07/08/2013 09:12 pm ET Updated Sep 07, 2013

A Roadmap to Success: Find a Coach

"If I wanted to become a tramp, I would seek information and advice from the most successful tramp I could find. If I wanted to become a failure, I would seek advice from men who have never succeeded. If I wanted to succeed in all things, I would look around me for those who are succeeding, and do as they have done." -- Joseph Marshall Wade

I am 50 years old and have worked for only three companies. During that time, I have seen more than my share of salespeople and sales managers fail or under achieve their company's expectations.

One truism that I have found over the years is that there are many top performing individuals willing to help you become successful. You either have to ask or do your homework to understand what has made them successful. It is easier if you just ask for help!

When I started in my sales career, I was 22 and made a whopping $15,300 my first year out of college. You get the picture; I was struggling to make ends meet. My career of choice (not really because I only had only one job offer) was to sell capital equipment to PhD's in which I neither related to nor understood most of my conversations with. I drove an old rusted out yellow Plymouth Duster, carried a plastic Samsonite briefcase, and wore polyester blend pants, ties, and sport jackets. The good news about my attire is that I wasn't worried about spilling coffee or food because my clothing tended to repel whatever was spilled. I was going nowhere fast!

I knew something needed to change relatively quickly and I was desperate to make some money. So I went to the top performing salesperson in our company and asked for his help. I was surprised to learn nobody had done that before. He was more than happy to sit down with me and share with me not only his sales strategy and his presentation, but also all the nuances (stages in his sales process) of getting customer commitment.

I was smart enough to take his advice verbatim and even emulated the way he dressed from the suits he wore all the way down to his Allen Edmonds shoes which I still wear today. The end result was that by the time I was 26, only four short years later, this top performer was working for me. The turning point in my career was when I took it upon myself to ask for help.

It still amazes me how willing people are to help if they would just be asked. It seems that the more successful the person, the more they want to help. But what is their win? Sometimes the simple satisfaction of helping someone succeed is enough.

Years later in my career, I remember trying to get a meeting with a big chemical company in Chicago. From my research, I knew this organization was heavily represented at a specific association so I decided to join it. I went as far as attending the annual conference in Phoenix to get a meeting. As I signed up for the golf outing, the signup sheet asked who I wanted to be partnered with. I wrote down anyone from that chemical company.

Not surprising, my golf partner for the round was one of the company's executives. We built a great relationship over the round and actually became friends. Over the following months of interaction, this individual was able to help me schedule a meeting with "the" senior executive because I asked for his help.

Prior to my meeting, I started to feel guilty because of the way I had attained the meeting and wanted to come clean with my contact and let him know that our meeting at golf was not by chance. When I told him what I had done, he did not flinch and said he already knew. He said he was not scheduled to play golf that day but the association had called him stating that someone had requested to play golf with someone from his company! He wanted to help me out regardless of what was in it for him. All I had to do was ask for his help.

An important point is that you can get help from individuals (even make them a mentor) without ever meeting them or them knowing they are helping you.

My dad was a coach to me. I observed how hard he worked to feed a family of seven on a straight commission paycheck. I learned about hard work and to be grateful for the job I have. He was always full of joy because he was able to work. His company was never cheated out a day of work.

Brian Tracy, the great motivational speaker, was a coach to me. Although he could not pick me out in a crowd and I have only met him one time, I have absorbed all the information he could provide in the CD recordings, along with books he has written. Unbeknownst to him, he had a profound impact on my life.

Mark Shonka, President of Impax, was a big influence on my personal style as a consultant, public speaker, and the reason I am in this business today.

Dr. Alan Zimmerman, a Hall of Fame Speaker and author, showed me how to set goals that stretched my comfort zones and held me accountable. I don't think there is anything as important as challenging yourself to become better by setting aggressive personal goals.

Over the years, I have learned what I can from each individual while understanding no one is perfect or has all the answers. However, it was always my responsibility to seek and ASK for help.

What is an area in your career or personal life where you would like to improve?
Who might be a great coach for you in this area?