Office politics: Do half as much selling internally as you do externally

My philosophy the first ten years in IT sales: Do your job exceptionally well and sell yourself to your customers, and don’t worry about doing so to internal execs and co-workers – the sales results will speak for themselves and your career will flourish. My philosophy now has drastically changed.

Perception is reality. Internal politics matter (unfortunately). Work hard on reminding yourself that 33 per cent of your sales should be to sell yourself internally, to your boss, your bosses boss, sideline sales teams, marketing, finance, HR, and others. In other words, never eat lunch alone.

Contrary to my two statements above, I am not saying to be an Eddie Haskell, brown-noser kiss ass. People don’t like that. However, if you can be excellent at your job, AND keep in the back of your brain to network internally, you have a higher probability of your career flourishing, as well as job security (30 years with one company is still possible).

Some examples:

  • I once saw a Field AE get himself promoted to an RSM role, after he did a terrific job at a presentation.
  • I once saw a sales manager receive marketing support and dollars on all levels for almost anything he wanted implemented because the marketing department believed in his capabilities so strongly.
  • I once saw an Inside Sales Rep be handed the next outside sales role at her company because she presented so well in front of her management team in a presentation skills competition.
  • I once saw a sales manager align himself so well with HR, that whenever he asked to terminate someone on his team, HR would give significantly less pushback than normal.
  • I once saw a sales rep give himself job security for life, after he did a sensational sales presentation in front of his bosses boss. Even after his boss was canned.

When it comes to big promotions, at times, many leaders across the organization give input, so make sure every internal and external contact you encounter only have positive things to say about you.

Call to action

When I am selling into an account, I talk about going 3 deep and 3 wide, i.e. if you are in IT sales, get to know 3 IT folks, 3 finance folks, and 3 operations/marketing/CXO folks. So with the same idea in mind, think about who you need to know, and be honest with who you don’t know. You just might have fun networking with new people too.

For example, if you are a sales rep, offer to buy lunch for field AE’s in two other segments. Take someone in marketing for coffee. Have a drink with one of the technical field sales reps. Ask an executive two grade levels higher than yourself for a mentoring relationship. Ask your boss’s boss for strategy on closing a deal. Book your Director on a sales call with a big acquisition account. Ask HR if you can be on the fun committee. If you get a chance to present ever internally, kill it.

You get the idea – talent and IQ matter. But alignment can weigh as much as hustle and results.

The quote “dare to be naïve” is true when it comes to learning. But be careful out there. Don’t be naïve. This is another skill in the large repertoire of skills worth developing.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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David Dorey
David Dorey
Director, Channel Business at Jolera. David has been in sales and a golfer for over 25 years, and will get rich or die trying at both.

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