Starting A Career In Sales? Read This

Sales is in my blood.  Despite only being in B2B sales for 3 years, I’ve been selling for much longer.  It started with subscriptions to my sports newspaper when I was 10 years-old, continued into tennis lessons and then to a summer of slinging Cutco knives.   

Sales is the greatest profession in the world.  You create your own destiny and your performance will directly whether you are successful or not.  It also translates to every piece of your life. Want to build a company? Want to get a date with that girl or guy?  Want to talk your way out of that speeding ticket? It’s all sales.

In 2018, there will be roughly 4 million college graduates.  More than half of the business graduates will hold their first job in sales. Despite this massive number of new sales reps coming into the fold, there is very little sales-focused education in college.  This means that there’s a gap in education for these first-timers in sales. I certainly don’t know it all, but here are 6 tips I would give myself if I was starting my sales career today.

Outwork Everyone

Sales is both an art and a science.  There are many soft-skills that are difficult to teach and are picked up over time, yet the numbers are unavoidable.  If you make 1,000 cold calls, chances are that you’ll outperform your peer that makes 100 calls.

The two ways to make more sales are through quantity and quality of your calls, meetings and emails.  Since the quality of your work may be lower as your career kicks off, your advantage has to be in quantity.  First in, last out. Be the grinder. I made a rule with myself when I started work that I would never show up to the office later than my boss or leave earlier than him.  This will quicken your ramp-up period and earn you the right type of reputation at the company.

Have Confidence Despite Your Age

I distinctly remember the first time I met a customer face-to-face.  I was a few months into the job and my boss and I went in to pitch a big deal to their CMO.  She had spent more time in marketing than I had spent on planet Earth. We brought in lunch for the meeting.  I didn’t say a single word outside of pleasantries and I ate 2 honey turkey sandwiches.

Despite being 22-years-old – with the face of someone 5 years younger – I decided that would be the first and only time that would happen.  I began reading every blog I could get my hands on about our industry. I started taking meetings without my boss. During each meeting, I would fail and feel slightly more confident afterward.  Sets and reps. Three years later, this had made the world of difference.

The Phone Is Your Friend

I’ll be the last person to bash email or social media.  In fact, I’ve experienced great benefits from building a personal brand on social and have heard first-hand of how it can grow someone’s book of business.  

That being said, pick up the damn phone people.  Pick it up if you’re cold calling. Pick it up to call a customer and ask how their weekend was.  Pick it up to book your next dentist appointment (Yes, I know some people in their twenties afraid to do this).  It’s becoming a lost art and you will stand out if you can master the phone.

Be Bold

Almost every positive result I’ve experienced in the last 5 years has been a result of being bold.  Whether it was landing my first job, moving across the country or starting this blog, it all resulted from making a bold decision.

Be bold in your sales career.  Always approach the person at the conference.  Ask the direct “money” questions. If there’s something you want at your company – a promotion, a new territory, more money – build a business case for it and ask.  Sitting on the sidelines won’t get you anywhere.

Give, Give, Give

People assume that the best salespeople are the most outgoing, slickest talking people.  In truth, the best salespeople are those that are the best listeners and can give the most.  All day long, your customers are being pestered by salespeople for something – a call, the next step, an IO, an invoice.  The best way to differentiate yourself is to do the opposite. Reach out and share some information or an article that they may find helpful.  And then (gasp) don’t ask for anything in return. Gary Vaynerchuk calls the approach “Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook”.

As with most of this advice, it extends to other areas in your career and life.  If you’ve had success with a certain call or email hook – share it with your team.  If you see a great industry article, share it along. If you see someone struggling, offer to help them out.  Being the giver early in your career will pay dividends later.

Set Audacious Goals

It’s likely that you’ll be given a quota and that your success (and compensation) will be tied to this quota.  This advice is counterintuitive but you need to take it: ignore your quota. It’s a made-up number by someone at your company based on past history and performance – it’s not indicative of what you can sell.

For example, if they set your annual quota for $1M, it is likely to be put in your head that $1M is the goal and that if you hit that number, you should consider it a successful year.  When you sell $1M and it’s only September, you will pat yourself on the back and your mind will automatically go into autopilot. But what if you set your own personal goals? If you set out to sell $8M against that same $1M quota, you wouldn’t’ be satisfied with that same result in September.  You’d be hungry and keep pushing for more. Even if you don’t hit your audacious goal, it will push you towards greatness.

Sales isn’t about a fancy email script or asking open-ended questions.  It’s an attitude.

If there’s one thing to take away from this, it’s the attitude that you need to be successful.  Sales isn’t about a fancy email script or asking open-ended questions.  It’s an attitude.  It’s a mindset that you will be successful. And when you have that mindset for sales, it manifests into success.  And when you translate that mindset into all areas of life, the success follows. And if you follow the 6 steps above, you will be in a great spot in a few years. 

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