Does working in sales change your life? I stumbled across a LinkedIn article with this title by Adam Honig (check it out here) the other day & was immediately drawn in.
The cover picture is a before & after of a salesman. Pictured is a polished Shia LeBouf ‘First day in sales’ & a more rugged/unkempt-looking picture of him for the ‘One year later’ photo.
I love (and hate) that people have this perception of sales! However, Mr. Honig did not write an article about how hard sales was & how it will kill your spirit, but laid out the foundations of what it takes to be a salesperson, the pros & cons of being in sales and how it will ultimately change your life.
Currently, I am an Account Manager with AM Leonard. That’s a fancy title for salesman, but it is definitely much more than sales; it is customer service, accounting, marketing, being a shipping specialist – simply put, anything to ease our customer’s woes & make their lives easier by seeking out & providing solutions.
So how has Sales changed me?
- Helped me structure day / manage time – I’m not well-known for my ability to plan things out – I usually go for the wing-it approach, or following my gut. But in sales, you need a little more method than madness. Intuition plays a pivotal role, but without a clear end-goal supported by a detailed roadmap, you could be driving in circles and not even know it. As a younger salesperson, I am finding balance between continually cultivating relationships with existing customers, hot, warm, and cold leads – and different customer types. All of these demographic titles assist with the structuring of my day, but once you know your customers, it becomes much more than a demographic – it is a living, breathing thing that needs to be cared for.
- Forced me out of my comfort zone – I believe that the best in people is brought out when they’re outside of their comfort zones. I enjoy sitting on the couch, watching ‘The Office’ in the mornings – it’s incredibly comfortable; I know I’m going to laugh, be able to relax, and enjoy myself. On the other hand, if I don’t do my daily morning yoga, my body will be in so much pain that I won’t be able to sit still. I won’t write anything creatively for myself or for my blog; that incompleteness to my pre-conceived plans will leak into the day and be that nagging “thing you wanted to do, but didn’t have time”. You have time. We all have Time if we have a desire strong enough & are willing to endure an uncomfortable situation for the Greater Good.
- Understanding my value – this was a little bit of a tough one at first – I understood my value, but I also understood why people were mad for me calling them, or that they were busy. And conjoining those two ideas is where I find part of my value – I know I can help you AND I understand that you are busy or get sales calls all the time, what can I do to best help you. The biggest value that anybody can provide is a promise to back your value AND then delivering on those promises. Communicating value by words is how a business relationship can begin, but actions speak louder than words.
- Improved communication – once you understand your value, communication is easy. You have supplies. Your customers need supplies. They need your supplies because x, y, z. Necessity is another thing that improved my communication. In sales, you’re always looking to expand your offerings to customers & key accounts and communication is crucial in maneuvering through organizations to reach all potential decision-makers. The more communication, the more you will expand your business; the more you will become an asset to your customers.
- Feeds appetite for knowledge & continued education – this is the nerd in me speaking out. I love learning. There is so much to learn in the Green Industry between landscapers, growers, government agencies, universities, and all of the processes involved in their businesses. I’ve always had an interest in gardening & growing plants – both of my science fair projects in 5th & 6th grade were based on growing plants with different variables. I didn’t end up studying in any of these fields (no pun intended), but love that I’m in the industry learning so much about growing plants in the field, in greenhouses and watching it in my own garden. Learning is important to me – and quite frankly, it should be for everyone. If you’re not learning, you’re staying stagnant; you’re limiting yourself. The world is changing & moving too fast for us to sit still!
- Patience – like losing my first draft that I thought was great; greatness lies only in execution though, not intention.
- Handling rejection & objection – sales is rejection; life is rejection. When I first began my journey in sales, there was a lot of rejection – maybe it was the way I was saying things, my tone, maybe I don’t have what it takes for sales. When you find your value, rejection looks a lot more like objection – and in objection, there is opportunity. This isn’t so much a ‘no’ as it is a ‘this better be good’. When someone asks why you’re calling, you better have a damn good reason!
- Picking up the phone – for inside sales, for a lot of sales, we live by the phone, we die by the phone. This is the most convenient, ‘personal’ touch you can have without a Skype or video call. Lots of writers on LinkedIn seem to think the phone is dying, but when you’re in business, you’re in the people business. A live voice will provide a lot more comfort & promise than a colorful flyer that was blasted into every one of your accounts’ emails. Not that email blasts are bad – it all comes down to the value you provide to your customer. In my experience, the phone is the best way to handle tough situations that you need to fight for. In the case of negotiating pricing, delivering bad news, or anything serious – your customers need to hear your voice. They need to have the opportunity to be pissed at you. This is just an opportunity. How can you make this right?
- Finding a way – this is the simple secret to sales & to life – when you want something bad enough, you’ll carve a path that leads you to your destination.
As a psychology major I never saw myself going into sales – I’m pretty sure I vowed to never take a sales job, but look where we are now! I love the industry, learning about my customers’ processes and all of the relationships I’m building all over the country along the way. Sales has changed me in a way, but I think it also just forced me to become my best Self – continually seeking knowledge & improvement to fully understand my customers, the industry, and ultimately, my Self.