For Crying Outloud Don’t Tell Me You are in Sales

Do you know the quickest way to alienate or mislead prospects and potential contacts?

You might be doing it every time you network.

How do you answer the questions, “What do you do?”

If you answer with a title, you are alienating or misleading.

A title in this situation is either a name for your position or a generalized scope of field.

“I’m a manager”
“I’m in sales”
“I’m in communications”

Say any of these and your inroads to beginning a relationship are pretty much over, conversation dead before it started.

You did not answer the question – what do you do?

You have randomly and generically assigned no meaning to your value whatsoever.  People are looking for a way to escape your vicinity.

Titles are meaningless

More often than not, titles do not convey an accurate portrayal of your position and value.  There are exceptions, of course.  If you are a Pediatric Oncologist that pretty much sums it up.  There are also those who are very elevated within their industry or career that they use a simple title to underplay themselves because their reputation precedes them.

But for the vast majority of us – titles stink.  Not only do the not reflect who you are; they also allow the other party to assign your value based on their own personal experience.

Poor insurance agents, they have such a bad rap.  People normally assimilate them with never ending phone calls, follow up emails and endless conversations about term life insurance – snore.  I worked in the financial industry in brokerage, banking and insurance and have yet to meet an insurance agent who truly wants to talk my ear off about term life insurance.  But the negative reputation precedes them.

There are a few out there that do fall into the stereotype, as well as unfortunate souls who have been party to their badgering and mind-numbing conversations.

If you are an insurance agent who happens to come across one of those unfortunate souls and you introduce yourself by your title, you have just allowed them in less than 2 seconds to immediately categorize you as the same as that other agent.

Do not think you are going to talk your way out of it to change their mind about you.  They have already assigned a value to you and will not be listening to how you are not that person, they do not care.

In telling the other party that you are “in sales” they will most likely translate that into “I’m going to try to sell you something right now!”  Why?  Because there must be some unwritten law that, as consumers, we much be subjected to the pushy sales person at least once in our lifetime.  It is never a pleasant experience and one we are not likely to forget.  That is the impression that stays with us, despite hundreds of interactions with solution-based, customer centric sales professionals.

Manager – what does that mean?  I have had managers who were awesome, mentoring leaders who cared about their team.  I have also had managers that didn’t give diddly-squat about anyone but themselves.  Which one are you?  Giving me just the title allows me to assign that perception to you.

It is not what you are called, it is what you do

Instead of using a title, try introducing yourself as the value you provide to your clients or company.

A friend of mine attended a talk I gave about networking and elevator pitches, which is in line with what I am saying in this blog.  He is an insurance rep.  I know, stop cringing.

After the talk he took time to think about the value he provides to his client.  He asked himself why do his clients work with him, what are their goals and what does he help them achieve.  He then assigned a new way to introduce himself and tested it at his next networking event.

When asked what he did, he responded, “I am a retirement coach.”  It is an anti-title because it is an unusual title that prompts a question.

The question is key.  You want that type of response, it means they were listening and have opened the door for you to paint your picture the way you want and engage them.  Just a word of caution: don’t get too cutesy, it will have the reverse effect.  If you assign a title that is so outrageous or cutesy people will assign it no value and not care to ask what that means.

It is not a matter of time

I am not a big fan of the two minute rule.  Coming up with two minutes to describe yourself equates to me two mind numbing minutes that I will never recover.  Do you realize most people stop listening after about 15 seconds, if you are lucky?

I love going to networking events where everyone has a very lovely, down pat 2 minute speech and when it is my turn I use all of five seconds.  The looks on the faces is awesome.

Short and sweet.  If you blurt out everything in two minutes what have you possibly left for them to ask you?  You have told them everything.  They will probably smile and nod politely and might even add a non-committal remark like “that’s nice”.  Conversation is one way and over.

Turn it around

Engage them, evoke a feeling, connect with a problem, use humor – be human!  You want to build relationships and that means connecting on some level.

An excellent way to engage another person is to make it about them.  Once you give your value – and they ask you a question – turn it on them.  Use them as an example, ask them a question to frame your response in a way that is meaningful to them.

When asked to expand, someone in sales (ick – I know) may ask, “do you have enough clients?” Other options could be starting a question with: do you find, have you ever, what is X like (some component of their business), what is your biggest frustration with, don’t you hate when and so on.

I have two segments of clients that I work with: those looking to move in, on or up in their careers and those in some form of sales.  I cannot assess which category a person is in by looking at them, or even hearing their title.  Someone may be in sales and be secretly looking to change jobs, industries or careers.

After receiving a question to my introduction, I might say, “let me use you for an example; if you love your job but are still struggling with building a solid book of business this is how I would help.” Then end with “…and if you hate your job, I am there to help you find and get the one you love.”

I say might because I do not have a down-pat response.  I have a good idea of what I want to say but never memorize it.  I want it to be fresh, relevant and real to the person I am talking to, therefore I vary it every time.

Now in following these tips, you might just find that you are the center of attention in the conversation.  That’s nice, but do not let it continue.  Bring it back to them.  Ask them questions about what they said, what they like about what they do, about their clients, markets, industry or company.  Give them genuine attention.

One of my favorite quotes is by John Wooden, “Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”

Your title is your reputation, your value is your character.

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

Brand Strategist & Career Coach

Certified Professional Resume Writer

Your Perception Is Just One of Many

After a completely exhausting day yesterday I was relaxing last night and happened to look out the window and noticed the moon.  It seemed barely lit and somewhere between full and half, unremarkable and easy to overlook.  That’s when I thought, wow, me and the moon are very mellow tonight.


Something else caught my eye and I shifted positions and that is when I noticed that the moon that I originally saw was a reflection of the true moon.  The actual moon hanging in the sky last night was bright and illuminating.  Had I not shifted my perspective I would have missed this reality.


We miss a lot of realities because we are unwilling or unable to shift our perception; sometimes we are just unaware that we are stuck.


Just because you see a certain situation in a certain manner does not make it true – it is just your perception from your own, unique perspective.  Refusing to consider alternate possibilities can be a dangerous; it can lead to miscommunication, misconceptions and missed opportunities.


I had started seeing someone and everything was going very nicely being in the initial stages of getting to know each other …and then there was a day.


I got a call one night and we had the normal chit-chat of exchanging how was your days then he made the remark of “I was going to stop by and surprise you but you were busy.”  This confused me as I was in all day and a surprise visit would have been nice.  Turns out he saw a car in my driveway that wasn’t mine and was alluding to me having “company”.


Now, had he just made a statement of there being an unknown car at my house that would have been one thing, but the continual alluding and insinuations made it pretty clear exactly what he has perceived to be the case.  So after listening to this for a bit and it finally clicking what he was trying to say I responded in a calm and pleasant manner:


“That’s my son’s car you moron.”


My son is out of town and I’m keeping his car here.  The moron and I are not seeing each other any more.


Had he approached this in a different manner things might have worked out differently; but he was dead set on his perception and didn’t allow the reality to be introduced which ended up with him making a fool of himself.


I find the worse case of assuming the worse-stuck in your own perceptions happen during the interview phase.  You think the interview went well then you don’t hear anything.  Then you begin to panic.  It goes something like this:


“Should I contact them, are they still interested, would it be pushy, what do I say, if they really like me they would call, maybe it didn’t go as well as I thought, they hated me, I know I blew it, I didn’t get the job.”


Whoa!  Stop the crazy train and get off!


There could be a lot of factors involved that you are not aware of in play here.  It could be anything from the person they need to talk to for the next step or final authorization is not available to there was a crises at the company that they needed to deal with immediately.


Rarely is filling a new position the top priority that pushes all other daily work events and crises in the shadows.  They have full days, a schedule to meet, clients to please, a job to perform – you are not the center of their universe.  Relax.


Yes, check in.  Send a follow up thank you letter immediately following the interview.  If you do not hear anything send a follow up about a week later.  Keep it light, let them know you are still interested and ask if there is any additional information they need from you.


There is a fine line between following up and stalking to be careful; but continue to check in.  You may not be their first priority but it will still keep you front in mind while they are trying to juggle their everyday work life with filling this position.


When you do hear back from them for goodness sakes do not tell them that you were thinking the worst!  This gives the impression of insecurity and desperation.  Just continue as thought it is no big deal that so much time has passed, has it really – you hadn’t even noticed.  Relax!


Your perceptions are going to be skewed by your own insecurities and vulnerabilities; it is normal and it is okay.  Just keep them to yourself so you don’t scare the prospective employer.  When you have the opportunity to hear a different perspective remember to shut your mouth and open your ears.  Truly listen to what you are told and listen from the perspective of the other person – it will give you much greater clarity and perhaps change your perception to one that is more in line with reality.



Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

Career Coach-Strategist

Certified Professional Resume Writer

Career Polish, Inc.

Their Perception is on You, Not Them

Guess who the kids are more afraid of...

My son’s dad is 6’4” tall and somewhere around 200 pounds – I’m a smidge above 5’ and maybe 100 pounds soaking wet so when I found out I was pregnant there were two things that immediately came to mind: “If it is a boy please take after your dad and don’t have colic.”  When he was born I knew my son would take after his dad and today at 19 my son is 6’1’ and about 190 something – whew.

Growing up I knew it would not take long for my son to surpass me in height, I was hoping to at least make it through elementary school.  We were the house where all his friends could come and hang out, eat and have a safe place to vent or ask questions.  All his friends were sports kids – football, baseball, wrestling, rugby – you name it these boys played it and they were all going to be big and eat a lot.  I knew I had to get in control of the situation quickly as I was going to have a lot of adopted second sons who towered over me.

So I did, I learned how to scare the crap out of them.  I knew I was successful when one day a gaggle of them were sitting around my table waiting for their favorite salsa scrambled eggs and they said, “You know Momma McDonald, you would think that we should be afraid of Jake’s dad – but you’re really the scary one.  We’re all kinda afraid of you.”  I put extra cheese in their eggs that morning with a smile.

I managed my perception because having a gaggle of teenage boys in your home is a frightening thought – giving them the opportunity to overrun it was terrifying.  I didn’t manage this perception by telling them to be afraid of me (they would have laughed) it was by my actions.  The “mom” look, the occasional smack on the back of the head, the voiced expectation of respect and controlled behavior – I set the tone.  And by the way, I wasn’t that scary as they are now all young men they know my door is always open and still frequently come by to say hi and hang out on the deck.

I thought about that conversation the other day when I was in a group meeting and we were talking about perception.  It was stated by a couple of people in the group that others need to realize that their perception is wrong and take actions to view it differently.  My tongue was bleeding I was biting it so hard.

You cannot tell someone that their perception is wrong and they need to change it, all I could think of is – seriously?  That would be like having a boss that you think is a total jackass come up and tell you that they are really a nice person and you need to change your thinking about them.  What would your reaction be?  As a whole people are not going to believe what you tell them – they will believe what you show them.  Big difference.  Big, big, big.  Huge.  Gigantic. Seriously.

Perception is something you create and as such it is your responsibility.  By trying to put it off on someone else you are being a big weenie.  Even if it is a poor perception and completely unintentional it is still your responsibility.

When I worked in corporate as a manager I tried to keep my team apprised of any technology or procedural changes as soon as possible so it made their life easier.  I once wrote a memo that had one little sarcastic comment, which I knew my team would appreciate (and they did) but management did not.  Oopsie.  It was brought to my attention that the one little comment could be perceived as negative toward the organization.  Oh crap.  That was not my intention but it was the result.  Crap.  So I had to be mindful of any future information I passed along that it could not be perceived in the same manner.  It never became an issue again nor were any future communications perceived as unsupportive.

Sure I wanted to tell management to get the stick out of their butt; however, it was not on them, it was on me – I was the one that said it so it was all on me.  I got my hand smacked, took responsibility and moved on.

If you are in a working situation where you are being perceived as uncooperative, unmanageable, or uncommitted (I don’t know if that is really the best word to use but I was on an ‘un” roll) then it isn’t up to your co-workers and managers to change their mind – it is on you to change your behavior to change their perception.

Take a look at your behavior, how you respond to others not only in words but in body language.  No more eye rolling or sighing when someone talks to you, no more “if I have to” type responses and no more crossing of your arms across your chest when someone tries to talk to you.  Taking ownership of your own behavior is the only way to change perception.  You created it and only you have the power to change it.

Realize that it takes a split second to make an impression or perception yet to change this takes a lot of work and time.  We fight change – good or bad we fight it.  So if you are off to change your perception it is going to take time and consistency.  One good day will not change someone’s mind.  It takes lots of good days, consecutively with the same positive intent before others will begin to think about changing their mind.  But like anything else – if it is something you truly want then all the hard work and focus is worth it in the end.



Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

Career Coach-Strategist

Certified Professional Resume Writer

Career Polish, Inc.