Having a career in sales can be lucrative, from selling real estate to stocks and enterprise software deals, there is some serious money to be made. Often forgotten is that to achieve the glory, requires much sweat and sacrifice - so if you're considering a career in sales, or have come across the individual or two whose questioned whether sales and selling is hard, this article is for you.
In Sales - Performance Is Everything
Great salespeople are competitive by nature, but what motivated employee isn't? Everyone wants to win as much as possible, but this is thing about sales - when you lose, everyone knows. If you commit to five deals closing in your pipeline and fail to win them, everyone from sales management, finance and HR will be on your case. And its more than likely that you'll be on the chopping block.
A career in sales means very few second chances and almost no warnings. Like any sports team, if you fail to perform and don't rectify the situation quickly, they'll cut you and draft new talent. It doesn't matter how long you've been with a company, how experienced you are and what you've accomplished in the past, if you don't deliver, you'll be fired, end of story.
When It Comes To Sales - Change Is Constant, Control Is Not.
In sales the situation is always fluid, no one deal is the same and even with the best information available, you can't control the outcome. You may have been working on closing a sales opportunity with two senior executives at a prospect, the demo and pilot with the end users goes amazing but out of the blue one of the decision makers is let go in a round of layoffs, and now the decision is sitting with someone who you've never met. It's downright frustrating and there absolutely nothing you can do it about it, except reassess the situation and adapt.
Change isn't happening with your clients either, its' internal as well. One of the things that can distract and demotivate salespeople is internal change. Products, services, systems, processes, people and compensation are just some of the areas that are often simultaneously being adjusted, as a salesperson you can't control the variables but it's vital that you adapt to them as quickly as possible. It's hard to keep your head down, whilst everything around you is constantly in chaos, but it's a must if you want to survive. Stability and consistency, is the dream we chase as salespeople.
The greatest mistake any organization can make is to attach so many variable objectives to a salesperson's compensation, that they don't know what to do. The main objectives of your salespeople should always be to generate new business, followed by reducing the risk of losing existing revenue. Make it simple, straightforward and easy for them to understand how they'll earn their commission.
As A Salesperson - You're The Offence, Defence & Coach
It's easy to understand the logic of being the first line of offence when you're in sales. It takes strong willpower and persistence to overcome countless rejections. At Oracle it can take over 80 sales calls to close an app sale, even with web being the help of web automation.
You need to master the art of conversation, which isn't the same as the art of conducting a demo or presentation (where more often that not, something goes wrong). It takes alot of energy and investment of time to nurture and gain the trust of your clients, which can make all the difference if something goes wrong. This is where defence comes in.
Many salespeople struggle to play defence, ultimately things will hit the fan, the fires will start and spread fast. If you don't have strong relationships, you'll lose business faster than you can ever replace it. Defence is how you protect your own reputation, not just the company you represent. It's the difference between taking that call or letting it go to voicemail when your client contacts you because of that price increase letter they just received or the technical outage that is ruining their team's day. Client's don't forget when you come through and they are definitely less forgiving if you ignore them. That email you answer at midnight, to escalate an outage to the right people internally, could help save your businesss and perhaps help you earn more client referrals when the time comes. Learn to play defence.
If you're going to move mountains you better learn how to coach. Twisting arms, crying wolf and complaining will only get you so far. Being on the front line you will often receive the negative feedback first and in the harshest words. The great salespeople know how to absorb the vital information they receive from clients and distribute it internally to the right people to address gaps and capitalize on potential opportunities.
Sales is about implicit power, you may not have the product managers, trainers or finance people directly reporting into you but you can definitely have their interest. Storytelling isn't just for the selling to potential clients, you need to leverage it internally to influence different teams within the organization and help them understand the benefit of the direct feedback and motivate them into taking action. Easier said than done, but possible and critical to having a long term sales career.
Salespeople Can't Really Disconnect
Work-life balance is a pipedream for salespeople. This is a career where momentum is everything - you can't afford to not prospect, because tomorrow's success directly depends on today's actions. If you're not engaging with prospective clients and customers daily, your leaving the door open for your competitor and potentially missing out on a key piece of the puzzle that could help you clinch a deal. I'm not saying don't disconnect occasionally and lose sleep - it's just not going to be as long as you think.
Salespeople live in a reality where worrying about tomorrow is normal, where not responding to a call, email or IM within 20 minutes can be the difference between a record breaking quarter or a failed one. Salespeople have been living in an Uber, on-demand, when the client's wants-it, we-better-be-ready world, for a long time.
Some of the best and hard-working sales-people I've known have made huge personal sacrifices that some of us would question. From regularly checking-in whilst on maternity leave, to postponing vacations to save potential cancellations. It's something that's not mentioned anywhere in your employment contracts, but make no mistake when it comes to delivering the goods, month after month, it can be a mortal sin to turn your phone off. You're on call 24/7.