Monthly Archives: August 2012

Don’t Sniff Armpits (Unless Your Into That Sort Of Thing)

Determining your passions and how you can bring value to the table is fundamental for a happy life. However, figuring these things out is much easier said than done. Don’t get me wrong it is a hard path to figure out what you are truly passionate about but the last thing you want to do is get stuck sniffing armpits for the rest of your life (I can’t believe that’s actually a job). Personally, it took me over a year of experimenting with just about every position at Dailybreak (the company I intern for) for me to finally realize what direction I should take my life.

I went into my internship knowing a few things about myself: that I’m a hard worker, I’m personable, and I’m a conversationalist. However, I had no idea how those attributes actually translated into a career. All around me, I saw people with solid, defined skill sets. Work effort assumed equal, and whether they were quantitative geniuses, hackers, or skilled designers, everyone had something that created value for their brand. I knew one thing though: I had no intention of going into sales because of the stigmas attached to a sales career.

After trying positions with the marketing team, operations team, content team, and a brief stint in web development (what was I thinking), I had a long conversation with Ryan Durkin (VP of Operations). I explained to him how I was unhappy with what I was doing, and how I was confused about where I was going in life. Shortly thereafter, I was approached by the EVP of business development with a project. After working in the biz-dev department for a while, I realized that my communication skills and work ethic were perfect for a career in sales. I also learned that sales is a LOT more than just cold calling. There is truly a science behind closing a deal and figuring out the most effective way to reach your targets. To boot, closing a deal is one of the best thrills in the world.

What I like about sales is that there is room for fast improvement, work ethic REALLY sticks out and you get to talk to people all day long.

All in all, figure out what makes YOU happy. You don’t want to be stuck in a career you hate. Right now is the time you can afford to experiment with careers so use this time wisely. If you have any questions about how to figure out what your skill set is, let me know and I would be happy to talk through it with you.

Haters Gon Hate

As an ex-bodybuilder, I’ve faced a lot of adversity from the public eye. I cannot begin to tell you how many times friends and random people alike have accused me of taking steroids. I never really thought much of it, and assumed it just to be the public’s perception of a bodybuilder. However as I have gotten older and begun sharing my knowledge with the world, I’ve now started hearing that some people think I am “smartass”, and that my opinions are flawed. This really got me thinking about why I I faced criticism whenever I tried to push forward, every step of the way.

The other night, when I was laying in bed, all of these negative words began swirling around my mind. “Nerd”, “jock”, “juicehead”, and “smartass”, just to name a few. I then began thinking about how the people who face the most criticism are generally those who are most successful. Presidents, CEO’s, legendary athletes all fall under the harsh criticism of the majority below them. Even Steve Jobs was criticized by everyone around him for investing a lot of his time and money into a little digital animation company that no one knew about. Everyone told him he was just wasting his time and that he was going to wind up broke even though he recognized the potential in Apple. That little animation company is called Pixar. Had Steve listened to all of his “haters” movies like Toy Story, A Bug’s Life and Finding Nemo would have never existed. Imagine a childhood without Toy Story!

Why is this? Why are those who are naturally gifted or successful often the most criticized? The answer is simple: society has created ways to ostracize those who are successful in order to make the average person feel better. When you call someone a “nerd”, you are merely making fun of them because they’re smarter than you. It’s simply a defense mechanism to hide one’s insecurities.

I constantly face criticism from peers for working too hard or hitting the weights too much. “Why do you spend so much time at work…Why won’t you just eat that cake stop being a robot…You’re just hurting yourself by spending all that time in the gym.” No, you’re just hurting yourself by sitting your ass on the couch and bothering me about my life.

When I was a younger and people to called me a “juicehead”, it would bother me. As I have grown though, I’ve realized that that is the best compliment I can receive about my physique. Someone is looking at themselves, then looking at me, and rationalizing why I am in better shape than they are. I guarantee their thought process went something like this: “Yeah he’s jacked and all but I would be just as big as him if I took steroids too. He must be on steroids it doesn’t make sense any other way”. What they fail to realize is that I have never taken a steroid in my life, and that I worked my ass off to get to where I am today. Instead of rationalizing someone else’s success, get off your ass and work. Now I’m not trying to seem self righteous but after years of receiving this pointless criticism from people who do not even attempt to be in shape it is just the conclusion I have come to.

The next time you’re criticized for working too much, reading a book, crushing weights, or just living a successful lifestyle, thank that person for the reverse compliment. All they are really saying is “I wish I could be as good as you”.

The Challenging, Yet Rewarding, Life of a Salesman

My name is Richard Chrisos and I am a recent graduate of the University of Massachusetts – Amherst (Isenberg School of Business). Initially, I began my academic career as an accounting major, however, I quickly realized that this was not the correct path for someone with my particular skill set. I’ve always been a “people person”, so I switched to marketing with the intention of diving into a career in sales after graduation. I am currently employed as an Account Development Representative at a VAR in the IT industry. Although UMASS proudly hosts over 15,000 undergrad students, meeting Kareem Agha is almost an unavoidable occurrence which is testament to his networking and relationship building skills. It only takes a few seconds in speaking with Mr. Aghanomics himself to realize that he’s not a typical college student due to his drive, passion, and vision.

Sales can be one of the most rewarding (both monetarily & self-gratifying) career choices a particularly skilled person can make. The reason I use the phrase ‘particularly skilled’ insinuates at the simple notion that sales is not for everyone. Sales people are a particular breed of working professionals. Their drive is self-motivated and motivated by the proposition of heightened earning potential based directly on performance. Which brings up another red flag regarding this profession, inconsistency. Knowingly entering into the realm of sales means many things, but one fact remains, you will have ups and downs. The difference between a great salesman and one who finds himself missing his quota and jobless is what you do during slump periods. Being afraid to fail is never an option in life and the same advice correlates strongly to sales. Take a period of decline as a learning opportunity. Ask yourself, ‘What am I doing differently? Am I making the best use of the resources that have been provided to me? What steps can I take to rectify the situation?’ It is often helpful to remove yourself from a problem, clear you head, and re-strategize an attack plan. If nothing else, reach out for assistance from your peers. Take a look into the mind of one of your counterparts who is hitting his/her number quarter after quarter. I can personally guarantee that they have traits which can be immediately emulated and implemented into your day to day behaviors.
So, what does it takes to be a successful professional in the sales industry?

1. Competitors Only.
Sales is not a place for the easily rattled. In fact, there is a strong relation between successful salesman and a history of competitive sports. Think of sales as a competition in which you are competing against everyone around you. You can guarantee that any opportunity that had been fed down your pipeline is being actively pursued by an opposing company. Everyone wants a slice of the cake and nothing will be simply handed over to you.

2. Work SMART, not HARD.
My director of sales has this written on his whiteboard. Working in an efficient manner is an ideal trait in a salesperson. It doesn’t matter how many hours you put into something if it is not an effective use of your time. Avoid doing ‘busy work’ which won’t bring you closer to generating a sale. Generate an effective game plan, constantly adjust it based on the results you find, and continue hammering away.

3. Follow Through.
In the business world, following through is one of the most important characteristics. If you tell a client that you will have a quote or report to them at a specified time, you better make sure you have it to them by or before then. There are no more excuses, this isn’t college anymore where professors will adhere to your methodically explained excuses.

4. Can’t Be Afraid To Fail.
If you are afraid to fail, you’ve already lost. Think of baseball, Ted Williams is perceived by many as the greatest hitter to ever play on the diamond. Yet, in his best season ever, he was getting a hit approximately 4 out of 10 times. This means he was failing 6 out of 10 times. Sales is similar to baseball in that regard. Odds are you will fail far more frequently than succeed. However, it’s all about maintaining your composure because when you do get that hit, the cognitive dissonance in your choice to become a salesman immediately vanishes.

5. Self-Motivated. One of the major appeals of the sales professional is the flexibility it allows you. Many companies, including my own, do not require you to be in the office much and even stress the fact that they would rather have you out of the office in meetings, with clients, etc. This takes a certain degree of discipline and self-motivation. At the end of the day, you don’t have someone providing you with a linear path of what your day will consist of. Instead, you must construct a schedule which maximizes the use of your time. Do not take the freedom for granted, rather, think of it as an agreement of trust between you and your employer.

6. Listen.
Stop trying to sell your customers with a pitch or what you think they want to hear. Close your mouth and open your ears. When on a conference call or at a meeting, a prospective client will often tell you EXACTLY what problem they are facing and WHAT THEY WANT to solve it. While having a 15 second elevator pitch is always handy in quick encounters, the most important habit is becoming a strong listener. Stop thinking about what you’re going to say next and take a true interest in what the person you are speaking to is verbalizing.

7. Network, Network, Network.
Building up your pipeline is the most valuable tool a salesperson has. When interviewing with companies, they will often ask you if you have a target account list or list of pre-existing accounts that you have done business with. These accounts / contacts add value to you as a person. Your personal network adds value to a company potentially interested in hiring you. This is why taking advantage of sites like Linked In and local networking groups are an absolute MUST in sales. Nowadays, following up with a client is not simply an email anymore, adding them on Linked In is a huge advantage readily available. By connecting with that person, you now have access to their network. Continue this process and in a matter of months, your connections will dramatically increase and hopefully yield increased sales as well.

The list of characteristics could surely go on with no apparent end, but those are a few which stand out in my mind. Don’t take my writing as a deterrent to entering the sales professional because as I previously stated, it can be one of the most rewarding jobs out there. The flexibility and freedom, combined with the limitless earning potential makes it an attractive option to anyone that has the properly aligned salesman skillset. In wrapping up this post for Aghanomics, I will provide you with one final recommendation; always remain informed and aware of what’s going on in the business world around you. Take advantage of sites like Forbes.com / INC.com / businessinsider.com / etc. Spend at least a few minutes each day sifting through the articles, it will only help you in the long run in creating a more highly sharpened business professional.

Cheers,
Rick
http://www.linkedin.com/pub/richard-chrisos/45/485/435

You Tweeted What??

Now more than ever, you are what you post on the internet. Your “internet footprints” are larger than ever, and if you’re not careful, those prints can come back to bite you in the ass. Always be cognizant of the implications of what you post, and consider if what you are posting is consistent with the image you want for yourself. I often see ridiculous tweets, and am baffled by what must have been going through that person’s mind when they posted it. Here is one that really blew my mind:

“Ok im going to sleep now time to dream about my fat bitches, n im talking fat bitches with at least 4 rolls”

Wow. Can you even imagine if an employer saw that? Or what about a new connection you just made? Thoughts like that only belong in one place, and that place is your own mind. The way to best use social media is as a tool, not as a personal mind dump to post any and everything. Each tweet is literally visible to millions of people. Down the line, a tweet could really damage someone’s career, especially if their employer wants to do any easy/routine digging. Furthermore, this is all particularly relevant if you have any interest in a government job.

Around my sophomore year in college, I started learning why social media is so important for building valuable connections. That’s when I really began networking on LinkedIn and began using Twitter in a more professional manner to try and create a reputation for myself as a problem solver. Before you leave college make sure you have the following:

1. At least 150 connections on LinkedIn.
      Anytime you meet someone of importance, make sure to add them on LinkedIn and follow up with a message.

2. Post interesting articles to LinkedIn and view a lot of people’s profiles. This is a great way to get noticed.

3. A solid Twitter following that is based around your career and not just your friends from Facebook.
     Tweet with keywords in your message body. I guarantee you if you tweeted something like “10 SEO tactics to help bolster your customer acquisition ” that you will get at least 1 follow from an account that is about SEO (search engine optimization).

4. A solid reputation and being recognized within your network as a valuable resource.
      This takes a lot of time, and a lot of effort. Be there for people when they need you and be generous.

Social media, when used effectively, can make you seem like an expert in your respective field. It’s a very powerful tool that few leverage to its full capacity. Even I am not using social media to its full potential, but I am continuing to experiment with different tactics and strategies to help make my personal brand a very respected one. It’s not easy, but nothing in life worth having is.

If you do not have a LinkedIn, create it and here is your first connection: http://www.linkedin.com/in/kareemagha