and how to best work with them. Would you happen to have a few minutes over the coming days to chat some more?” I didn’t frame it perfectly there, but there is, again, that song and dance of asking, “Hey,” wink, wink, nudge, nudge, “I’m looking for some insider tips on how to best work with this person. Hook me up.”

 

Will Barron:

Sure.

 

Gorick:

So, I would encourage folks to do that. And it may not always be possible, especially if you don’t know anyone at the company currently, or if this is a small enough organisation where you don’t have someone who’s been in your shoes before necessarily, in which case, consider talking to former employees of this company. When I was in consulting, one of the things that I was completely shocked by, but now sort of makes sense, is the idea that people will do their due diligence on who their coworkers are, of “Oh, I noticed that you worked with so and so before. What was it like to work with them?”

 

Gorick:

And it’s sort of like interpersonal glassdoor in a way, where people go in glassdoor to figure whether a certain company is worth working at. Well, people are doing this behind the scenes, quietly, to their fellow coworkers. And if you’re not doing this, you could be falling… not necessarily falling behind, but you’re not taking advantage of an opportunity that others might be taking advantage of.

 

Will Barron:

You’ve mentioned a few times, and I’m going back to this as well, of… Not all, but some of what we’re describing here is common sense. Right? And it’s only common if you’ve got the experience behind you. You’ve probably made some mistakes that allow you to see the common sense that is there that other people may assume. I guess, in a way, describing this is, some of what we’re describing will happen to people 20 years into their career. And they’ll become unconsciously competent at asking these questions, dealing with the politics, framing things up in certain ways.

 

Learn the Unspoken Sales and Workplace by Observation · [26:15] 

 

Will Barron:

Is there any way that we can accelerate this process of becoming more unconsciously competent? Is there any way that can accelerate this process of becoming… of increasing our… I guess it’s business acumen and also common sense in the workplace as well.

 

Gorick:

Yeah. I don’t know if this was intentional or unintentional, but it’s a big plug for the book where I’d like to think that it is that single competitive idea of everything you know before your first day on through to your promotion, covering everything from meetings to feedback sessions, to one-on-ones, to how to prioritise better, to how to manage expectations, to how to navigate swim lanes, invisible boundaries between your coworkers at work. So, I’ll suppress my book plugging for now.

 

Gorick:

Outside of the book, I would say that a lot of it has to do with observation. And when I think about how people learn these unspoken rules, prior to there being a book, it’s through two ways really. One is through mentors and parents. And two is through trial and error. If we’re going down the trial and error path, then it’s really about observing the most respected people in your organisation, seeing what they say, how they say it, when they say it, who they say it to. There’s probably something in their methodology, that they’re not even able to articulate to you, that you can discern simply by paying special attention to how they conduct themselves.

 

Gorick:

And then, the second thing is, when it… Really quickly, we can almost veer into the domain of professionalism, in a way, where I’ve personally found it helpful to listen and watch videos of people that I respect, and see how they conduct themselves. YouTube is a good friend in this domain.

 

Is it a Good Idea to Have Sales Role Model? · [28:20]

 

Will Barron:

So, should we… or is… And I was teeing you up to talk about the book. We’ll dive into that more in a second. But is it fair to say, or is it a good idea then, to have a role model? I’m trying to think of a more less weird way to say it. Because I don’t really use a business leader as a… If it’s Elon Musk. He’s a classic example. He’s top of mind with myself at the moment, because I love all the science that he brings into conversations, and the fact that he can do a lot of roles. He’s not just a CEO. He can talk about things at a in-depth level.

 

Will Barron:

So, maybe he is a bit of a role model for me. I take that back. Should we find someone like Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffet, whoever it is that we aspire to be like, and then try and start to model the way they hold themselves, even the way that they dress professionally and things like that, if appropriate for the organisation that we work within? Is that a short cut? Is that a hack to… Because clearly, these people, what they’re doing works. It’s not like we’re using trial and error to suss out who is going to be effective in here. It’s clear who is effective in the market place. Should we be having a role model, someone to model the behaviours of?

 

Gorick:

Yes, but… is my answer. Let me start with the but, where there’s this, if you call it unspoken rule or just a double standard, in the workplace, where there are certain behaviours that folks higher up the chain of command are able to pull off that someone lower down the organisation can’t pull off. And I think of a bunch of examples where, when a higher up is late to a meeting, people assume that they’re busy. If a lower down is late to a meeting, people assume that they’re uncommitted or incompetent. Not always, but there is often that gear that turns in people’s heads.

 

“The people who are most useful for you to emulate are going to be the most respected coworkers near or at your level, and who have a similar identity to you.”  – Gorick Ng · [30:58] 

 

Gorick:

Or when it comes to professionalism. I could imagine that someone who’s meeting up with Mark Zuckerberg, Richard Branson, is probably dressed up in a suit and tie, the investment bankers. Mark Zuckerberg, with the exception of him going in front of congress, is probably not in a suit and tie. And so, there is that double standard of… I’m sort of hitting myself for even saying this in a way, where there’s some things that others can pull off that you might not be able to pull off. And we can have a big debate about whether that’s fair and such. So, I would draw boundaries around who you look to emulate. I would say the people who are most useful for you to emulate are going to be the most respected coworkers near or at your level, and who have a similar identity to you.

 

Gorick:

There’s also a double standard around women, around women unfortunately having to walk this tight rope of needing to be assertive, without coming across as aggressive. A joke that a man can pull off in the workplace, unfortunately, may not come across in the same way if a woman does it. And there’s plenty of research that unfortunately supports this reality. When it comes to the yes part, I’d love to zoom out a little bit on that front, where… It’s one of my sort of go-to talking points, which is, who do you look up to? Who do you want to emulate? And I think about this not just in terms of modelling behaviour. But I think about it more broadly of, where would you like to take your career?

 

Gorick:

Where we might all think that we’re special, but in the end, there are going to be plenty of people who have been in our shoes before, who have been there and done that. And sometimes, all it takes is a Wikipedia stalking exercise, a LinkedIn stalking exercise, a social media bio stalking exercise, to understand, what did this individual do when they were in my position, that got them to where they are today? Where did they start off? What was their first job? What was their second job? What risks did they take? How long did they stay in this position? What was that inflexion point that really accelerated their career? This is maybe a long winded way of me [inaudible [00:32:39] stalker, quite frankly, where, when I find someone that I look up to and I’m intrigued by, I immediately go on Google.

 

“Your first job won’t be your last job. And it may not be clear looking forward what that next right step may be. But looking at someone who’s five years down the road, 10 years down the road, 20 years down the road, they’ve made the mistakes so you don’t have to. And they’ve also revealed the path in the snow so you don’t have to poke around through trial and error.” – Gorick Ng · [32:54] 

 

Gorick:

And I start googling them up. And I start thinking, “Well, how did they get to where they are?” And I would encourage everyone to be thinking in this way, because, let’s be real, your first job won’t be your last job. And it may not be clear looking forward what that next right step may be. But looking at someone who’s five years down the road, 10 years down the road, 20 years down the road, they’ve made the mistakes so you don’t have to. And they’ve also revealed the path in the snow so you don’t have to poke around through trial and error.

 

Will Barron:

I agree with everything you just said. And as you were talking there, Gorick, there’s one thing that came to mind with regards to… for example, the Mark Zuckerberg example of tee shirt and jeans. For every one Mark Zuckerberg who can get away with it, there’s 10,000 tech start up idiots that are making no money, that are not Mark Zuckerberg, that are copying them. They would go into a meeting with an investment banker. And the investment banker would be like, “Hey. Why you dressed like a scruff?” And it would offend them.

 

The Benefits of Modelling After the Correct People · [33:51] 

 

Will Barron:

So, there is a survivor bias here of, Mark Zuckerberg can do that because he’s one out of tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of individuals. He’s the crème of the crème. He crushed it. And you might not be… As positive as I can be for the audience, it’s probably unlikely that the next Mark Zuckerberg is listening to the podcast right now. I hope he or she is, but it’s unlikely. And so, we have to take, as you said, all of this with a pinch of salt, with regard to who you’re modelling, how literal you want to be about it. I like the way you turn the question. Find someone who’s a few steps ahead of yourself, model them. Because you can get in front of them. You can ask them why they wear a stupid hat in sales meetings.

 

Will Barron:

You can ask them why they do X, Y, Z. And with the likes of Mark Zuckerberg, you couldn’t possibly get access to someone like that, especially if you’re in your first sales role. The chances of getting in front of someone like Mark Zuckerberg and asking these questions, it’s impossible. And the next best is you’re looking for auto biographies, biographies, and things like that to look at their history, their pathway through their career. So yeah, I love it when you pivoted the question of, go to someone who’s having success, who’s a year, two year, five years ahead of you, and just ask them. They’re going to have a lot of the answers that we’re all working for.

 

“Networking often has a bad reputation, where it comes across as transactional, a little bit used car sales-y, when, in the end, it’s really just about building a relationship with someone.” – Gorick Ng · [34:14] 

 

Gorick:

Absolutely. And when it comes to compatibility, so much of this ultimately is about building relationships as well. I don’t want to think of this as… Networking often has a bad reputation, where it comes across as transactional, a little bit used car sales-y, when, in the end, it’s really just about building a relationship with someone. We learn this in kindergarten. We learn this in grade school, where, especially in this remote work environment, where it’s so much more difficult. I mean, it’s impossible, if you’re not in an office to bump into someone casually and to strike up that conversation, where so much more we need to find small excuses to break the ice with someone.

 

Gorick:

And sometimes, all it takes is to say, “Hey, like you, I’m interested in A, B, and C. And I’d love to be able to follow in your footsteps. Would you have a few minutes to chat about your experiences?” You’re hopefully getting some useful information out of it. If so, and if not, you might build the relationship with someone who is a couple of steps ahead of you, and again, can make all those mistakes so you don’t have to.

 

Do Successful People Enjoy Mentoring Others? · [36:16]

 

Will Barron:

Yeah. And people want to mentor you. I think this is a bit of a misconception that it’s a burden to individuals when you’re asking them questions and you’re on their coat tails, so to speak, and you’re trying to allow them to drag you up through the ranks. Well, if you do it appropriately, if you ask the right questions… Like for myself, I’m more than happy to coach sales people. I don’t charge for any of it. I don’t offer any coaching service, for a start. I’m happy to mentor or coach people.

 

Will Barron:

And I work with loads of podcasters, both in sales and the marketing space, and I’m always answering questions and sharing the insights that we learned, because we’ve got a… It’s a small audience in the [inaudible [00:36:55] podcast, but it’s a large audience in the world of business specific podcast. And so, it’s always a pleasure for me. I love getting those emails of, “Hey Will, I have thought about 1, 2, 3.” You’re seeing that they’ve put some effort in. They’re not just asking you a stupid question. And then, the question is in one sentence. It’s not, “Hey. So, this, this, and this. I’m female, or I’m this, or I’m this,” and there’s an excuse in there, or that there’s a reason why that you, looking at the question, know that it’s an excuse. Ask your questions in one line or less. And people will help you, generally.

 

Will Barron:

That’s my experience. Is that your experience as well?

 

Gorick:

Absolutely. I mean, to your point, it’s flattering to be asked.

 

Will Barron:

Yeah, of course.

 

“People like people who are like themselves.” – Gorick Ng · [37:41] 

 

Gorick:

And I think people like people who are like themselves.

 

Will Barron:

Yeah.

 

Gorick:

And this is both a challenge and an opportunity, where the challenge is, if no one looks like you, talks like you, has the same backgrounds or interests as you do, it can be a lot more difficult to rise up through the ranks, which is where we get a lot of the diversity, inclusion, equity, belonging conversation emerging. At the same time though, even small bits of compatibility can go a long way in terms of sparking that relationship, where… Did you grow up in the same hometown?

 

Gorick:

Did you go to the same school? Did you have similar extracurricular activities? Did you have a similar prior work history? Do you have similar goals? Are you in the same space? I think so often people overlook the compatibility building symptoms of, “Like you, I blank,” that they either jump right to the ask, which could come across as transactional, or they… And I think you hear this all the time on your podcast of folks sending LinkedIn in-mails that look completely generic. And yes, you will be ignored if it’s generic. And I often feel like the people who are either scared or have encountered failure in building relationship with someone who’s a couple of steps ahead of them are treating this as a vending machine exercise of, “I’m just going to send this message. It’s going to be completely generic,” and hope that the other person will respond.

 

“Before I send a message, I like to ask myself, “If I had accidentally sent this message to someone completely different, would it still make sense to them?” And if the answer is yes, then it’s too generic.” – Gorick Ng · [39:24]

 

Gorick:

One quick sort of tip on this front is, before I send a message, I like to ask myself, “If I had accidentally sent this message to someone completely different, would it still make sense to them?” And if the answer is yes, then it’s too generic. And the other person will smell it immediately. If the answer is no, then you’re clear to send. And I think the example you raised is an excellent one of, “Hey. I listened to your podcast. I was really intrigued by A, B, and C.” Unless there’s a parallel podcast somewhere else and that person said the exact same thing, this is going to look super custom tailored, and it’s going to go that much farther.

 

Will Barron:

For sure. That’s a perfect litmus test, and I’m going to be pinching that, because we talk about LinkedIn messages, email messages, all the time. And the sales industry is just rife with people spamming at the moment. So, that’s a great way, a great litmus test, to see if your outreach is actually going to likely be effective or not. If you could send it to someone else and they go, “Hey, what the heck are you talking about?” You might be on the right tracks. I’ve got one thing that I’m going to add, Gorick. And then, you can tell us about the book.

 

Gender and Social Equality in the Sales World · [40:24] 

 

Will Barron:

You mentioned gender equality in the workplace and things like this a number of times in the show. So, what I’m going to say is my opinion as opposed to Gorick’s. And it’s not… Maybe it’s PC. I don’t know if it’s PC. There’s so many things that we have in common. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a woman, you’re black, you’re from a different ethnicity, whatever it is. If someone comes to me, I don’t even notice any of that stuff. I don’t care. If they come to me and say, “Hey Will, I know you’ve got a Nissan GT-R on your table. I know someone who has one. I race cars. We do this. I watch the formula one. Did you see the race at the weekend?” I don’t care about that. That stuff just isn’t even in my consciousness to even consider.

 

Will Barron:

It doesn’t matter what your upbringing is, your background, who you’re friends with, what you do at the weekend, as long as you can find that slight bit of ability to have that compatibility and build that little bit of rapport, none of that other stuff matters. I don’t see… Clearly, there is, in organisations, different generation, different opinions and thoughts on this. And some of it is unconsciously baked into some individuals unfortunately. But I’d really like to think that… especially millennials [inaudible [00:41:31] age range… I’d really hope to think that people of our age in the workplace, that millennial group, they don’t care about a lot of this stuff. As long as you can have that little bit of rapport, you find something in common, all that other stuff doesn’t matter, especially when we’re talking about asking questions, getting mentoring, getting advice.

 

Will Barron:

Am I wrong here, or am I on the right track? It’s irrelevant. If you can ask your questions to the right people, that kind of thing is less important than perhaps what it has been in the past.

 

“I define professionalism as how urgent and how serious you are, given the particular circumstances.” Gorick Ng · [42:12] 

 

Gorick:

I would say so, as well. And this is something I’m continuing to think about on the topic of professionalism. And I define professionalism as how urgent and how serious you are, given the particular circumstances. So, every situation has a certain unspoken degree of urgency and an unspoken degree of seriousness. And on the seriousness, we have etiquette around, should you be saying hey versus hi versus just the person’s name? Should you write best at the end of the email? Are you allowed exclamation marks and emojis, in the case of reaching out to someone?

 

Gorick:

That there’s etiquette around, how do you introduce yourself? And I would agree with you… Or at least my hypothesis is aligned with yours as well that there are going to be many intergenerational differences here, where, if you’re reaching out to someone who may be a little bit farther along in their career, they’re going to have a higher standard for what they may expect of you to see you as competent and committed. That said, I think that social media has really flattened the hierarchy in many ways, where… I’ve been surprised at how many people would send back emojis. I’ve messaged partners at law firms about my book. And judging books by their covers, this is the last person I would expect to give me that thumbs up emoji.

 

Gorick:

There is an unspoken rule her of mirroring your audience, so let them set the standard for professionalism, and then you follow along. But in general, I would say that the advent of social media has made it so much more possible to break the ice with someone. One thing that I started observing… And I may just be a late comer to this, others may have already noticed this long before I came around to this… is commenting on someone’s social media post. Unless this is someone who’s so high up that they’ve got handlers upon handlers dealing with their social media, if you can’t get in touch with them through their inbox because their inbox is flooded, sometimes all it takes is a comment on an article that they posted, a thoughtful one, of course, to catch their attention.

 

Gorick:

And I think perhaps the pandemic as well has democratised this where, with enough cats having walked across the webcam screen, we now realise that maybe in the work mode of the past we all had to leave a part of ourselves at the door when we show up at work. That’s no longer really happening as much.

 

“If your CEO posts blogs, if they do interviews, you better be commenting and posting and sharing them and amplifying them if you want to do well in that organisation.” – Will Barron · [44:51] 

 

Will Barron:

For sure. I agree. And that’s a great point for you internal stakeholders as well of, if you’re CEO host blog, if they do interviews, you better be commenting and posting and sharing them and amplifying them if you want to do well in the organisation. Because that CEO, they will be checking it occasionally, because everyone has an ego. Now, I’m talking less about Elon Musk than I am CEO of fortune 100 company.

 

Will Barron:

They’re going to be checking things, because he’s got an ego. If they keep seeing your name saying, “Great job. I really enjoy your point 1, 2, or 3 of your fireside chat,” and then, you’re sharing it with your own audience, your amplifying their message, which is the company message that you’re representing, they will notice that. They’ll pay attention. And 99% of the other people in the organisation are not going that extra mile. And so, you will stand out internally.

 

Gorick Talks About His Book “The Unspoken Rules: Secrets to Starting Your Career Off Right” · [45:47]

 

Will Barron:

And with that, Gorick, because I just wanted to double down on that because that’s something that we’ve talked on, on the show before, super important to do that. Gorick, tell us about the book, where we can find it, and where we can find more about you as well.

 

Gorick:

Absolutely. So, the book is titled, The Unspoken Rules: Secrets to Starting Your Career Off Right. It’s a how-to guide for professionals on how to set yourself up for success from before your first day on a job all the way through to your promotion, even if you’re in an organisation that doesn’t have a career path for you. It covers everything from, how do I build relationships when I’m working remotely? How do I navigate managerial one-on-ones? How do I take ownership? How do I manage expectations? How do I navigate workplace politics? All of these intangibles that your manager expects of you but won’t ever tell you, and that top performers do, but don’t always realise they’re doing.

 

Gorick:

It’s based on over 500 interviews that I’ve conducted with professionals across geographies, industries, and job types on what they wish someone could have told them earlier about how to succeed in the professional careers. It’s out with Harvard Business Review Press. And it can be found online. Folks can find me online at my website, which is, Gorick.com. That’s G-O-R-I-C-K dot COM. And on my homepage, you can download the first 25 pages of the book for free.

 

Will Barron:

Amazing stuff. Well Sales nation, if you’ve listened to the show this far in and it’s of interest to you, clearly, the book is the shortcut to everything we’ve discussed on the show. The frameworks, the checklist, everything’s included in the book. And so, go check it out over at Gorick.com.

 

Will Barron:

We’ll enter the show notes on this episode, the books, and everything else over at Salesman.org.com… or dot com… Salesman.org, in fact. And with that, Gorick, going to thank you for your time, your expertise, the fact that you’ve done research before writing the book. That makes a massive difference in my mind as to the content within it, and it shows within this interview itself. And so, with that mate, I want to thank you for joining us on the salesman podcast.

 

Gorick:

Thank you so much, Will. This was a lot of fun. 

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