Work 1% Harder – How to Move Up in a Big Company

New home – new mortgage – no job.

About 10 years ago, my wife and I had just purchased a house (again), when I received an unexpected call from my boss.

“Steve…I’m going to have to let you go. This isn’t working out.”

With a new mortgage, plenty of home repair projects lined up and a boatload of bills, I was not a happy camper.

But, this wasn’t the first time I had lost a job so I knew what to do. 

My home-away-from-home for the next 6 years

Two weeks later, I was hired for an Inside Sales position with Citrix, one of the region’s biggest software companies.

Having been in field sales and management for the previous decade, I wasn’t looking for an inside role. It was clearly a step backward for me.

However, I needed a job. I wanted to try working in a larger, more stable company vs. another SMB startup, and I really connected with the Director of Sales who would soon become one of my all-time great mentors.

Plus, I had job offers from two local VARs, so I could always jump back into SMB Field Sales if this didn’t work out.

Fraser – a trusted friend whose advice changed my career trajectory.

A week into the job I wasn’t sure this was going to be a good fit. Even though the company was rated a “best place to work” and many employees seemed happy there, it was a huge change for me coming from 10 years of working remotely and independently primarily as a Field Sales Rep.

I called my longtime friend Fraser, to get his advice on working for a big company. I explained the situation:

  • I was no longer “the man” – we had 10 Inside Sales Reps on my team and 100s in the company.
  • I was the oldest and most experienced rep on my team – by far.
  • My new boss spent little time managing me, which was fine with me.
  • The pay was less than what I had made in the last 8 years.

He said, “Steve, you don’t have to be ‘the man’ in a big company. All you need to do is be just 1% better than everyone else and you’ll quickly rise up in the organization. Just do what you know how to do well and work hard. Commit to it for a year and you’ll be surprised at how it pays off.”

Fraser’s advice changed my life. I made a decision to stick this out for a year and put everything I knew into making this work.

  • Instead of twiddling my thumbs until corporate could get me leads (which took two weeks),  I called every reseller in my territory and offered to call their leads for them.
  • Our Sales Deck was terrible, so I created my own and practiced it on the weekends until I got it down.
  • When I saw others on my team struggling, I offered advice and assistance. My tech sales background put me in a position where I could really help out the younger reps.
  • My territory was down a Field Sales Rep and a Sales Engineer. But that didn’t matter to me – I was used to running sales on my own without help so I just dove right in.

Although I still wasn’t sure how to work within a Corporate environment, I figured I’d focus on selling the way I knew how to and would ask for forgiveness later if I committed any corporate faux paus.

The results were life changing. Over the next 6 years, I was promoted five times. I made President’s Club and was sent on an all expenses paid trip to Barcelona. My total compensation in the first year equaled what I had made in my previous job. Every year after that, my compensation increased substantially. I received one life-changing commission check that enabled me to move from perpetually living in debt to being above water.

I won’t insult you and say this was all due to my hard work. I’ve worked hard most of my life and results were not always this good.

I was fortunate to have been in the right place at the right time. I had a great boss who mentored me and promoted me. The company had excellent marketing, solid products and good employees.

But I also know that if I hadn’t given 150%, or if I had taken one of the startup jobs, I wouldn’t have made it to where I am today.

I am not a fan of working in Corporate America. I prefer working for nimble startups and SMBs. I like to work with small teams of dedicated individuals all hustling toward a common goal. I get impatient with bureaucracy and find the strategy of “using layoffs to meet revenue forecasts” despicable.

That said, I am grateful for the training, the experience, and the money that working for a large corporation gave me.

Without this opportunity, I would never have learned how to manage large sales teams. I would not understand the dynamics of working for a public company with quarterly driven revenue objectives.  I would have missed out on too many relationships and experiences to count.

None of the startups I worked for could have afforded to develop products and grow teams at the scale that Citrix did.

Whether you are are in your first sales job or are a seasoned startup sales veteran joining a large corporation, I urge you to not settle for being average. Do your best, try to be at 1% better than the people around you and give it 150%.

The results may change your life too.

If you want some help building your sales team or improving sales, contact me here. I’d love to hear from you. 

If you would like to know when not to buy a house, give me a call. 

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