Salesperson Of The Year

It is you -- the media salesperson -- I feel most aligned with when sharing my experiences inside this column. I understand the pressures and disappointments you endure. I feel the exuberance you contain when hearing you've been recommended for a buy, followed by relief and a second celebration when you learn the plan has been approved.

I admire your tenacity and am awed by your creativity. It is you I have defended, as clients and buyers unfairly hold you accountable to return actions beyond your control, for the consumer attention they purchased. It is you I feel for when a media buy you're so right for becomes contingent on a demand for integration that feels inherently wrong.

I know all of your bad habits, too. The lunches spent with colleagues and friends in the industry that eat up sales time while showing up on your expense reports as clients. I know how much time you spend on personal to-dos instead of work that needs to get done. And I can hear the personal communication conducted during the workday that erodes your own productivity.

You are not perfect and yet you have perfected how to get this job done well for years -- but well isn't good enough anymore. We are in the midst of the most challenging times of our careers. This fact is not going to change anytime soon -- so you have to. I doubt anyone at your company will share this with you as directly as I am now: Your job is as secure as a sixth-grade boy at his first school dance.

I have had the unfortunate experience of both handing out envelopes containing a separation agreement and feeling the devastation of receiving one. So I know what helped sway my selections and I know how much it hurts. Here are some steps you can control that may help you avoid being asked to walk out the door carrying your belongings and ego stuffed in a box.

Starting today, you must approach your job with the goal of winning "Salesperson of the Year," regardless if the award is really given. Anything less than this type of effort will leave you exposed despite how much revenue you book. Your account list is not really yours and is easily transferable -- so don't make the mistake of thinking you're safe in this environment. Assume head counts will be reduced in 2009. These next steps (among others) can reduce your chances of being let go, while also acquiring characteristics worn by the salesperson of the year.

1. Arrive at the office earlier. Bosses and bosses' bosses all notice what cars are in the parking lot before they arrive, or what lights are turned on before they turn on their own. Beating everyone else into work is something you have complete control of. Even if this means getting in by 7 a.m., adjust your morning routine in 2009 so you can be the leader in the clubhouse every day of the year.

2. Stop fudging your expenses. There is no easier way to be vulnerable than flagging an expense that isn't valid. Take this risk completely out of the equation. Whether it's one lunch a month or one a quarter, this is not the year to spend a company dime against anything but clients and buyers on accounts you have targeted to win.

3. Eliminate personal communication during the workday. No more emails from friends or cell phone calls from family. I assure you your managers hear these private conversations. This may appear drastic -- but this coming year calls for drastic changes and this one is a no-brainer.

4. Be more transparent. Tell your managers your plan to earn their praise by being the salesperson of the year and what key accounts you plan on breaking in 2009. Then tell the buyers on those accounts you intend to earn their business. This kind of brazen stance sounds awkward because it's so transparent -- but said tactfully, this puts buyers on notice you mean business when it comes to earning theirs.

Keeping your job in 2009 is not guaranteed. If you make the personal choice to come to work every day of every week with a goal to be the best in your building at what you are paid to do, you are guaranteed to feel great about yourself. And that feeling probably closes over half your deals.

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