I’ll never forget the first time I made my boss laugh. A national company moved production into my sales territory early in my sales career. I was lucky. I got a huge piece of new business simply because this company had a contract with the oil company that I worked for. I was in the right place at the right time and my selling skill had nothing to do with acquiring this business. My boss asked me, “So what did you do to get that new business?” I replied, “Absolutely nothing, unless you count being in the right territory.” He laughed. He said, “That’s the first time I’ve ever heard a salesman not try to take credit for something they didn’t do.” It seems that salespeople are hardly shrinking violets. They tend to inflate their accomplishments. Yet, taking credit for your accomplishments is a key part of your business success. I’m thinking that salespeople may overdo it—and women don’t do enough.
I wish I had a penny for every time I hear someone get a compliment and the reply is, “It was nothing” or some variation of it. Women are the worst, too. They tend to minimize their accomplishments and as a result their career potential gets minimized as well. Think about your last difficult project where you were successful. Did someone notice? Did that person tell you the results you produced were excellent? What did you reply? If you said, “It was nothing,” you missed a great opportunity to promote yourself. If you just said “thank you” that’s a start, but you haven’t done enough. Instead, your answer should be humble and powerful.
Here’s what I recommend. First, start by thanking the person for noticing your work. Reply, “John, thanks so much for noticing my work.” By thanking the person, you focus the conversation on the other person instead of yourself. That’s a humble thing to do. Then follow with something about the effort you made and why the results were good for the company, your team, or your manager. You could say, “I know it took a lot of time, and delivering a training program that decreases the sales cycle will help our team meet our goals.” By focusing on results you are talking like a leader—and they are the ones who get promoted.
I think women are uncomfortable talking about the results they produce at work. Why? They think they’re bragging. Just remember. It’s not bragging if it’s true. Saying nothing is unacceptable if you want to get ahead in business. Doormats don’t get promoted. People can’t read your mind either. It’s your job to promote your work in a way that demonstrates confidence and humility. Listen for the opportunity to promote yourself. When you hear a compliment, that’s a great time to respond with the results you produced. That means you have to be prepared with knowing the results you produce.
You may have heard the wisdom of finishing what you start. When you produce results at work, you’re not finished until you take credit for it. The last step in getting ahead is to humbly acknowledge your work. Now you’re done.