The Selling Mindset: Career Strategies for Ascending the Ranks


The CFA Institute Annual Conference is an unrivaled opportunity to access high-quality, unbiased educational content that equips investment professionals with the latest thinking on critical industry issues. The 72nd CFA Institute Annual Conference will be held in London on 12–15 May 2019.

The Selling Mindset: Career Strategies for Ascending the Ranks

Eric Sim, CFA, offered delegates a series of strategies for progressing up the corporate ladder at the 71st CFA Institute Annual Conference. He based his advice on his years of experience in finance, culminating in his own managing director role at UBS.

Individually, his strategies may sound familiar, but taken together they offer a valuable road map for navigating an ascent up the professional ranks.

Adopt a Selling Mindset

Sim recommends becoming your own salesperson. Think of all the people whose support you need to achieve your goals — bosses, peers, subordinates, your employer in general — and start viewing them as your clients. Sell them on product YOU.

Successful selling is composed of seven steps according to Sim:

  • Identify targets to sell to: Give yourself a three-year window to sell others on promoting you through an organization. Don’t just target those who can advance your career tomorrow, but think about who might influence your career over the course of several years.
  • Build rapport and trust: Small gestures go a long way. For example, Sim recommends finding out whether your boss has children, learning their names, and acknowledging them on holidays and other milestones. He also suggests buying coffee for colleagues and peers who may have put in long hours or extra effort to achieve a team goal. These actions don’t take that much time or attention, but they can make a big difference in how you’re perceived and whether you’re trusted.
  • Identify needs: Consider your clients’ underlying needs, not just their surface-level ones.
  • Present solutions: Demonstrate how you and your work can meet those underlying needs.
  • Overcome objections: New ideas and change, in particular, often spark resistance, so anticipate potential objections and prepare effective rebuttals.
  • Execute: Do what you say you will do. Deliver on your explicit and implicit promises.
  • Follow up: Don’t let your professional relationships fizzle out. Identify new needs and repeat the cycle.

The selling mindset is the foundation on which the remaining strategies are built. It energizes and focuses all your other efforts. This is an important point because consistently practicing all of Sim’s recommended strategies is no small feat.

To climb up through the corporate ranks, Sim recommends the following steps:

  • Develop your negotiating skills.
  • Become a good presenter.
  • Build your network, particularly your professional network.
  • Construct a strong ethical foundation. Sim’s guiding principle as a banker is “Don’t sell a deal you wouldn’t be willing to buy yourself.”
  • Be resilient. Expect and prepare for career setbacks. It is par for the course, even for exceptionally successful people, to take some lumps, miss out on bonuses, have their pay cut to shift roles, get laid off, or be fired (even more than once).
  • Appropriately integrate your personal life into your work to help keep motivated on the job.
  • Prioritize your health and fitness. For better or worse, appearance factors into your brand and the perception others have of you. But more importantly, all the success in the world won’t matter if it comes at the expense of your health.
  • Practice extreme time management.
  • Build a strong and consistent personal brand. That means in person and online. Develop a solid social media strategy that delivers a consistent and professional brand across all platforms.

Sim also recommended making LinkedIn the hub of your social presence. Now that LinkedIn is owned by Microsoft, Sim anticipates increased integration between widely used Microsoft products and LinkedIn profiles. Moreover, Sim noted, LinkedIn is the only major Western platform accessible in China.

Sim closed his remarks with an invitation to connect with him on LinkedIn.

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All posts are the opinion of the author. As such, they should not be construed as investment advice, nor do the opinions expressed necessarily reflect the views of CFA Institute or the author’s employer.

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