Many people have preconceived notions about sales reps. They pick things up from movies, TV shows, and stories told by friends and family, many of which paint an unflattering portrait of those who make their living selling things.
But the reality is much more nuanced. Sales reps come in all forms, and the days of the fast-talking, fly-by-night seller are long gone. It’s become a serious profession, employing people with serious intentions who take their roles seriously, whether they’re selling software, business services, or medical equipment. The salesperson of the 21st century is part consultant, part sales-rep — not just someone who will say anything under the sun to get you to sign a contract.
But there are still many things that nobody can understand if they haven’t worked in the profession. Some of these can be surprising, especially if a person goes into the job with no frame of reference. We wanted to shed some light on what sales is really like. Here are six things nobody tells you about working in sales:
1. Nothing happens unless you make it happen
Sales, in many ways, is similar to entrepreneurship. Unlike most other jobs, you can’t just show up to work expecting things to happen. Instead, you must constantly be proactive — finding prospects, starting conversations, following up, and thinking outside the box. This can be a hard adjustment for somebody who has never worked in sales to make, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll have a priceless new skill that you can apply to the rest of your career (and life).
2. There is a lot of boring, heads-down work involved
While people might think that sales involves lots of exciting high-stakes meetings and flying all over the globe, in most cases it actually involves staring at your computer for long periods of time, researching prospects online, and spending hours typing up emails and proposals to send to your potential customers. That’s not to say that sales isn’t fast-paced, it definitely is. But much of your activity is heads-down, focused work. And if that’s not something you’re interested in, you might not enjoy working in sales very much.
3. You don’t have to be an extrovert to succeed
Another common misconception about sales is that you need to be an outgoing extrovert in order to be successful. The reality is different, and plenty of introverted people are wildly successful in sales, oftentimes because they’re excellent listeners and are able to build trust with their prospects. Multiple studies have shown that there aren’t any inherent personality traits that can predict whether somebody will be successful in sales or not. Therefore, any type of person can make a great living, as long as they’re willing to work for it.
4. Not every deal can be closed
You wouldn’t know this if you spent your time following Facebook and Instagram sales influencers, who try to convince people (for money, of course) that any deal can be closed if you’re aggressive enough. The reality is that not every deal can be closed — far from it — which is why spending time qualifying as early and as efficiently as possible is the key to a successful sales career. Getting rid of prospects who aren’t going to buy is a critical step on the journey to find the ones who will. So make sure you don’t get stuck spinning your wheels all because you bought a myth peddled by movies and online hucksters.
5. Mindset is critical
While everyone knows that the way you see the world can impact your life, this, perhaps, is doubly so in a profession like sales. The reason is because those who work in sales will naturally encounter more rejection and insurmountable odds than most other professions. And it’s what you do when you’re faced with rejection and daunting prospects for success that can make all the difference. Sales reps who are successful manage their mindset as much as they manage their activities. They also understand that rejection is just part of the game, and act accordingly.
6. If you can sell, you’ll always be able to find work
Despite the recent layoffs in the tech sector, it remains as true as ever that competent salespeople can always find work. Estimates from the BLS show that approximately 13% of the entire workforce works in a sales role, which means massive opportunities at all times, no matter the state of the economy. To be sure, not all sales roles are created equal, but if you want job stability, then there really is no other profession where you’re as likely to always find work (and usually a pretty decent income) as sales.
Finally, a sales process that gives you the freedom to sell.
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