Why work in sales?

I honestly think everyone should work a commission only sales job at least once in their life. Not for just a few weeks, but for a year or so. The benefits are enormous. (By the way, I also consider almost all self employed jobs and paid-by-the-job kind of jobs “sales”, because whether a dentist or an attorney calls himself a sales professional, if he/she doesn’t sell their services, they won’t last).

I’ll try to outline the benefits in this post.

Why would I recommend everyone get a job in sales, when there is so much rejection, struggle, and hard work required to experience success? Why not pick some relaxed job at a corporation where you don’t have to work hard all day?

I can think of many different reasons why I’ve chosen my career in sales. But the following are a few of my primary reasons. They are the ones that keep me here, even during the times when I’m cursing my career choice. These are the ones that keep me coming back. And if you are considering a career in sales, these are  the top reasons you should consider.

1. It prepares you for business ownership. If your ultimate goal is to own your own business at some point, and leave the E or S quandrant for the I or B quandrant, there is almost no better training than sales. You will have to sell employees on why they should work for your company that doesn’ t quite exist yet. (I’ll never forget the looks on applicant’s faces, when I interviewed them for a position in our cafe–which was under construction. We sat amidst the rubble and sawdust of construction–very few could see past that) You may have to sell investors on why they should invest into your concept. You will probably have to sell your spouse or loved one on why you should push through those trying times during those tough beginning years. Sales–except for maybe accounting–is the best training if you want to be a business owner.

2. The opportunity to help other people. I’m putting this ahead of the income potential, because if you put this first, the income will follow. It is said that people want a “consultant”, not a “salesman”, so many sales organizations refer to their representatives as such. It’s also said, “people love to buy, but they HATE to be SOLD.” If you are a real estate agent (or any other sales pro) who is only concerned about commissions, you won’t help your customers get into the best deal possible–in fact, you may just push them into the most expensive deal possible, so you will receive a higher commission. Furthermore, your customers, despite what you may think, are smart enough to pick up on the fact that you are out to serve yourself, will feel SOLD, and won’t  recommend you to others. But if you truly focus on getting the best deal for your customer, word will get out, and you’ll have a line of customers waiting to work with you. And to draw upon a spiritual principle, almost every major religion teaches that by putting others first, you become a better person. If you have an opportunity in your profession to be 100% committed to helping others, you will improve as a person.

3. Income. Yes, the income can certainly be great. I have yet to find a salaried position with the kind of income potential sales can provide. There are countless sales sloors and organizations where the top performers make several hundred thousand dollars per year. What salaried job can even compete with that? Maybe if you stay with a major corporation for years and years. But the highest paid people I know, are either lifers at a major corporation and are living on 200K+ salaries in mid-level management positions, are Doctors/Attorneys/Dentists who had to build up their practice for years and years AFTER spending nearly a decade in school, are business owners who have made it through the gauntlet of their first few shaky years, or they are top performing sales professionals. I have seen sales professionals crack a hundred grand their FIRST YEAR of sales. And I’ve seen that a lot. It is one of the only professions out there where you can make that kind of money, with or without experience, and with or without an education. You have to be able to stick with it though, and be teachable, coachable, and motivated. Don’t expect to have it handed to you either, you have to get after it all the time. But if I’m going to put in my time working for someone else, I’d like to be able to at least have the POTENTIAL to make that kind of money. At least even have it as a possibility, and then I know what to aim for. Now, with all of that being said, not all commission plans are created equal. You can work as hard as you want, but you may never make six figures selling small ticket items–yet you will work harder, and deal with the same amount of rejection as someone who does make six figures.

4. Personal Development. This reason isn’t as glamorous as reason #4, but is far more important. The sales industry reminds me a lot of what my High School Wrestling coach told me after I’d been on the team for a month or so. “You stick this out, and you’ll be tougher than nails.” That’s really how a sales job goes. There’s something about starting at zero and working through a deal over and over and over that thickens your skin and tempers your perseverance. You become unstoppable. You increase in knowledge, people skills, general knowledge, etc, but the other intangibles are far more valuable. Just the confidence you have in yourself that you can get the job done is priceless.  I remember when I had a posh salaried position with a major corporation. I felt fat and out of shape–psychologically. I didn’t have to HUNT anymore for my income. It just came to me, week in, week out.  I finally quit after I realized what had happened to my work ethic. Was the money good? Sure, but not worth losing my edge in the process. Sales gives you your edge, and helps you maintain it. Survive and thrive in a commission-only sales job, and you’ll be an unstoppable force–able to do anything from this point forward. The primary ways I’ve transformed that have helped with other areas of life are things like persistence, goal setting, communication, reading people, understanding what motivates people and other things about human psychology, and just tempered steel-like self confidence.

5. The Thrill. Honestly, I’m addicted to the rush that goes with sales. There is nothing like running a big deal through. It’s addictive. I know a lot of guys in sales get addicted to drugs because they feel like they need them to sustain the enthusiasm and emotional “up” feeling they need to have all day. I never have messed with that crap. You don’t need to either. Get addicted to success and you’ll be fine, no matter how addictive your personality is. If you have to have some external help, you’re weaker than the guy that just needs himself and a telephone. Get addicted to the rush of success, and you’ll keep coming back over and over.

These some of the top reasons that keep me in sales, and are reasons I think everyone should try a commission only sales job at least once in their life.


Joking with customers always pays off

I don’t know of a single profession where it wouldn’t help your customer interaction to have a little fun with them. EVERYONE likes to be entertained, and everyone could use a break from the norm. And quite frankly, the norm is very very boring.

So if you are a salesman, show your sense of humor. Make your customers laugh. When you are funny, it shows you are comfortable. If you are comfortable, it means you are confident about your product, and if you are confident about your product, it must be a GOOD product, and worth buying. Your sales will go up if you can have some fun with your customers.

Same goes for an auto mechanic. This can be a very intense situation. But if you joke around a little, bring some levity into the interaction, it will go a long way to increase loyalty. A good sense of humor createts closeness, trust, and understanding.

So when all else fails, joke with your customers. It’ll pay off.

Be authentic

I have one two-word suggestion for politicians, sales professionals, teachers, customer service representatives, bloggers, and basically any profession where you interact with people.

Be authentic.

It’s surprising how rare this is. I talk to a customer service rep, and I feel like I’m talking to a script. I watch a politician read his condolences after a tragedy, the one thing you should definitely speak from the heart.  I get pitched from sales reps, and notice that when the pitch is over, their speech slows down, their language changes, and they become more, real.

Why is this? Why do people feel the need to sound like someone they aren’t? Why do we feel like when interacting with other people, we need to be scripted? And finally, why sound scripted, when being authentic is so much more endearing?

With the last decade spent in sales, I’ve seen time and time again, the top performing salespeople are the ones who are the most authentic–provided they match their authenticity with hard work. Yet so many try to sound like someone else, and just end up sounding awkward, devoid of passion, personality, and sincerity.

The same could be said for anyone else though. In this highly disconnected world we live in, it is so refreshing to run into someone who is truly authentic. I see it happen all the time with counter service employees at our cafe. They put on their “customer voice” when talking to customers, then relax, and are much more enjoyable when interacting

Try being yourself in the next interaction with a stranger, and you’ll be surprised how endearing and disarming you become, and how much more pleasurable the interaction can be. Do this by talking in your normal voice you use with your friends. Talk about something you really are going through. And be interested, genuinely interested, in the other person as a human being.

Regardless of your profession or who you are talking to, be real. Be authentic. Be you.



[Sales] Look at the top performers

One of my core life philosophies, is that if there are a lot of people who are successful at something, I can be too. If only one person is succeeding, he might be a freak of nature. But if a lot of people are able to do it, in fact if the top 10% of people are able to do it, then I firmly believe I can too. When I first looked into joining the very first sales floor I worked at, I looked at the sales board. I looked for the top numbers and did the math in my mind as to how much they were making. They were making more money in a week than I had made in a month!

Right after I went through training, I focused on the top performers, and what they were doing. I looked at how many calls per day they were doing, and at what times during the day. I even interviewed many of them, and asked them all kinds of questions. Things like how did they like their jobs, how did they think about their leads. I went to them for continual mentoring and training until I was a top performer too–and even continued to learn from them well after my numbers surpassed them.

I look back on that time, and I don’t even remember there being any small numbers on that sales board. I’m sure there were, but I didn’t notice them. The thought never entered my mind of “well, worse case scenario, I could at least do as well as THAT guy”, because I’m sure “that guy” was probably not making anything. I’ve never seen the point of focusing on or going after the bottom performers, and you shouldn’t either.

When you look at your sales boards and quarterly or 6-week averages, don’t look at the bottom feeders’ numbers thinking “well, at least I’m better than him.” Look only at the top performers, and resolve to be a part of where they are. Make sure that every second of every day, every ounce of energy you can muster is put into being a top performer. Learn from them. Interview them. Take them to lunch. Spend time with them and their success will spread to you. When you are frustrated, discouraged, or just feel like you’re in a slump–stay away from the bottom feeders. Do you honestly think they can help you?? They will only make it worse! Go to the top performers and their success and good attitude will do far more to help you.

[Sales] [Writing] Do it anyway

I found some guy’s blog who had written a poem entitled “So you want to be a writer.” Here’s an excerpt:

if it doesn’t come bursting out of you
in spite of everything,
don’t do it.
unless it comes unasked out of your
heart and your mind and your mouth
and your gut,
don’t do it.
if you have to sit for hours
staring at your computer screen
or hunched over your
searching for words,
don’t do it.
if you’re doing it for money or
don’t do it.

then later:

if you have to sit there and
rewrite it again and again,
don’t do it.
if it’s hard work just thinking about doing it,
don’t do it.
if you’re trying to write like somebody
forget about it.
if you have to wait for it to roar out of
then wait patiently.
if it never does roar out of you,
do something else.
if you first have to read it to your wife
or your girlfriend or your boyfriend
or your parents or to anybody at all,
you’re not ready.

What an absolute LOAD OF CRAP. If I were to write a poem about writing, it would go something like this:

Even if it doesn’t come bursting out of you
in spite of everything,
Do it anyway.
Even if it never comes unasked out of your
heart and your mind and your mouth
and your gut,
Do it anyway.
Even if you have to sit for hours
staring at your computer screen
or hunched over your
searching for words,
do it anyway.
Even if you’re feeling completely unmotivated…and the only reason you can scratch up is that you’re doing it is for money or
do it anyway…

And on and on.

Every book about writing I’ve ever read has advice far more like my example than the absolute line of bull that other writer had come up with. No matter what you choose to do, you’re never going to be motivated all of the time. But do it anyway.

How does this apply to sales? It applies perfectly to sales. If ever you are unmotivated, do it anyway. If you ever have a temporary bout of “call reluctance”, do it anyway. If you ever feel like you’re only doing it for money, do it anyway. If you ever feel like your company doesn’t appreciate you, do it anyway. Sales, like anything that requires motivation and proactivity, is a rough water job. And requires the internal fortitude to ride out the temporary storms that come from occasional set backs.

And what happens from “doing it anyway?” Well, just like a muscle when challenged, your internal fortitude becomes stronger. And you become more greatly armed to stare down the wrath of the next set-back.

So no matter what reason you can think of NOT to make that next sales call, do it anyway.

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