You are in sales!
Yes, that’s right you are in sales.
We are all in sales.
Not a day goes past when you are not selling something – unless you are a hermit living in a cave in which case it’s unlikely you would be reading this anyway.
We are often selling ideas, ourselves, actions, facts, arguments etc.
But of course, sales to most people means selling something to someone who may or may not need or want it.
I often hear from some of the most surprising people say that “I could never be in sales” or “that’s much to salesy for me”.
Often these people are already in sales but just don’t consider themselves as sales people.
But could they be a sales rep?
Of course, we have some fancy titles for Sales representatives these days, Sales managers, Business development manager, Account managers, Sales engineer, Sales executive but in the main they are all sales reps with some specialties or a particular market niche.
But to answer that, let me tell you my story.
My career in sales started as a young National Service Manager Part of my job description was to go out and talk to some of customers about maintenance programs for our products. It was easy!
After all we manufactured heating and hot water systems and most customers wouldn’t want it serviced by anyone else especially, as at that time, there really wasn’t anybody else.
As I progressed up the food chain I employed sales people to do that job for me as I was too busy pushing paper around my desk.
As these reps sold product as well, they were well rewarded and even though I was at that time one of the executive team they were earning much more than I was and they were getting pats on the back from the MD as well.
It was at that time that I decided if I ever got the chance I would go into sales full time.
That chance came quicker than I thought when I left the company to go travelling for a few months.
On my return, I soon found out that specialist service managers were few and far between so I elected to go into sales as there appeared to be quite a few sales reps jobs around.
In took 6 months to get a job as a sales rep.
I applied for 100’s.
I was either overqualified or lacked sales experience and networks or a combination of all three.
When finally I cracked it, the reason was because of my experience in the construction industry not my individual sales potential.
And it didn’t take long before I realised that being a sales rep was hard, really hard.
You see the thing is that you are trying to get meetings with people who really don’t want to talk to you. Usually about products or services that they are not that interested in unless there is a big benefit to them.
The one thing I learned is to leave your ego at home otherwise you wouldn’t last too long.
Going to see people you didn’t know and present your case can be scary for a lot of people.
I’ve heard of some reps who will sit in the customers car park for a few minutes and then decide to drive 20 k’s to see someone else rather than have to face that particular customer.
As an example, I left this company after 18 months of building up the business to exceed budget (thought I’d bang my own gong) and went travelling for couple of years.
On my return, the guy who took it over, had let it go.
Why had he let it go and why wasn’t he fired?
Well he got stage fright!
He had worked in internal sales where everything is reactive and the only real customer contact was by phone, fax and email which came to him.
So, when he had to go out and actually visit people face to face he couldn’t do it.
Add the fact that he had to be proactive and he was well out of his comfort zone.
Why wasn’t he sacked? Well the company I left was merging with another and he pretty much went under the radar.
And that’s another thing that fazes people being proactive. We are naturally wired to be reactive and being proactive is not natural to most.
Yet when as a sales rep you do get times when you have to be reactive. When orders come through, when you have to answer the phone, do quotes, answer email, chase up deliveries, etc. etc. It becomes almost a welcome break.
But it’s also a trap!
You see the most successful sales reps have schedules and rituals that they stick to.
That might be making 10 client phone calls before 10 in the morning, visiting 3 clients per day, following up quotes, making appointments or writing reports (a big pain for most salespeople).
I heard of stockbroker (yes, they are sales reps as well) in Vancouver who would make 120 calls a day religiously and measured that every morning by starting with 120 paper clips in one jar and would keep calling until he had moved them all to a second jar.
That’s the sort of single mildness you need to be a successful sales rep.
So, when these reactive events come along and they can often continue for days, focus is lost, the rituals go out of the window and then you have to refocus and get back into some sort of momentum.
I can tell you that’s hard not just for me but for most other sales reps.
So why is that?
Well as I said earlier we are naturally wired to be reactive. 1000’s of years being reactive to our environment is how we have survived as a species.
Being reactive is much more comfortable than being proactive (I’m being general here as there is the odd individual who is naturally proactive).
The conundrum in sales is that these reactive events don’t happen unless you as the sales rep make them happen and that involves being proactive and being out there talking to people.
So, when I get the odd comment from desk bound colleagues, friends or acquaintances that I have it easy. That all I have to do is drive around and talk to me over coffee, I reply, when you go to work your work comes to you.
When I go to work I have to go and find it and if I don’t over a period of time, I’m out of a job.
Of course, the other comment I get is about money.
Just as I thought, before becoming a sales rep, that it’s not fair that salespeople earn too much, so I now get the odd similar comment.
Yes, good sales rep earn more than nurses, teachers, emergency response personal and other worthy occupations and really successful salespeople will get paid more than Doctors and some Politicians (what’s the old saying? – pay peanuts and get monkeys).
The fact is as I have learned a successful sales rep will always get a job and will always get paid well.
I could never be nurse or paramedic but I imagine there are many nurses and paramedics who could never be a sales rep either.
So could you be a Sales Rep? Or are you one? In which case do you agree?
Write your comments below. I’d like to hear them.
This is slight off topic from my normal marketing and image making posts but what the heck!