29 years ago, I graduated college and took my first sales job. Let's be honest: I sucked at it. I began to think that maybe people were right: sales was what you got into if you had lousy grades or couldn’t find a job elsewhere. However, that quickly changed once I started working for a company where I was more of an account manager than a sales rep. I had to wine and dine customers to keep them buying (rather than look for new business). I enjoyed it, but the income potential was minimal.
After many years, I found the right job and opportunity to afford lifestyle I wanted for both my family and myself. My only regret? It took me too long to figure this out. Sales can be one of two things: the hardest high-paying job there is, or the easiest low-paying job there is.
From my own experience, and from watching other successful sales reps, I have realized what the most successful sales people do:
- Successful sales reps don’t have a desire to succeed; they have a need to succeed. They look at their sales career not as employment, but as being the president of their own sales company. You’ll never work as hard as you do if you’re working for your own company. They realize that a sales career is like starting your own business (without having to raise investment capital or create a product).
- Successful sales reps are humble and confident. A salesperson who thinks they know all the answers usually earns the lowest income. Successful reps project confidence in what they’re selling, but are humble enough to know that there is always someone who knows more than they do. A successful salesperson is constantly learning.
- Successful sales reps are comfortable with being uncomfortable. They’re willing to meet with the person who has the power to say yes or no to their proposal. Regardless of circumstance, they’re willing to ask their prospect the questions they don’t want to answer: what’s the pain? Once the sales rep has that information, they bring it up again and again until the prospect is either ready to address it, or kick them out the door.
- Successful sales reps are willing to work hard. They don’t punch in at 8:00 AM and punch out at 5:00 PM. They must practice their presentations until they know it inside and out, and present it immediately if awakened from a deep sleep. They spend “sales hours” doing “sales things.” It’s imperative to be in front of, or work to get in front of, the right people.
Why do salespeople work so hard? A low-salaried, high-commissioned salesperson has no ceiling to their income. They can choose to work as hard or as easy as they want, but their success (or lack thereof) will be easy to see. Twenty-nine years ago, I took a sales job because I thought it was easy money and an easy job. Years later, I’ll leave it at this: I was only half-right.