What two decades in sales has taught me.
I got into sales by accident. I was a sports management major in college and never thought I would be in sales. During college, my first job was with Terminix. My job duties were anything but glamorous. I spent my days crawling into small dark spaces to eliminate rotten and creepy crawlers. Then one day, unexpectedly, the head pest control technician left. Here was my chance to step up. In between jobs, I found myself striking up conversations with surrounding neighbors about free home inspections. By simply forming these relationships with people, I made my first sale. After that, I was hooked and became one of the best sales rep for the company.
Why is it when most people hear the word ‘sales’ and they run for the hills? No matter the career path we choose, we are all in some sort of sales. For example, as a server promoting food items, as an entrepreneur pitching ideas to investors or even as a doctor getting more patients. Even at the bar trying to ‘sell’ ourselves to the pretty girl at the other end. And when we go on job interviews and pitch our qualifications to potential employers. The biggest misconception with sales is you must be dishonest or unethical to get ahead. But, the best salespeople are the complete opposite, they are honest, likeable, great listeners and put their customers first.
Fast forward 20 years, I am still in sales. Here are the biggest lessons I have learned along the way.
Lesson #1: Rejection is part of life. No matter how hard we try, we cannot hide from it. Although no one likes hearing “no”, it translates to ‘next’. What can I do to improve the process in order to get a ‘yes’ the next time? This mentality of not giving up and focusing on improving enabled me to thicken my skin. Now I am fearless in conquering any challenges. The next time you hear ‘no’, do not simply give up, find a way to improve your skills in order to reach your desired results. You can not beat the person who never gives up.
Lesson #2: Self-confidence is the foundation of success. Customers do not buy the product or service, they buy because they like you. If you want a management or leadership role, you must build self-confidence. A great way to practice self-confidence is to stand tall with your shoulders back, look people in the eyes, smile and make sure to speak up. Self-confidence empowers great leaders to make tough decisions and reassure their team, which are crucial in life and business.
Lesson #3: Great relationships are formed through great communication. In an age where everything is communicated through texts, and emails, we are losing the art of communication. Sales requires us to strike up conversations and build genuine relationships. A major part of effective communication is listening more, talking less, and reading people. People do not care how much you know, until they know how much you care. When conversing, listen with intent and seek to understand the other person’s point of view. The more genuine relationships we build, the bigger our network, which will open more doors.
Lesson #4: Hard work beats talent every time! Sales is a numbers game. Keep working hard, do not give up, you will hit your goals. Sales reps are some of the hardest working professionals you will meet. They are ready to go above and beyond to hit their goals. The success equation is simple, the more you put in the more you get out. Be the first one in, and the last one out every day.
Lesson #5: A positive attitude is everything. Sales reps are human too, we have tough days. But what separates the best reps from the rest is maintaining a positive attitude. We know we will come out on top by staying positive and patient. Ways to achieve a positive attitude include smiling more often and demonstrating daily gratitude. When we see life in a positive way, positive things will happen.
Before you decide if sales is the right fit for you, realize it will prepare you for professional and personal challenges. I’m grateful I accidentally got into sales two decades ago. As an entrepreneur now, I continue to use the skills I have gained to help my team succeed. For those interested in working in a sales-driven environment, my biggest advice is to give it your best and enjoy the process. You will be glad you did.