As sales professionals, we seem to have an innate inclination to focus on the positives and optimism, which can be an important trait when working in a career that can often come with its frustrations and road blocks. But being aware of the contours that make up the realities of the sales rep life is quite valuable – it allows you to anticipate the potential stumbling points and become that much effective in your daily work. Below are some defining, tough characteristics of sales to be aware of.
No matter how strong a relationship you have with a prospect, they’re in this for how it benefits them.
In his seminal work, The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith points out that humans act according to their own rational self-interest in business transactions, and that it’s this self-interest and competition that combine to create an invisible hand that leads to unexpected benefits in a market economy such as we have in the United States. (Note: If you didn’t read it in college, read it now. Despite having first been published in 1776, it still is an excellent explanation of how our economy ideally functions and provides you the groundwork to explore other economic and business theories).This self-interest isn’t a bad thing. In fact, it’s what allows you to become focused on finding out what the client’s needs and desires are, and how your product or service can fulfill those voids – whether on a business level as in B2B, or an individual one in B2C. Important caveat: Make sure you’re actually able to address those needs and desires. Remember, it’s about being a trusted advisor – not just looking for the quick sale.
You must be comfortable with being visible – yes, even you, introverts.
Visibility as a sales rep comes in two forms – 1) interacting with people, whether remotely via email/video chat/phone or in-person as a field sales rep; and 2) being accountable to quotas, KPIs, and other metrics. There’s no place to hide in sales, and complacency will get you nowhere in terms of achieving your sales and career goals.Being aware of this fact will make you cognizant of the need to always be working and always putting your best face forward. This is especially true in terms of your social media presence – as a sales rep, you’ll want to keep a clean online presence, free of controversy that could cost you opportunities and closed deals. That means not getting political or controversial.
What of the companies and products who use potentially divisive material or branding, you ask? That’s a matter of messaging housed in the domain of the company leadership and marketing – people and segments that don’t interact with customers as often as sales does. As part of the front-line engagement with prospects and accounts, you need to be neutral as Switzerland. It’s not an accident the cliché of the Swiss bank account is a thing or where people like to put their money. Be the person people want to put their money.
You will be rejected more than you’ve ever been in your entire life.
I know a guy who asked out 23 different girls to his fraternity’s spring formal dance and was rejected by all of them. The same abysmal rate of rejection will be your lot in sales, no matter how good you are. That’s why in sales you often see motivational sports chestnuts like “Even good baseball players only successfully hit the ball about 30% of the time”. They’re little reminders that you’re going to hear No a lot.It’s important to keep in mind this truth and related sales statistics – like it usually taking several contacts to even reach a prospect – because it prevents you from falling into a pit of despair. You move on to the next possible opportunity. Of course, that doesn’t mean you don’t look at where you can improve – every sales rep needs to do that – but you also don’t get too low about a cold streak.
The deal isn’t done until the money comes in.
Mr. 23 Rejections actually had a date lined up for the fall formal the semester before. Two days before the dance, his date cancels on him because her long-distance boyfriend at the time very conveniently decided to come to town that weekend, and it was also her best friend’s birthday. The 2016 Golden State Warriors had a 3-1 lead on the Cleveland Cavaliers, one game away from winning the NBA championship. They lost the title. In the 3-0 Best of 7 choke jobs, see: the 2004 New York Yankees in the American League Championship series against the Boston Red Sox and the Detroit Red Wings against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 1942 Stanley Cup Finals.The same thing happens in the business world. For example, you probably know someone who had a job offer or a very likely job offer, but then at the last second, circumstances changed and they didn’t get the job. In sales, we see this happen, too. A sales rep closes a deal, the contract is drawn up, and things look locked down, but then something happens and the other side pulls out. Until that signature (and check) come in, you can’t consider the sale complete.
What that means for you is that even after you close a deal, you want to make sure you have everything lined up to carry it through to the final signature – whether that involves making sure the paperwork is accurate, staying in touch with the client and letting them know the steps needed to complete the transaction, something else, or some combination thereof. Yes, it’s time-consuming and yes, it can be frustrating, but it’s how you can become the best sales rep possible.
Being aware of the grimmer side of sales isn’t a pessimistic endeavor at all. It’s grounding yourself in a realistic view of how your work environment operates, and handled properly, with the right attitudes and actions, will make you an even better, happier, more successful sales rep.