For over 14 years now I have worked in various sales roles, from being a tour guide in college to the buttoned-up role of a financial advisor and down to the less-buttoned up role of a Software Sales rep. My first true sales job was being a tour guide at Elon. I enjoyed my work as a tour guide back in a time before I knew of quotas, forecasting, funnels, and commissions.
I’ve learned a lot over the years, part of the reason I write this blog and have met all types of clients, prospects, and co-workers. All have had good and bad traits, I have seen driven and lazy, insane and sane, brilliant and stupid, and egotistical and modest. I can look back at my jobs: Tour Guide at Elon, Territory Manager at Black and Decker, Tool and Safety Sales at Ferguson, Financial Planner at AXA, Sales Rep at Cintas, Territory Manager at Verathon, Account Manager at MRI Software and Business Development Executive at Pereview Software and realize that each experience and interaction has taught me something. But here are 10 things I wish I knew before starting in sales
Nobody cares about you
I know it sounds harsh, but it really is that simple. Listen to your sales presentation, better yet listen to someone else’s…How many times do they say I, Me, We, or Us. Clients and prospects only care about themselves. That is not a bad thing. I am not saying that to be ugly to them. But it should be a wakeup call to you. Your job is to make the entire buying process about them. How do you solve their problem?
Avoid the Sales Roller Coaster
When I worked at Cintas they focused on weekly performance. It was a “what have you done for me this week” mentality. While I was there, I hated it. Now that I am a few years removed from the role, I look back and realize that it was the best thing for a new rep to learn. Every single week you need to be ready to “Rise and Grind.” Just because yesterday or last week or last month was good does not give you a license to chill. Likewise just because yesterday or last week or last month did not go as planned does not mean you need to throw in the towel. Buckle down and hit, better yet, exceed your numbers the next go round.
Every day is an interview
When I left Black and Decker, I went to go work for one of my clients. In fact, Ferguson was the third customer of mine to offer me a job. You never know where your next job may come from and you never know who may be watching. When I travel, even for pleasure, I always dress nice and make sure I am presentable. You never know who will be beside you on the train or plane. I also got the Cintas job from a referral from a previous job. In addition to every day being an interview, always be networking.
Have a mentor
I have had good bosses and bad bosses. But I have always had great mentors. Find mentors both inside and outside the company who you can bounce ideas off of and they can help bring you down from the highs and up from the lows of the sales roller coaster I told you not to get on. Some mentors may come and go in your career as you change jobs but others may stick around for your entire career. Also as you age in your tenure, be sure to find a mentee as well.
Just because your product is great does not mean you will make the sale
This can be a hard pill to swallow sometimes. People hate change and just because your product is awesome, may not be enough of a motivation to make a change.
The top is a lonely place
They say one is the loneliest number. If you are good, people will dislike you. If you are a great sales rep, people will flat out hate you. It is horrible to say but it will happen. People will say you got lucky, you have the better territory, you name it and they will have an excuse. Women, I hate to burst your bubble but you will have it harder than men when you reach the top. I am sorry but that is what experience tells me.
Don’t be a jack of all trades, master of none
Focus on what you are good at and do enough in the other areas to survive. For example, let’s say that you struggle on a cold phone call to set an appointment. But once you set an appointment you rock through the rest of the sales process. Many sales managers will try to improve your phone work. Resist that. Focus on your strengths and simply make more phone calls to make sure you get enough appointments.
Uncomfortable is normal
From doing role plays to making the first sales call in a new job. Sales can make you uncomfortable. Make that your normal. A cold call is uncomfortable in its nature. For you and for the person you call on. Embrace the uneasy feelings. Embrace the anxiety and harness its potential for good. No sales rep is perfect, no sales call will go exactly as planned. It is okay if this happens, just be ready to learn from it.
Preparation is Paramount
There is a common sales quote of Always be Closing – ABC. While I like what it is saying and understand that for most sales reps, this can be a good mantra. ABP is even better. Always Be Prepared! If you are winging it, you a preparing yourself for failure. Every call, every presentation, every meeting – EVERY DAY needs to be PRE-PLANNED.
Skip the busy work
The most important task you can do each day is communicating with your clients and prospects. The first task you should schedule on your calendar each day and week is your client time. After that focus on the stuff you “really have to do.” You may have mandatory internal meetings and other tasks your employer needs you to do. But if they are not at a client facing or mandatory internal meeting, you should only be focused on the important things.
Sales is the most rewarding job in the world. Financially, spiritually and emotionally the most rewarding job you can have. Every day you are put in the position to help other people! In addition every day, you get the chance to interact with cool, interesting and amazing people. Many of my customers and co-workers have become good friends. At my most recent conference for work, I had 68 clients in attendance and just about every one of them was greeted with a hug and a smile. You can’t ask for a better job than sales. Enjoy the ride.
Did you find this article interesting? Have added additional insights into things I wish I knew before getting into sales in my book, “So You Want to be in Sales?” You can find it here.