Starting a Career in Sales: Debunking the Myths

 An interesting comment I often hear toward the end of a Career Conference is, “I wish I would have interviewed for a few more sales opportunities.” I am usually able to dig into that comment to learn more and often find that JMOs have a misperception about professional business-to-business sales. They assume that all sales are only transactional. Perhaps in certain types of sales roles that is the case, but not in the roles I am familiar with. Professional sales is not transactional – it is about delivering value to customers by developing critical relationships to understand their business needs. Here are a couple of sales myths that I would like to debunk:

  • Sales is high pressure. Actually, this is not true. Because professional sales is based on relationships, there is trust and a mutual sense of obligation in a professional relationship. Once a sales professional earns the trust of his or her customer, they are able to truly deliver value by tailoring products or services to meet a customer’s need. In the end, if a sales representative is able to satisfy an unmet need, customers ask for the product or service, not the other way around.
  • Sales is all cold calling. Not true. Again, professional sales is based on building trusting relationships. This takes time and is often built over a series of professional conversations – sometimes taking as many as 10-20 (or more) different meetings before a customer commits to buy a product or service.
  • Sales is high travel. Of course, this misconception comes from the idea of the “traveling salesman.” The idea, though, is counter intuitive. If you rely on the fact that professional business-to-business sales demands a relationship, you’ll appreciate that high travel is not conducive to that end. In fact, quite the opposite. To build and maintain strong professional relationships, a sales professional must be present more often than not. Often, companies want larger sales forces with smaller individual territories to drive these important relationships.
  • Sales is 100% commission. In true professional business-to-business sales, this is rarely the case. Most companies pay their sales staff a base salary and supplement their income with incentive compensation. Sometime I get the question about the reality of how compensation plans work. Again, back to customer relationships – companies WANT to pay their representatives. Certainly they are not going to give the money away, but companies want their reps happy (at least income-wise) because a content sales force is a stable sales force (low turnover).

I’ve seen many JMOs launch successful business careers by starting in sales (myself included). I hope that this blog post helps as you think through your options and interests. Please feel free to contact me directly if you’d like to speak further about this topic.
Best,
Pete Van Epps