Ed shares his story of success and how he got where he is today as CRO. It had very little to do with his career goals or what he thought his career path was supposed to be.
I’ve observed throughout my career that young, ambitious, and talented professionals have a tendency to put a disproportionate amount of pressure on themselves to know exactly where they’ll be in 5-10 years. As someone who’s conducted 1,000s of interviews even I’ve reinforced this pressure by asking the question of “where do you see yourself in 5 years”. To them, not having the answer to this question is the near equivalent of failure. My advice? Stop planning your career path.
I know what you’re saying, “But, Ed, how can I get where I want to go if I don’t know where I’m going?” Here’s the thing: if you had told me at the start of my career that I’d be where I am today as the CRO of an organization overseeing the full customer lifecycle responsible for marketing, sales, and customer experience I’d have called you crazy. It was never on my career path agenda. Furthest from it actually. I was one of those people who thought of sales professionals as slimey used car salesmen.
As I look back at my journey over the last two decades, I learned that focusing on 4 key things will open up career opportunities – opportunities that you may not have ever considered.
Own Your Own Personal Development
I cannot stress this one enough. Don’t wait for the company, or a mentor or a supervisor to give you training. Seek it out for yourself! There’s so much information out there in the form of books, whitepapers, vlogs/blogs, articles, podcasts (personal favorites are here, here, and here) and professional groups like AA-ISP. Put your self-led training into action by outlining your own learning path. this prevents you from getting into the trap of learning but never executing on it. It won’t happen by accident. You have to be intentional about it.
Risks come in the form of many different things: Do I hire this person? Do I smooth call or re-raise? Do I implement this technology? Do I give a discount to this customer? Do I take this new job? Do I bet on the Buckeyes (yes, always)? It was because I took risks trying new things, implementing new technology, bringing new ideas, and different ways of thinking to the company that I’ve found success. Taking risks inherently comes with self doubt. That’s not a bad thing. Doubt is healthy. It’s how you know you’re pushing the boundary and even if you fail you’re learning something. We tend to focus on why we shouldn’t take risks. I challenge you to ask yourself why you should. Now you’re focusing on the best outcome vs. the worst outcome.
Reach Out And Connect
This coincides with owning your development but is important enough that it deserves it’s own bullet. I’ve learned from other people over the past 20 years of my career. I’m the proof in the pudding – it was through networking that I am in my current role. It was through networking that I’ve been able to mentor and help other sales leaders. It was through networking that I learned how to implement a better QA and coaching program. Professional groups that offer local meetups are a great place to start. And, you don’t even have to reach outside your company. Take advantage of your built-in network and take someone in another department to lunch. It’s amazing what possibilities open up when you are willing to learn from and share with others.
I first learned this skill when I was running a tech support call center site and it’s served me well throughout my career. Early on at the call center, I found success when I mastered asking questions that got to the root of the problem and allowed me to accurately diagnose the problem. As I made the move to sales, I saw even more how leveraging good questions is what separated the good reps from the great ones. And as a leader, I learned early that if you stop asking questions you stop growing. It’s not about having all the answers but instead being resourceful to find the best solution.
Having a general idea of where you are headed is important but knowing the exact details of where and how can be potentially limiting. For me, I knew someday I wanted to be at the executive level. What I didn’t know was that it would have anything to do with sales. Focusing on my development, willing to take risks, make connections, and being inquisitive rather than tunnel visioning on something specific opened doors I never knew were there. So this year, why not try something new. As scary as it may feel, let go of those 5-10 year plans and focus on the present and making the most of the opportunities each and every day.
Ed began his professional management career in 2001 and has since led teams from 10 to over 1,000 people with responsibilities for sales, customer support, and marketing functions. Ed has worked for service, software, and distribution companies learning the foundations of delivering a powerful customer experience while driving value and effectiveness in the sales and development channels. Ed has also helped companies as a consultant to deploy efficient and effective sales and support organizations. He has participated, facilitated and chaired several executive groups centered on sales management, contact center management, and technology innovation. Ed has been a keynote speaker and guest speaker focused on sales deployments and customer management programs.
Ed has taken an active role in the community and served on two volunteer boards of directors for nonprofit organizations. Ed served as the vice president of the school board overseeing two charter schools in Columbus, OH where he was responsible for fiscal management and contract management while chairing the finance committee and the board recruitment committee. Ed also served as President of the board for a local soccer association where he was responsible for board operations, customer experience, public relations, and community development.