If you look at my résumé before I founded Leading Results, you’d see someone who was a bit schizophrenic in their sales and marketing career. I have had as many marketing roles as I have had sales roles. Why? Because when I had a sales job, I would often get frustrated with the effectiveness of the marketing to find me sales leads. Or the reverse: I’d have a marketing job and get frustrated with the effort – or lack thereof – that sales would put into the leads I generated. In either case, I’d shoot my mouth off and get told, “Okay, you go do it.” So I did.
I’m older and wiser now.
It sometimes seems that sales gets all the glory while marketing does all the work. It’s not true, but it does seem that way at times – though those times may be a-changing with the impact of the search engine on buyer behavior.
But I’ll assume that as a smart marketer/finance manager/consultant, you know all this, and still want to go and be a sales rep. Here are seven things you should be sure you know as you go:
1 – You must be prepared to give (a lot) before you get – it’s about helping, not selling.
Get the picture of the stereotypical car salesperson out of your head. As a great salesperson, you are facilitating information and you’ll give a lot of help to a lot of people before they buy from you.
2 – You have to be comfortable in the spotlight.
If you are going to be in sales, you are going to carry a quota. A real number with real dollars and a clear measurement. Many marketing metrics are “fuzzy,” but sales dollars booked against a quota assigned is a pretty black and white measure – and it management looks at it ALL THE TIME. You will be at the tip of the spear in the company’s success and you will be watched.
3 – You must be okay with rejection.
You are going to hear “no,” “not interested,” “all set” everyday. And you are going to have to realize and accept that it isn’t about you personally. The hard-charging salesperson downing the drink at the end of the day is both a stereotype and quite real … If you can’t de-personalize the rejection, you’ll have a short sales career.
4 – You have to be able to manage a lot of details.
Most sales situations are pretty complex. There are lots of moving parts with contracts, terms, service delivery, scheduling. You probably don’t realize that you are signing up to make sure other people do their jobs, but you are. You see, in most sales roles, you get paid when the revenue gets booked. And if all the aforementioned items don’t happen, the revenue won’t come in even if you closed the deal. So while you are managing all the work of closing new business, you still have to stay on top of the already closed deals until the customer and service teams have taken ownership of the project/sale.
5 – You are going to have to play a marketing role as well as a sales role
At least 25% of your prospects are going to do an Internet search on YOU. You need to be present in social media and you will have to have something valuable to say. Your prospect will look to your total of body of work to decide how much to value your input, so you have to have a body of work – social posts, blog posts, images – for them to evaluate. Additionally, if you want to really standout, you will need to build your reputation in your industry, outside of your company. And to do that, you need to be marketing yourself and your knowledge.
6 – You have to be comfortable with asking uncomfortable questions.
You may have the best product or service in the world and, logically, the prospect would be nuts to not buy it. But humans don’t buy on logic. We buy on emotion and use logic to justify our decisions. So as a sales rep, you have to uncover the emotional drivers, and that can mean asking some very direct and uncomfortable questions. You have to be willing to dig down and help your prospect feel what their life will be like when they have moved forward with you and your solution to their problem as opposed to a competitor’s solution. And you need to do it gracefully.
7 – You have to be okay with not being in control, even though your boss expects you to be.
As a sales rep, you are going to need to forecast your sales. This implies that you will know what is going to happen. Guess what. You can’t know. You can’t control it. You can help shape a situation. You can talk to everyone involved. You can have everyone “on the same page.” But you can’t control the final result. I’ve had sales delayed because the CEO decided to surprise his wife with an anniversary trip to Italy. I’ve lost sales because the CFO passed away suddenly. There are a million reasons that a deal that should get done doesn’t get done. “Days of Thunder” is a pretty bad movie, but there is a great line that Nicole Kidman’s character says: “Control is an illusion, you infantile egomaniac. Nobody knows what’s going to happen next.” As a salesperson, you are going to work hard to “control” the sale when, ultimately, it is uncontrollable. Know that going in.
If you want to be a sales rep, go for it, but understand exactly what you are signing up for. You sell now. You sell everyday. You sell your ideas, your beliefs, your opinions.
If you want to sell your company’s goods and services to others, it’s a great step in your career. Helping people make the right choice is a satisfying way to make a living. It is hugely fulfilling to meet a clearly defined measure of success. It feels wonderful to see the ultimate result of your hard work and the hours you put in helping someone find the right solution.
If you’ve read this, and take the plunge, drop me a line and let me know how it works out.