Do you think salespeople are a different breed? In many ways they are; but in many other ways, they share similar goals and dreams, fears and concerns as the rest of us. But the ways that salespeople mirror – or differ from – us might be surprising. Consider Zeke, our model of a misunderstood sales professional. Listen to his confessions and see if they change your perspective of salespeople in general, or the ones in your organization:
“Hi. Zeke here. I’m 37 years old, born and raised in the Midwest, and I’m a salesperson. I’ve been in sales for nearly a decade, but sometimes it seems that each day is like starting over. Maybe that’s because each prospect or customer experience is different, and so I am constantly learning. Getting better all the time, too. But the truth is that it’s a changing world, a constantly shifting business and sales landscape, so I never really feel that I have it all figured out. Maybe that’s a good thing. Keeps me on my toes. Keeps me listening and learning. Keeps me connected to what the customer wants and needs.”
“My job isn’t like the others at my company. In most jobs, the work finds the worker. Assignments or tasks come in and the employee does what is expected, clocks out and goes home to a separate life. It’s easy for many business professionals to compartmentalize their days, their weeks, their lives. Me? Not so much.
“Simply put, I have to find my work. I have a pipeline to fill, opportunities to unearth, prospects to discover and ‘court.’ Sales don’t happen overnight, so the prospects I identify today might be in the pipeline for a year or more. But I can never let them out of my sight, because their needs can change in a heartbeat. I have to be ready when they are.
“And when I make the sale and turn a pipeline dweller into a customer for the company, someone else takes over, and I start again. Finding. Prospecting. Nurturing. Being ready.”
“Quotas are a necessary evil, I guess. For a salesperson like me, they are the measure of my worth. If I don’t hit my quota each month my job is at risk. After all, anyone in my company can look at the sales report and judge me to be either a success or failure. Do you face that kind of pressure? Do you have to prove yourself every month, every week, every hour? Do you live – or work, I should say – in that kind of “fishbowl?” I do. It’s surprising how relentless the current can be and how hard I have to swim to keep from hitting those glass walls.”
“The other thing most people don’t think about when it comes to sales quotas is that they make or break my compensation. For the salaried staffers in my company, there is a measure of income security: come in, do your job (even if it is at the minimum level) and you get your paycheck. You know what to expect from one pay period to the next. Not me. If I miss my quotas, I lose compensation. Do you think my pay is mostly salaried with incentives that make it that much sweeter? Think again. The salary I draw is a minimum amount and my sales performance incentives vary. It was especially tough in the beginning, when I was just starting to fill the pipeline. But even the most seasoned sales performer can’t count on monthly income being, well, regular. Some months I think will be great, turn into one disappointment after another, as factors beyond my control force “sure thing” sales to be delayed or derailed. Other months, of course, sales I didn’t count on come in unexpectedly. Try planning for future expenses when you don’t know what your income will be. But again, there’s seldom a “normal” month. (Unless abnormal IS the norm.)”
“I get rejected. A lot. It comes with the territory, I suppose. And even though you might think salespeople like me have a thicker hide and can take the abuse… Well, let’s just say that I’m human. Rejection hurts. I believe in my company. I believe in our solution. And I’m confident that our price is fair. So when I lose a sale, I take it personally. Was I not good enough? Did I do or say something wrong to send the prospect into the arms of another salesperson? I look in the mirror a lot. I wonder a lot.”
Recognition and Praise:
“On the other hand, when I land that big account or make that big sale or get recognized for my efforts, it feels great! It’s a euphoric feeling. A total rush! It lifts me up and boosts my confidence. It’s like sinking that birdie putt or getting the keys to that new car or making a big gain on a stock or stepping out in a new custom suit or… Well, I’ll just say that it feels so good it makes the hard work and rejection tolerable. It keeps me coming back. And listening and learning and trying harder month after month. Maybe that’s what really makes me a salesperson. And a pretty darn good one at that.”
Zeke – and countless sales professionals like him – are often misunderstood and unappreciated. Those who can adapt to the unique aspects of a salesperson’s life are a rare breed, but companies depend on salespeople to keep their businesses afloat and their staffs employed. We owe the Zekes of the world some respect. Or at least more understanding.