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What I Learned From My Career Mentors (Part 2)

by Elaine Cercado


I started as a technical sales representative in a US$20 billion global company, which owned a brand that was always in the top 5 “most recognized brands” in the world during its peak.

I’ve always considered Bong, then our regional manager, my sales mentor. He taught me a lot about relevant skills in strategic selling and account management. Most importantly, Bong taught me all these by:

  • Being INVOLVED
  • Investing time to TRAIN & PRACTICE
  • REWARDING well

Being INVOLVED. In our weekly sales meeting, Bong would be present and would ask questions that were so simple but powerful. In a certain territory, account or project, he would ask: What’s the key strategy of our closest competitor? Who are the key influencers and decision makers? What’s our probability of winning and what can we do to make that 100%? To a starting sales rep who has not attended a formal training, these seemingly simple questions had very powerful impact. The questions facilitated our thought processes and our strategy discussions as a sales group. It also showed how engaged Bong was, or how he engaged us. He made us think and analyze, made us feel important and cared for, and always motivated us to win and continuously raise the bar.

Investing time to TRAIN & PRACTICE. Bong  would randomly do two things: One is to call a sales rep or consultant to the showroom and ask him or her to demonstrate our latest system (we sold  equipment that came with a software). Then he would call those who were in the office to join him to observe and provide feedback. The other thing is to tag along in a sales call- without much notice. He did not require the sales rep to set up an appointment for him, rather, he was tagging along more as an on the job training and coaching opportunity. At the same time, it allowed him to hear directly from and interact with the customer. They were precious moments invested by Bong to develop our selling skills. From these “random” acts (planned by Bong of course), I picked up effective presentation, demonstration, questioning, answering objections, closing and many other fundamental selling skills.  He did it the old-fashioned way, talking and moving around with us – as against the new methods of this modern world that uses email, Skype and SMS. When I became a manager, I got the chance to do these two things to my sales team, blended with some modern technologies to adapt to the environment we were in.

REWARDING well. As a sales person and team member, we could qualify for trip incentives when we exceeded our targets. Trips were bound for great destinations like Maui, San Diego,Gold Coast, Vancouver, Greece; and included spouses for free, 5-star accommodations, and fantastic organized team events. Our sales team always won, and always made it to the trip incentives. The saying “work hard, play hard” has never been felt more true during our trips. Our bonding as a sales team was tightened by all these experiences, and we have actually become friends for life. All of us also gained status as “Dragon club” members, an elite sales club for the top sales performers, within our company. Recent trends led the shift from trips to financial rewards. When I became a manager, I blended financial rewards with non-financial recognitions. I believe the collective joy when celebrating and recognizing group or individual wins can never be replaced by cash. So I applied the same principles of “work hard, play hard” – be it through movie outings to celebrate small wins, or grander beach resort trips to celebrate past year’s achievements.

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