There are two reasons people do not get into sales:
- They think it is beneath them and a menial business job
- They don’t think they will be successful
Number one is false. The truth is that sales skills are the most valuable to have for someone entering the business world. I have experienced this myself and have discussed with many business school professors, consultants, and professionals in all industries. CEO’s and other members of the coveted C-Suite are constantly selling. They have to sell their brand, products, services, vision, investments, and goals to customers, shareholders, and employees. In order to be successful that high up, you also need buy-in from those powerful around you in a company for the whole team to be successful. Any new ventures will need to be “sold” to the team in order for them to put the time and focus into setting it on a successful path. Executing a successful business strategy is just as important as the product that is moving onto the open market. Sales is a huge part of that execution.
Let’s be honest though. Most of us are not CEO’s. Most of us are fighting for our piece of the pie and just starting out. So how do I get into it? To put it simply, it was by accident. My plan was to go to some type of professional grad school right out of college, but that led to many rejection letters (cue the waterworks). Boo Hoo. Who cares? Nobody. That plan didn’t work out for me so I did the next best thing and got a job. What kind of job can you get with a scientific degree? Not too many in business, but I wanted to pivot towards it. So I began my career in sales, in what happens to be a highly profitable high tech industry.
I was not cut out for sales. As a quiet introvert without strong communication skills, it was difficult. Cold calling on the phone was tough. Cold calling in person is even more of a nightmare. Imagine…. You walk up to the door of a company you have never been to before and have never spoken to anyone who works there. You know that they could be a buyer, but need to make a connection to make anything happen. After walking through the door you ask the receptionist for someone who may be a buyer of the product or who is involved on the operations side affected by the product. They ask if you have a meeting… You say no. Eventually they get someone who will speak to you just so the awkwardness ends. And that’s how it starts. The uncomfortable feeling of butting into someone’s day who you haven’t met to talk about something they may not care much about. It was tough. I wasn’t successful for months until enough trial and error developed my sales skills to the point where people were glad to talk and I would be able to have them see the value I was trying to create for them and their business.
Eventually the meeting acceptances increased, my level of responsibility increased, and I was able to grow my territory by developing key relationships with customers and effectively communicating. In what college class did they teach us anything about these key business skills? Most friends of mine were scared to death at the idea of calling someone they never met before.
Starting in sales was the single best thing I could have every done professionally to secure a career that not only pays well, but teaches through experience the skills needed to keep growing within the industry.