Success in Technology & Sales: 5 Tips for Breaking Down Belief Barriers

Guest Contribution by Kelly Wright

People ask me all the time what it’s like being a woman in sales in the technology industry. The truth is that I did not think about the lack of the number of women in a field as part of my career consideration when entering the industry. I love helping and interacting with people. To me, this was sales. I am drawn to fast-paced environments where I could have an impact. To me, this was technology. Selling technology is what I wanted, so I went after it. And it’s worked for me. I started as the first salesperson at Tableau nearly a decade ago, and now I head up the entire sales team for one of the fastest growing software technology companies in the world.

I have always loved sales. Sales was my calling since I was young. I was that kid who always wanted to sell everything. I sold candy bars in school. I raised the most money in fundraisers to win the cool prizes. While those I knew went to sporting events and concerts, my friends brought me to help buy their cars. Yes, I really did help buy a lot of cars. What can I say? Negotiating was a form of entertainment for me.

Each summer while at Stanford, I sold educational books door-to-door. Want to learn about sales? Sell something door-to-door. It is hard. Very hard. Imagine carrying a big book bag in the hot, sweltering sun or pouring rain door-to-door for over 80 hours per week – and getting lots of doors slammed in your face. I learned to shrug things off, focus on what I can control, and to roll up my sleeves and keep on going. My focus each day was to do my best and talk to at least 30 families no matter what. I believed I could do it. And as a true competitor, I wanted to sell more books than anyone else. Why? Because I believed I could.

This really sums up my leadership philosophy. Belief.

People ask me all the time about the difference between a good salesperson and a great salesperson. My hunch is that people expect me to say preparation, product knowledge, hard work, and communication skills. Yes, good salespeople do those things. But, they are just the baseline. Belief is what makes the real difference.

Being a great salesperson is like being a great athlete. Why does a gold medalist win? Of course Olympic athletes prepare and train. They practice and work hard. But they also visualize breaking the ribbon at the finish line. They imagine standing on the podium to receive their medal. Olympic athletes fundamentally believe they can and will win.

What are the best ways to inspire Belief?

1) Paint the picture. Help individuals feel and taste success. Help people visualize success. Ringing a bell when closing a big deal, showcase potential rewards, and make a big it a fun and big deal about awarding them.

2) Instill friendly competition. Everyone likes to compete and win. Run contests all over the place – most transactions, biggest sale, top team. Publish every person’s quota attainment. When quota is attained, attach a visual or a catch phrase that everyone can grab on to and keep excitement up.

3) Surround yourself with others who believe. Can you think of a winning Olympic team who had even one athlete who thought a win was impossible? Absolutely not. Every single member on the team, especially the team captain, must believe.

4) Always have a stretch goal. Remember Norman Vincent Peale’s quote, “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” March towards the stretch goal, not the target. Think BIG.

5) Have fun with numbers. This is the real key. Break all goals down into small, manageable bits. Take a sales rep. Slice and dice her numbers – total calls, lead conversion, transactions, average order size, close rates. You can probably play with the data to show the path to her goal by improving just one or two metrics. Now show her what happens if she improves on all metrics, and her belief is at all new levels.

Our job as leaders is to break the belief barrier. Belief is critical for all leaders, whether in sales or any other department. We inspire people to believe they can do way more than they initially thought possible. People want to be part of an Olympic team, so our job is to fill our teams with athletes who think big and believe.

Kelly Wright is Executive Vice President, Sales at Tableau Software, a business analytics company based in Seattle, Wash.

Guest advice and opinions are not necessarily those of The Glass Hammer