A very good question! This article is targeted at people who are considering a career in business-to-business (B2B) field sales.
Selling does not have a great reputation. When I left university and told people that I wanted to go into sales, they questioned what I was doing, asking me if it was a wise move. I think their motivation was based on the fact that they’d had bad experiences with salespeople and viewed the career of selling as being something sleazy or cheesy.
Since I left university, I’ve had a great career in sales and have enjoyed every minute of it. It’s been very rewarding in terms of money, I’ve flown around the world many times, and met some really, really interesting people. When I was at university, I was offered the usual jobs: accountant, lawyer, teacher, and army officer. I tried most of them, but I didn’t enjoy any of them and, I have to say, that I really enjoy sales. So, here’s what I do on a day-to-day basis in a field sales role:
A typical week for me is two days in the office calling, and three days out on the road meeting my clients at appointments.
This is probably the least attractive part of the job. But in order to get sales, we need appointments, and in order to get appointments, we need to call. People get really worked up about cold calling, where you have to call people you’ve never met before. But there is actually very little cold calling in business-to-business sales because your marketing department passes you leads, which are people who have made inquiries, or people who are just generally interested in hearing from you. So, it’s not actually that bad.
This is where the fun begins. Going out to see your clients on appointments is a lot of fun. I never wanted to be in a career where I was stuck behind a desk. Getting out to see your clients allows you to see different industries, different companies, and different people. One of the keys to successful selling is being able to listen to and understand your customers. This part I really enjoy because I learn a lot about different companies in different industries, and it’s all very interesting. No two clients are exactly the same, so every day is different in sales.
Depending on the result, this can be the best or the worst part of the job. If a customer orders your products and services, it’s fantastic. If they say no to your products or services, it can be pretty disastrous. Your job as a salesperson is to make sure they say yes more than they say no. Typically, this is done by showing them that the benefits of working with you outweigh the pain of handing over the money that they need to pay you. Not only that, but they’re better off working with you than working with your competitors.
If you do win the deal, it’s likely that the client will want to negotiate with you over the price or the terms and conditions you’ve offered. This is a lot like playing a game. If it goes really well, then you make lots of money. If it goes badly, then you lose lots of money. No prizes for guessing which one is best. In my experience, salespeople make terrible negotiators because most of them do not know the basics of negotiating. With this in mind, if you do go into a career of selling, please get some negotiation skills training – if not for me, then for yourself.
All salespeople hate paperwork because the time you’re spending doing paperwork is time you’re not selling. This is why all operational people hate all salespeople. Poor paperwork causes a nightmare for the operational people, whose job it is to fulfill the orders the salespeople have sold. I wish there was a magic pill to help people cope with paperwork, but there isn’t.
If you’re looking for a job that is very varied, gets you out and about, and makes lots of money, sales could be for you. But remember, you need to be hardworking, and need to enjoy meeting people and dealing with people. Most importantly, from my experience, don’t let other people, who probably know very little about it, put you off getting a career in sales.
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