Solving the Sales Puzzle

Lamp maker. Driving range golf ball picker-upper. College shuttle van driver. Gap clothing folder. Same thing at Old Navy (no fashion awards for this guy). Barista. Pseudo-barista at Starbucks. Heating and cooling installer. House painter. Biology lover turned economics major.

After college, I interviewed at the same bank for four separate jobs. Four times I was told no. Eventually they told me the reason: I would probably get bored. They were likely right.

Let’s scoot ahead a bunch of years. Today, I hire sales people on a regular basis, and I’ve found that the so called cookie-cutter sales background? It doesn’t really exist. Yes, some of you may leave college with a sales emphasis, and that’s fantastic. I'm so glad to see that’s a thing now. But many of you will leave college to become teachers or social workers, lawyers or bankers. Some of you may one day ask, either as a recent graduate or a job candidate: would I be happier in sales? Maybe?

The reason why I dig this job, likely would have snapped a dozen number two pencils just for kicks at a bank, and why you may like sales is the unpredictability of humans and the demand to find a new, better way over and over again. For example, you may have a call at 9:00 AM that goes better than you would have expected, do the exact same thing at 10:00 AM and the result is completely different, leaving you to ask: why would someone ever buy from me again? What happened? Your pitch was the same. The industry was the same. But the result? Complete opposite.

People are puzzles of emotion, cognitive bias, budget, whatever they ate for breakfast that morning. Sometimes the puzzle is Doc McStuffins, 25 pieces, the kind that my three-year-old Lucy could complete. Other times the puzzle is like the one with no edges, slightly different shades of blue, creating seemingly endless frustration. The challenge is to try and figure out what’s inside the box before you open it, and then to find the pattern as quickly as possible.

Sure, there are many reasons why people get into sales and why they stay. But for me, it’s the ever changing puzzle that keeps me here, and probably what got me here in the first place.

Josh Fosburg