So You Want to Be a Sales Professional.

By Chris Lott | Employment, Sales | 13674 Views | 7 Comments    

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.


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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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Chris Lott has this crazy creative side that motivates him to design websites and write articles. He's a disruptive technologist and is passionate about sales, family, and anything related to technology. See what others are saying about his work!.


7 thoughts on “So You Want to Be a Sales Professional.

  1. woow its so impressive..i done BS computer science and i am the computer guy .I have no idea about the bussness/sales person etc but through this article i learn much more about Sales Professional..thank u so much Chris Lott.

  2. Yes, I just graduated from college last year.
    Thought there should be many supports/trainings from my company.
    Which turns out to be all learn by yourself.
    This is such a great website to learn things.
    Thanks, Chris, for your sharing.

  3. Chris,

    I’m new to your blog but have been in sales for the past 20 years. The last 10 of which have been with family owned company that sells heavy equipment to the construction industry. Needless to say the past two years have been severely challenging. This year is off to a great start and is continually improving. However my wife is having a tough time with understanding the low income especially from 2010. Any advice you could impart to help me ease her worries would be greatly appreciated. Thank you and Best of Luck.


    • Marc,
      I think its harder on the spouse than on us many times. They don’t get to see/feel the activity changing/increasing so they’re left with emotions based on past experience. I have found when I’m open about my pipeline/activity and explain that with enough activity, no matter what the economy is like, I WILL be successful! my wife gets behind me. She becomes my cheerleader and tells me to get my behind out there and sell my heart out. I always make my wife my partner in anything I do and that goes for my career as well.

  4. You hit the nail on the head. It feels like yesterday I was that 'kid' wanting a shot at an outside sales position – I had no idea what I was getting myself into – but that was the first sale to make – convincing somebody to give me the opportunity. There's a lot of similarities in the job hunt and the opportunity itself: rejection, closed doors but if you persist somebody will give you a shot eventually. With that perspective; if the sales candidate is overly discouraged by the hunt, maybe they should be looking for someting else… because they haven't seen anything yet.

    Great article, Chris. Keep doing what you're doing.

    All the best,

    Mike Hohn

  5. Great article Chris. I have lived on commission based sales for over 20 years and you are right, there is so much more to selling then what engineers and newcomers see on the surface. A few vital lessons I learned along the way to being a successful sales professional are;

    a) Work harder on yourself than you do on your job. You are your own private corporation, so be diligent in investing and building your corporations(yourself)image.

    b) Product knowledge is simply semantics, you can teach any monkey the details of a product to repeat, but learning the skills to discover and/or create a need, then convey that vision to others (who will have very different and varied personality types) is a true hard earned skill.

    c) Sell by day that you may sleep well by night. over a long career, I guarantee you that things go full circle. That little guy you stiffed ten years ago might be the CEO you need to meet with tomorrow. Which leads to…

    d) Treat every women like the Queen of England and every man like the Prince of Whales because you never know who you may actually be speaking with. An ancient Greek historian Herodotus said "I will write of all things great and all things small, for what is now great may one day be small and what is now small may one day be great".

    e) You need to be self assured and self motivated but never be cocky, you will win sometimes that way but it always comes back to roost.

    f) get up everyday and say, what will i do today to promote business tomorrow, then do at minimum at least one thing.

    g) Finally, never think about the money. As Kenny Rogers would sing in the Gambler, 'never count your money while your sitting at the table'. Do the job you said you would, take care of the client first, over deliver and the money will take care of itself.

    If your not there yet, then fake it till you make it. Be sincere, act with integrity and make your life goal simple, that when you die there will be nobody happy about it.

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