Photo credit: Wally Cassidy
I have to confess something. And it isn’t pretty, giving the focus of this blog but here goes: if 10 years ago one would have told me my career would eventually be focused on one thing, sales, I would have been taking him / her for a complete, utter fool. And I would have walked away, feeling rather insulted.
I vividly remember back then, being a product manager in a large organisation, managing the development of product based on new technologies in the mobile space. And I was considering sales to be the easy part of it all. And managing the product development effort the important part. Simply put, I was looking down on sales people. Period. Little did I know….
So what happened since then? Well, I wouldn’t say I had an epiphany but I realised four things over the years that eventually led me to be, well, obsessed and passionate about sales and focus my career on sales:
1- If you build it, they won’t come. I know, a classic. You heard it many times. Over and over. Edging the boring. *Yawn*. I agree. However, in the technology industry (which is where I mostly operate), we tend to still have this belief. I still come across founders that are deeply passionate (which is a well needed quality needed when one tries to build a business against all odds) and feel that their product addresses a problem in a much better way than what exists and they can’t imagine that clients won’t be coming in throngs. And, like many others, when I was managing product development in the aforementioned mobile organisation, that was my exact belief. The products we build are so great, why do we need sales people. Oh yes, to go drink coffees with clients.
Little did I know….
2- Sales is actually “technical”. Sales is about people. But loads of other functions are about people too. HR is about people. Marketing is about people. Finance is … mmm, well, ok maybe that’s a bad example :). However, sales is also about the process. Whilst many people/organisations claim to have a process in place and don’t even have the faintest start of one, that is what is actually great in sales. That process we can rest on /use / rely and, if you are a little bit geeky (as I am), there are plenty of technicalities involved in sales to be more efficient and get more results. Plus, if you are geeky in a more traditional sense, you also have sales tools to use.
What’s not to like!
3-It’s challenging: A sales career is far from easy. Yes, I admit it, it’s tough. For a start, one get more rejections than yeses. So it’s not just about going for coffees and doing nice presentations. It’s about being able to own the sales process (see above) and not do the obvious things (demo and shiny presentations anyone?). Yes, of course it’s about building relationships because people buy from people, but it’s also about evening out the relationship between a buyer and a seller and either move towards a sell or realise there is no fit, move on in an amicably whilst maintaining the relationship (that’s when marketing takes over). Because last time I checked with my bank manager, good “relationships” don’t pay the mortgage. It’s challenging because it’s about turning the sales process into a buying one. Tough but awesome when it’s happening. It’s about learning how to reverse questions softly to understand the real questions you are being asked. All these things get results but are not easy.
And frankly, if it was easy, would it be fun?
4- Sales is changing my life even outside work: I take a lot of things from having (eventually) chosen a sales career in my day to day life, i.e. outside work. The list is endless but, for instance, I don’t take things personally as I don’t take rejections at work personally. Or when being asked a question, I try to understand the context of that question (my wife started to notice, damn!). Or I try to understand where the person I talk to fit in the DISC profile (more on this later) to make my interaction with them smoother. So, it helps me be a better person outside work to.
I admit, it sounds pompous but it’s true.
So, here goes. I admitted it. I came clean. Pfeeew, that wasn’t hard after all! What about you? If your career is in sales, how did you end up in it and what do you enjoy about it?