Ask anyone to describe their worst sales experience – you’ll get a multitude of horror stories about aggressive, manipulative, insane people who will do anything to make a sale. In the media sales people are portrayed as borderline sociopaths whose sole ambition is to make a ton of money and who take ambiguous paths to get there at the expense of those around them.
As with many things in the media – little about how sales is portrayed is true. Those horror stories from your friends? Those roles are typically minimum wage with few growth opportunities – the cream rises out of those roles and the sludge sticks. When it comes to entertainment I’d personally rather watch Leonardo DiCaprio thump his chest and crash a Lamborghini than stare at his computer praying legal approved the redline on a contract on the last day of the quarter.
With really nothing but caricatures and outdated stereotypes facing those looking for a career – why on earth would anyone choose to become a salesperson?
This is the first in a series of blog posts around the myths and realities of a career in sales. The truth is you ask nearly any person who has held a sales role – especially an entry-level, cold-calling role – and they’ll say their time as an entry-level sales person is a key factor in their success.
Truth – people wash out of sales roles. However more often than not those who wash out quickly leave because the role “wasn’t what they expected”. This series will be the direct, honest, no-sugar-coating truths. The highs, lows and everything in between. We’ll name the myths, our demons and celebrate the best moments that keep millions of people each year coming back for more.
Truth – This is one of the best jobs you can have to set yourself up for lifelong success! The camaraderie, the money, vast array of experiences you have the opportunity to participate in are unlike anything else. However the biggest benefit to an entry level sales position isn’t any of the above – it’s the skills that you develop. Every skill below will serve you in any career path you choose.
Here are the top five lessons that I think serve people best throughout their career regardless of the direction that career takes.
- Ruthless time management and the value of failure. One of my favorite sayings I tell new hires to live by is “fail hard, fail often”. Trust me – everyone does. The most common skill top performers develop is time management. They become ruthless with their time and constantly evaluate how efficiently they’re working. Even mediocre SDRs learn how to prioritize, execute and analyze performance. This will help throughout your career whether you stay in sales or move to engineering, marketing, finance – any role. Adapt or die.
- The importance of asking. Trial by fire. Cold calling isn’t “fun” but it is a life skill that will serve you well throughout your career and life. When in doubt – pick up the phone! It’s frequently the quickest way to get things done. Additionally once you learn to ask strangers to do something they initially don’t want to do it becomes easier to ask for anything else you need in life. John Barrows has spoken and written about the value of practicing sales everywhere you go. The theory is if you ask when the stakes are low it’s easier to ask when the stakes are high. (ie you’re going to stay at the hotel anyway – so if they don’t upgrade no big deal. If they do upgrade – Bonus!) You will ask for more things as an SDR than at any point later in life – getting comfortable with asking and failing will serve you for the rest of your life.
- Only you are responsible for your success and or failure. One of the best thing about sales is, on the whole, the more you put in the more shows up in your paycheck. In nearly every other line of work you’re tied to a team or other limiting factors. In sales you really do your own fate – goals are clear and resources are devoted to ensuring you hit them. Not hitting your primary goals? Make sure your activity are beyond reproach and that way at least your manager has enough data to help figure out what’s going on. Goals completely unreasonable? It’s always your choice to stay a part of that team – companies are always looking for solid sales player. You own your paycheck and no one else is responsible for the results you generate.
- Nothing beats numbers. Success can be hard to quantify in many lines of work – if a project was delivered late but met all the criteria was it a success? Sales is black and white. You hit your goal or you don’t. As an SDR you have support to build a reputation for delivering on demand. Nothing speaks better when looking for your next position than being able to show a hiring manager concrete, quantifiable numbers from activity to results. It doesn’t matter what field you may move into next – all hiring managers want to hire people who know how to hit their targets no matter what.
- Exposure to every aspect of a growing business – sales, marketing, product, operations. SDRs have more visibility into more career tracks than nearly any other position at a company. Not only will you see how sales is done but you’ll see how marketing builds and runs campaigns, how operations builds the systems, how support functions best and even how finance or product keep the lights on. All you have to do is ask.
No job does a better job of showing you what you’re capable of – challenging your own personal myths about your abilities – and replacing those myths with the facts of your accomplishments.
If this sounds interesting check-out our website – we partner with the top technology companies in the world to train and get you paid on-the-job experience.
Got your own top lesson from your time as an SDR? Make sure to subscribe to our blog – We’ll be highlighting some of the best stories from life as an SDR in a later post so stay tuned.