So You Want to Be a Sales Professional.

Fresh out of college or looking for a new career path? Maybe you’re thinking a B2B (business to business) sales, account manager, account executive position sounds like the path to success for you. Fantastic! I mean why not… You can work the hours you want and the money just flows in. Have a couple of slick pitches and people melt like butter to sign the dotted line. Right? Wrong! We should probably discuss what being a salesperson, sales professional, is really all about before you make this move.

What is a salesperson?
I can tell you my nine year old is. Politicians, CEO’s, revolutionists, pacifists, friends and family are. Anyone that tries to express or sell their ideas… their “wares”… are. A better idea. A better concept. A better life. Seriously, where would society be in general without being motivated and “sold”? To persuade, convince, or direct others is in its truest sense selling. I would go so far to say that everyone has the innate ability to sell. To become a sales professional however is much more than that.

“Anyone can sell something… Do it day in and day out for years… successfully… then you can honestly hold the title of sales professional” -Chris Lott

Sales Careers are different
Truth of the matter is that while sales positions-careers look easy they’re not. Here are some of the qualities needed to be successful.

    Fast paced and full of energy
    A quick wit and a knack for reading body language
    Excellent people skills and a flexible attitude
    Capable of initiating – taking risks
    Adept at using verbal and written skills
    Maintaining a positive attitude even when life challenges suck
    Trainable – willing to learn constantly

Sales careers are not 8 to 5 jobs. Almost always long hours are demanded. Many times away from home.

Outside sales positions offer plenty of freedoms. Great, right? Unfortunately this kind of freedom is typically one of the contributing factors to the downfall of new salespeople. Long lunches become longer. The temptation to work a second job is always there. Network meetings are excuses to socialize and the list goes on. Not everyone can handle this much freedom.

And then there’s the pressure of demanded performance month end month out. Quota’s, pipelines, funnels and activity are just a few of the indicators measured on.

“No sales – No business” -Chris Lott

Still convinced that you’re made of the right stuff for a sales career?
Is it a respectable position and career path? How important is a sales professional to a company? Apple engineers can design the next best thing but unless their sales “evangelists” sell it… it really doesn’t matter does it. So, how important is sales? It’s crucial to a company’s very existence. Is it a respectable position and career path? Of course it is.

I personally love being a sales professional. I am proud to be one. I like the freedoms and flexibility that comes with the position. Such as…

    Entrepreneur: Freedom of being your own boss without the stress and monetary commitment of being one.
    Performance Based Pay: You determine how much money you can make. A career in sales can be highly lucrative. Other careers, no matter how hard you work you get paid the same.
    Not Boring: Every day is different.
    Career Advancement: The ability to rise quickly through the ranks is typical.

Most likely these pluses are what drew you into looking seriously at a sales – marketing career. So how does one get the “right” position?

No Sales Experience
I was on linkedin the other day and a frustrated member asked the question – How do I get a great sales position without any experience?

My answer: “Network, references/relationships, and sell the hell out of yourself! I don’t know that I have ever been “qualified” for the position that I won. With that said… I have always made sure they weren’t sorry they “took a chance” on me.”

Here are some ways to show you’re qualified without career specific experience.

1.) Successful sales pros are individuals who take an aggressive approach to expanding their personal – client base network. Your ability to network will demonstrate your skills in relationship-building. Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ to name a few.

2.) Also, as in sales, these venues are a great way to get in touch with others in your targeted company. In Top 14 Successful Job Hunting Tips I talk about how important it is to have advocates within the company. This is always a differentiator when a choice is made on who gets the job.

“In the modern world of business, it is useless to be a creative original thinker unless you can also sell what you create. Management cannot be expected to recognize a good idea unless it is presented to them by a good salesman.” -David Ogilvy

3.) Words of advice. Do not set up the above accounts and start conversing with your buddies on weekend escapades. Not a great idea to status update or tweet on how you hated your last “crappy job’s boss”. With a simple search I can find out a lot about a candidates personal likes, habits, etc.. Trust me… I’m not the only employer or HR department that knows this.

4.) Be persistent. Persistence is one of the marks of a good salesperson, right?

5.) Pick a company that offers products and services to sell that you’re already passionate about. It is much easier to sell something you like and your new potential manager will see this immediately. I hired a salesman with directory sales background that really had no capability to understand communications equipment. Bottom line he was miserable and so was I. Sales sucked.

6.) If asked in an interview… Can you explain how to overcome a customer objection? No experience necessary here. Just need to understand the concept and verbalize it.

7.) Have you been involved with fund-raising events? Given presentations? Demonstrated great people skills? Persuaded or convinced people to do things your way? These are just a few of the activities and traits that relate to sales and can be pro-actively used to secure a great position.

After all your efforts and finally a victory here’s a “don’t” that could make a career short lived. An experienced rep and/or manager can really help in career success. When you start a position don’t be a “know-it-all.” You don’t know it all. What you do know is that you have potential, and you have a unique gift to share with others. You need to be willing to learn, to contribute, and to work as a team member to help the company grow and reach their mission objectives of sales and market share. I can’t tell you how many new sales people don’t get this and end up with a very short career cycle.

If you’re interested in fulfilling your career dreams in a way that no other profession could by all means become a sales professional.

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