Armed with a degree in Speech Communications, Michelle Pluskota graduated college ready to enter the field of broadcasting. What she wasn’t ready for was the lifestyle of an entry level field reporter. “I wanted to live in the city and make money – neither of which were very likely in the short-term,” recalls Pluskota.
Fortunately, it was a time when the economy was strong, new companies were popping up, and there were plenty of opportunities for sales in hardware, software, and network. When the opportunity presented itself, Pluskota took a chance with a job in sales, and was surprised to find she was actually good at it. Over the past 18 years, Pluskota has built a successful career in sales and currently serves as Comcast’s Vice President of Business Services.
As Comcast continues to grow and innovate, so do the opportunities for a thriving career in sales. “It’s pretty cool to be able to be the first person to share what Comcast can do for your business with a customer that had limited options before,” explains Pluskota. “Because of this impressive growth, there are lots of opportunities to not just hit your financial goals, but to build a life-long career.
For those thinking about starting or growing a career in sales, Pluskota draws on her own career experience and shares some important dos and don’ts:
Do: Be Authentic. When it comes to sales, Pluskota explains it’s about the people and building trust, “Use your natural abilities.” She noticed that sometimes women make decisions based on what they “should” do or what their male counterparts are doing. But that’s the wrong approach. “Some of the characteristics often perceived as common amongst women like being empathetic, nurturing or being a great listener, can prove to be your biggest strength in sales,” says Pluskota.
Do: Make an intentional effort to build strong relationships. Work on building not only your external relationships, but internal connections as well. “Those internal cross functional partners can be the difference maker in terms of you being able to deliver on a commitment to your customers,” explains Pluskota. External relationships are just as important, as they can help you grow professionally, and often can become potential lead sources.
Do: Surrender to the “play” – whatever that is for the sales role you are in. It usually involves an approach that’s customized to the customers you’re working with and is tied to metrics, either daily or weekly. When Pluskota first started out in sales, she was responsible for 40 door knocks (or cold calls) a day. As she watched colleagues look for shortcuts and ways to cheat the system, those same colleagues had all failed a year later. “You lose nothing by surrendering to guidance given to you and you risk failure trying to find a shortcut,” notes Pluskota.
Don’t: Assume your boss knows what your goals are. Just hitting your quota won’t necessarily get you to your career goals. Always communicate with your boss what your goals are. “Part of this is asking for feedback from your boss, mentors, or those in your professional circle,” says Pluskota. “You have to be willing to take the good with the bad. If your boss gives you advice, be ready to take action!”