How I Succeeded at Sales Despite Academic Challenges

How I Succeeded at Sales Despite Academic Challenges
Considered pursuing a career in Sales? This interview takes you through the ups and downs you can expect, what it takes to land the job, what you can expect to earn and more. This is a true career story as told to DiversityJobs and is one of many interviews with financial planners and retail sales managers. When I was in high school, I didn’t know if I would make it through college, so I was looking at fields that didn’t require a four-year degree. I’d had a terrible time with math, reading, and spelling from elementary through high school, and personal organization has always been a challenge. I’ve always had good mechanical skills, though, so I thought I might go into one of the trades. There was one other area where I found success in high school. Whether it was commission sales through a part-time retail job or raffle tickets for a fund raiser, I could always sell. I’ve never been shy about approaching people, and I just wouldn’t give up until I’d met whatever quota I’d set for myself. I’d also gotten interested in the stock market, so between those two interests, I started thinking about going to college after all and majoring in business. I chose a small private college and declared a business major as a freshman. Given my math and reading difficulties, the academics weren’t easy, but the smallness of the college was a huge help. The college was one-sixth the size of my high school, and I took full advantage of the tutoring services. The professors all knew how hard I tried and gave me extra help. A computer lab had just been built, and spell-check saved my neck on term papers. Not having to deal with the distractions of a mammoth campus also helped me keep things organized. In my senior year, I did an internship with my uncle. He owned a large, busy retail store in Atlanta, and I learned every operation. Since this occupied the entire spring semester of my senior year, and I had no intention of living in Georgia permanently, I didn’t get much job-hunting done. Consequently, I found myself unemployed and living with my parents after I got my degree. Once I started looking for a job, I applied the same goal-setting that helped me in sales. I figured the more contacts I made and the more interviews I had, the closer I was to reaching my final goal of getting a job. So, I set myself weekly goals of talking to a specific number of people about potential jobs. I kept daily notes and contact information in a planner to help keep things organized. When I met my weekly goal, I’d go out and celebrate with friends. I also used the same relational skills in my job hunt that I do in sales. Many people have the idea that someone who is good at sales is a fast-talker able to give a hard sell. People who meet me would say that I don’t fit that description at all. I’m just sincere, friendly and a good listener. I don’t try to persuade people to buy something just because I’m trying to sell it. Instead, I find out what the customer needs, and I try to meet that need. The company that ended up hiring me was a manufacturer of fasteners, and most of its clients were in the retail automotive industry. I showed the company how my long-term interest in mechanics and my retail internship met their need, and they hired me. In sales, the good income doesn’t come immediately. It takes work to build up a client base. For me, it was easier to adapt to working than it was to going back to school every fall because I’m so much better suited for the business world than I ever was for the life of a student. The rewards in the working world are also a lot more tangible than they ever were in school. One thing I like about sales is that I every day I can directly influence how much money I make. For me, that’s a lot more motivating than the prospect of making a good grade at the end of the semester. If I had to do college all over again, the biggest thing that would have helped me in the working world is to have believed in myself more. My difficulties in school actually helped me to have a lot more persistence in the sales field, which is a key quality for success. I just had no idea at the time that having to work harder than other students would have a silver lining. I’m definitely still in sales and will be for the years to come. A few years after I started working, I was promoted to sales manager. With each new promotion, I was responsible for larger territories. I recently accepted a position as a business development manager with a Fortune 500 company. I’m still not a whiz at spelling, arithmetic, or reading, but I've been saved by spell-check, Excel spreadsheets, and computer searches that help me avoid reading mountains of material to get information I need. My laptop and smart phone also keep me organized so I can concentrate on developing our company’s client base. Succeeded sales academic challenges image from Bigstock
Man on laptop enjoys summer while working full time

There you are: sitting on the beach, covered in sunscreen, reading your favorite book, drinking your favorite drink under the cool shade of an umbrella. Life doesn't get any better than this. Suddenly, a door slams, a phone rings, a printer turns on. You jolt back into consciousness. You're at work, sitting in your cubicle, without even a hint of sunshine streaming in from outside.

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