Debunking Misconceptions of a Sales Career

It’s unfortunate, but sales has become taboo for the freshly minted millennial college grad. I know when I was scouring LinkedIn for jobs during my senior year of college, I avoided any title whose description included a combination of “sales” and “work hard, play hard” like the plague. Tech companies in particular are guilty of this ‘pig covered in lipstick’ way of advertising their sales jobs, rather than simply being transparent as to why getting your ass kicked by prospective clients for ten hours a day is a great way to develop life skills.

When attempting to share my experience on building a sales career, I realized that one post just wouldn’t be enough. In this mini-series, I plan on debunking a variety of sales myths, and will (hopefully) provide actionable insights to help navigate the ups and downs of building a career in sales from ground zero.

Myth #1: Sales is 100% relationship building, and requires 0 technical skills.

Let’s trash this logic immediately. Sales can be as intellectual and technically intensive as you want it to be. I admit, when I was looking for jobs and thought of a sales career, I thought of back-room dinners with slicked back gray hair 40-somethings spewing raunchy jokes, sipping whiskey, and lighting up cigars. What I came to find is that the modern-day sales job is more creative problem solving through data analysis, A/B testing, and optimization of processes than smoky room steak dinners.

So, how do you turn even the most ‘Mad Men’ sales into not only an intellectually stimulating position, but also one that fills up your bank account with juicy commission checks? Well, even the most junior salesperson has a daily process that can be tracked, tweaked, optimized, and automated.

1. Track everything.

Create a daily schedule, and track everything you do throughout the day. Don’t set input goals, simply track them.

2. Keep doing what works 80% of the time, and tweak the rest.

Test cold calls at lunch, and see what your call-to-conversion rate was compared to your late afternoon slot. If the subject line of your emails start with “just checking in” for the last six weeks, (other than the fact that you should never “just” be doing anything [your time is valuable too, don’t discredit it]), what other subject lines have you tested? Change your subject line for 20% of your emails for a week, and track your response rates. Did the “Howdy there potential partner!” subject line work three times as well? Make it the 80%, and test the other 20% again. What you are essentially doing is A/B testing every aspect of your function as a salesperson.

Rinse. Wash. Repeat.

3. Optimize.

Now you have a process that works pretty well with your activity inputs, you should be optimizing for more and more volume and customization with your research, calls, emails, and more. Let’s say you’re given a lead list by your VP of Sales, and are told to set meetings.

  • Can you ask for the list the day before and spend 1-2 hours of your night with a bottle of wine and LinkedIn profiles writing notes?
  • All of your emails/data tracking is done in Gmail and Excel? Time to build a business case for a CRM/Drip email campaign tool.
  • Emails not working? Call. Calls not working? Email.
  • Both not working? Back to drawing board on who might be a qualified prospect. Bring thoughts to your manager of creative ways to test new lead generation techniques and cold prospecting based on current clients.

4. Automate all the processes that have worked.

Anything that you spend more than 30-minutes doing everyday should be thought as a process that can be made more efficient.

  • Hire a college intern to load and schedule your emails for a month through a drip campaign tool like Persist.IQ
  • Grab Linkedin information using tool plugins / extensions like Charlie App
  • Schedule your calendar with tools like Calendly
  • Use a CRM like Close.io to auto-dial and manage email and call response rates

Every sales position is going to be different. Many young salespeople are completely fine playing by the standardized playbook, and those individuals will probably be fairly successful at their jobs. However, in my experience, the top performers have been the ones who would rather help write the playbook than play by it. Without a doubt, there’s an opportunity to be had in every sales organization for process improvement through data driven decisions and experimentation. It simply has to be sought out by someone curious enough.

Anthony Watson | Head of Business Development, ShipBob