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5 minutes with Mark Rothwell

Mark Rothwell is the Senior Vice President of Pareto Law. He graduated from Northumbria University with a degree in Communication and became driven to start his professional journey in sales.  Fourteen years ago, Mark started his career as a trainee in the executive division of Pareto. Today, he shares an inspirational account of the key learnings, challenges and accomplishments in his career.

How did you hear about Pareto?

I had a friend that had previously worked for Pareto and I really liked the sound of that and wanted to get into it. I joined as a young 21-year-old graduate with no previous sales experience. 

I worked in our executive division for a year then later moved to the graduate division. I started as a Business Development Executive and progressed to Business Development Manager, and later to Senior Business Development Manager as fast as I could. 

At that point of my career in Pareto, there was no upwards step for me. The only next step was to go into a Sales Manager role but didn’t feel that was right for me at that stage so I created the Business Development Director Position, which was a step forward in the sales ladder as a standalone salesperson, This position still exists today which I see as a real positive as management isn’t right for everyone. 

The reason why I wanted to stay in sales and not management was because I was motivated by money and did not want the responsibility of managing people. Yet through my success, I needed to take on two account managers because I had too many accounts to manage myself, and to my surprise, I found that I was really motivated by watching them grow as individuals and knowing that through my management I had helped them to be successful in their own careers. 

What were your childhood aspirations?

It was strange because I always wanted to be a salesperson. Something not many people grow up wanting to be. My dad was a salesperson and a Managing Director for a software business. I watched him sitting on the sofa with his laptop in the evenings, working hard. 

I also saw the lifestyle that was provided for me as a child. Dad had a nice car and took us on nice holidays. Because I had already watched someone working hard, I knew that if I wanted to be successful, that was the way to do it.

My ultimate goal was to run a business, which following my promotion earlier in the year I am fortunate enough to do now along with the other members of the Pareto SLT. 

What made you realise your potential?

I am naturally quite an ambitious person. I was always chasing for more, looking at the next step and finding ways to get there. During my early career, I would look at the people around me, and then look at those above me and think, how do I learn from these people? How can I improve this job?  

As a Manchester United fan I remember an interview with Wayne Rooney after he won the golden boot for being the highest goals scorer in the premier league, the interviewer asked ‘How do you feel?, his response was ‘I didn’t score enough headers’. I like to think that this elite sports mindset can also be used in business so when I was lucky enough to gain promotions, rather than focussing on what I was good at, I always focused on what I wanted to improve. 

I never doubted my abilities, I never thought, I’m not good enough for that job. I was always a risk-taker, I always wanted to go to the next level.

What are the skills essential for someone wanting to enter the industry?

The first thing, which I believe everyone ignores, is that you need to be a great listener. Everyone thinks that sales are about being confident and talking a lot. I am not the most confident person in the room. I listen. Understanding what people are saying to you and asking lots of questions is crucial. 

And finally, know what your goals are. You can have all the greatest skills in the world to be a great salesperson. But if you don't know why you are doing it, it is going to beat you. Sales are hard and you have more bad days than good days but it is highly rewarding. This is why you need to know where you are going so you can persevere. Focus on asking yourself, what am I doing this for? 

What are the things you wish you knew before you entered the industry?

I wish I took the advice that others gave me and utilised it. I tried to do it all my own way, I always fell into the trap of trying to figure it all out on my own. What I needed to do was listen. 

If someone would have told me at the start of my career to not be in a rush to get into the next step, to just accept where you are, enjoy it and become efficient in what you are doing before you move on, I would have enjoyed the job I was in more. I was always trying to get to the next step too quickly. 

The final thing is that I wish I had more fun, life is a game. So don't take it too seriously, What's the worst that can happen? If you're having a bad couple of days, it's not the end of the world. Just come in on the next day and start again with a smile on your face. 

What are the most rewarding aspects of your job?

What I love about what I do now is watching somebody with no experience become a full salesperson and then get the rewards from that. I enjoy watching a fresh graduate grow, giving them a chance.  Watching them buy their first house, go on the holiday of their dreams, become really skilled at the job, and see them do amazing in their role is what I find rewarding. I really enjoy knowing that at one point in time, I helped that person by giving them the job, training, or believing in them.

What are the most challenging aspects of your career?

The most challenging part of my career at Pareto was when I didn't hit targets. I had 6 months of not hitting the target as a Business Development Executive. That was the most challenging aspect of my time at Pareto. My confidence was low. I felt like I was trying my hardest but I don't know how to get over the hole that was in.

What got me out was listening to what people saw and taking on feedback. So I spoke to my manager at that time, who was very clear on what needed to be done. And when I put into practice what he was telling me to do, I started hitting targets.  

Right now, the most challenging part of my role is balancing. There is always something going on, a new challenge every day. Just when I think I'm going to have an easy week, there is always something new that comes along. Whether that is a challenge with clients, a challenge with a member of staff, or training, something comes in all the time so you never get a moment of rest. If I am not careful, I will end up working all day without a break or time to think. Honestly, I still need to get better at it. 

Did you have any mentors and how do you feel about looking up to somebody?

I had a couple of mentors. Some of which have been in Pareto and others from outside. I think mentors are extremely important. You should strike a balance of trust where you can ask them difficult questions and also show the weaknesses in your skills and personality. Your mentor is there to give you advice that your manager can’t. The great thing about a mentor is that sometimes they give you a different point of view and a different way of thinking which can help you achieve what you want to achieve.

What are the common mistakes graduates make in their early careers in sales?

They don't utilise the training that has been given. They try to reinvent the wheel and do it their way. They don't apply themself in the same way they might have done so before. To be a graduate you have to be an intelligent person and apply yourself to something to get those qualifications. But when they get into the working world they don't apply the same work ethic that they might have applied to get their degree. They take it for granted. But sales are hard so they need to keep working hard in order to reap the rewards.

Yet, at the same time, they take it too seriously. We see a lot of graduates struggling with mental health or get really down with rejections. They need to have more fun with it and be honest with their managers who are there to help them along their own career journey.

How do you think the sales industry has changed since you've started?

It has changed massively in the past 18 months due to Covid. Now, the majority of sales are done via Zoom or Teams as opposed to face-to-face. What has come with that is a more direct way of selling. No longer do you have one hour or two to consult or question somebody's needs. You have to be laser-sharp because you might have 30 minutes to grab the client’s attention, question what is important to them and pitch back relevant information. Otherwise, they have the option to leave the Zoom call. If you're not interesting in the next 30 minutes, they’ll turn you off. Whereas in a face-to-face environment, nobody leaves a meeting halfway through because they didn't find it interesting. They would have to stare at you and you would have more time. This is probably the biggest change in the past 18 months. 

From the business development side, no longer can you utilise one way of making meetings you’ve got to utilise all tools available. You've got to utilise calls, emails, video, voice notes, etc. Otherwise, you’re not going to get the opportunities that you need. 

What is your advice for any graduate starting in sales?

Figure out what you enjoy, what you want to do and the real motivation for what you're doing. The biggest game-changer in my career was when I figured out what I wanted to do, my motivator. Everyone's motivator is different. For some, it is recognition, career progression or even money. If you don't know why you’re doing it, you always operate at 80 per cent. When you know what you want and the steps to achieve it, you are most likely to operate at 100 percent because you're working towards a goal that you can envision and operate at your full capacity.


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