One of the first sales trainers I ever heard speak on the subject put it this way: “No one ever says ‘I want to be a salesman when I grow up.'”
Apologies to the speaker, because I can’t recall who it was that said it (it was probably an author named Chris Lytle, come to think of it), but the words certainly applied to me. I was a young radio broadcaster at heart, but the only full-time gig available at my station was in sales. So I sold, and worked weekend shifts as a board operator and occasionally got to cut some liners and promos, too.
What the speaker was trying to impress upon us was that far too many of us “end up” in a sales job, rather than choosing to pursue a career in the sales profession.
At the time, I wanted to be a broadcaster, and I started college in hopes of becoming a high school agriculture teacher, but for most of my formative years I had big plans of studying political science, going off to law school, and ultimately entering the big world of public policy and politics. So sales, you can tell, was pretty much the last thing on my mind.
But I took to sales in those days like the proverbial fish to water. I listened to sales trainers on cassette tape, I read books by guys like Tom Hopkins, and went to any local seminar or workshop I could find to learn the profession and hone my natural abilities into useful skills.
Although I eventually became a broadcaster and spent the better part of a decade behind the microphone, I came back to the sales profession several years ago and have been on the trail ever since.
Again, the move to sales just sort of happened. I was writing merrily along as an editor at Feedstuffs, and thought I would gladly do that job until my dying day. In many ways, in fact, writing for Feedstuffs
Needless to say, I said yes, and five years later here I am, writing about the profession I’ve been in, at least to some degree, for better than half of my career. It is, without a doubt, one of the most challenging professions out there. The ultimate, “what have you done for me lately” profession, sales is all about continuously pursuing new opportunities to grow the business, and there is no such thing as resting on your laurels.
“Sales is the easiest low-paying job you’ll ever have, and the hardest good-paying job you’ll ever have,” my first sales manager told me. And this also was true. The economic rewards of being good at sales can be significant, but the work to achieve those rewards can be mentally and emotionally exhausting, and physically exhausting for those of us who spend any amount of time on the road.
I’ll admit that often times I wonder how my colleagues who have been in the business 20, 25 or 30 years do it… there are definitely times when I have to search for the motivation to make the next call, to knuckle down and finish that proposal, or to burrow in and handle the angry client upset about something that is, all too often, completely and totally outside your control.
But ultimately what keeps me going is the wealth of relationships I’ve built in this profession. My clients include a group of some of the best people around, people who genuinely consider me a partner in their business, and who know that I have their best interests at heart and want to see them succeed. My colleagues, likewise, are fun, energetic, exciting people full of brilliant ideas and who push me to want to keep getting better.
So while I never, not even once, grew up dreaming of a career in sales, I don’t regret for one minute winding up here. When done well, with a consultative approach and a client-first mindset, it can be a noble and fulfilling profession.
If you are a fellow journeyman in the business, I hope you, too, will take that approach, and adopt that mindset. Happy hunting, and safe travels.