Imagine you’ve built a product. People ooh and ahh over how beautiful it is. And not only that, but then there’s a product launch. The whole company is aware and ready for it. Marketing is steadily cranking out pieces to introduce this new beauty to the world. The sales team is salivating, impatiently waiting to tell all of their customers and prospects about it. The CEO is raving!
And then, you snap out of your dream and back to reality.
In real life, there’s little old you. You’re quietly sitting at your desk, tucked away behind multiple monitors in the depths of Salesforce, capturing and analyzing data, processing contracts, building reports and dashboards that will ultimately be used to run the business and drive company strategy. But somehow, you feel overlooked and underappreciated, like no one even realizes you exist. It feels terrible and demotivating. I know because I’ve been there. We all have.
While clearly necessary, Sales Ops isn’t necessarily a sexy role. Of course companies need a team that can define processes, build systems, automate, report, manage data, handle contracts, process renewals, and more, but sometimes it doesn’t feel like it.
It’s easy to get riled up, to tell yourself a story that either you’re unimportant or that your bosses or the company just don’t care. They just don’t get it.
But not so fast.
Perhaps there’s another way to think about it. Perhaps there are steps you can take to get on other people’s radar.
Become the go-to expert
Let’s be real. Most people, by definition, are average. They simply put in a day’s work and go home.
Step one to getting noticed is being exceptional at your job. Not merely average but exceptional.
Do you have the skills you need to knock it out of the park? If not, it’s time to get to work building your chops. And if so, find ways to associate yourself to those skills so that when people need help, you’re the first person they think of. Create your calling card so to speak.
Do you build killer dashboards? Are you a contracting expert? Or a weirdo who gets excited about VLOOKUPS like I do?
Make sure people know it and offer to help them.
I promise when someone comes to you asking for a way to match a 20,000 person list of email addresses to contacts in Salesforce, they’ll love you forever when it takes 5 minutes instead of the countless hours they would have spent trying to figure it out on their own. They’ll get what they need and you’ll leave a lasting impression.
Like Marv says in Home Alone, “Harry, it’s our calling card…All the great ones leave their mark.”
Learn how to create value for others
This is key.
The thing is, though, that we’ve been trained since childhood to have someone else — a parent, a teacher, a boss — tell us exactly what to do. From there, we simply create a list of to-do items, checking the boxes off as we complete them, and then we sit back and wait, expecting big things to happen for us.
It’s not easy to unlearn, but that approach is completely and utterly WRONG.
Instead, we need to focus our energy on finding ways to create value for others. In the workplace, this means you stop focusing on only yourself and start figuring out ways to make the people around you more successful.
How can you make your boss’s life easier? How can you make her look like a rockstar? Can you anticipate the next request and proactively put something together? Instead of waiting around for your next set of instructions, take the initiative and create the report you know your boss will need so she doesn’t even need to remember to ask.
Another way to go about creating value is to solve problems. Is there a glaring issue you’ve noticed that has gone unresolved for some time? Instead of simply highlighting something’s wrong and adding one more thing to the leadership team’s plate (this is what everyone does), can you actually come up with a list of proposed solutions to the problem and then go do it?
Whether you’re in a leadership role or not, you can still be a leader. Step up. Put in the work. Help others. Create value.
Plan your day and learn how to prioritize
Most people show up to work without a plan. They know they have a million things to do but aren’t sure where to start, and rather than create a winning strategy, they tend to fly by the seat of their pants. There are typically two schools here:
- people who never write anything down and who will just show up and work on whatever
– OR –
- people with a to-do list of 100 items who are so overwhelmed that they’ll never actually manage to cross anything off the list
Which camp are you in?
Good. Now that you’ve identified the problem, let’s work to solve it.
It’s absolutely critical to plan your days and your weeks if you ever want to accomplish anything that’s worthwhile. Otherwise, you’ll feel lost, overwhelmed, and frazzled, and I hate to break it to you, but no one wants to deal with a frantic, stressed-out colleague day in and day out.
More importantly, you’ll never be able to produce awe-inspiring work that will make you stand out and get you noticed.
To start planning more effectively, put a system in place to manage your big ticket items and prioritize those over the urgent fire drills that always seem to pop up. Keep your to-do list short — only 3-5 items for the day. Focus on the few BIG items and realize it’s okay to let the occasional small things wait, especially email.
While everyone else is breaking the Guinness Book of World Records to read the flood of messages hitting their inboxes, you can calmly focus on the task at hand and create solutions that will solve real problems and truly benefit your organization. In short, create value.
Take a look in the mirror
Ready for a harsh dose of reality?
Ready or not, here it comes.
At the end of the day, no matter how much of an expert you are or how meticulously you have your calendar laid out, if you’re a difficult person to work with, people will go out of their way to ignore or avoid you, and that certainly isn’t the way to gain respect or recognition for your work.
Being difficult in this context could mean:
- having a bad attitude
- being overly dramatic or negative
- constantly complaining
- only looking out for yourself
- taking credit for someone else’s work
- not doing what you said you were going to do
- never taking ownership
Being around someone with these traits or even one of them is draining. It’s depressing. So don’t be Biff and don’t be Eeyore.
To get noticed, be acknowledged and counted on, you have to be a great colleague — someone who smiles, who knows their stuff, and who’s willing to lend a helping hand.
The quickest way to figure this one out is to ask yourself, “Would I want to work with me?”
The answer obviously needs to be an emphatic “YES!”
What if all these things aren’t working?
Be honest with yourself. Have you really done all of these things?
Do you repeatedly go above and beyond to the benefit of others and not just for yourself? Are you a great colleague? If not, try employing these techniques without looking for an immediate return or a WIIFM.
Building your reputation will take time and effort, and while it won’t happen overnight, you can start laying the foundation today.
If you’ve truly done all of these things (and perhaps a few others) and you’re still not seeing any results, it may be time to move on.
Maybe your boss really doesn’t care. Maybe the company doesn’t see your work as being that valuable. I don’t know — that’s something you’ll need to figure out for yourself. There does, however, come a time when you need to cut the cord.
Move to a company that emphasizes and appreciates the work you’re doing. Move to a role with more responsibility. Move to get out of your own comfort zone and challenge yourself to do even better work.
Bringing it all together
It’s clear this isn’t necessarily rocket science, but it’s still hard. Recognition from the right people is earned by your actions day in and day out. Sometimes it’s a grind, but consistently going above and beyond in your role, being the go-to expert others can count on, planning and prioritizing big wins, and being an amiable colleague will get you there.
Stay patient and stay hungry. The best is yet to come.
What steps will you take to become exceptional? How will you work to stand out from the rest of the crowd and leave others wondering, “Wow! Who is that?!”
Leave a note in the comments. I read every one.