For those of you graduating and entering the workforce I want to say congratulations!
I wanted to begin with the kindest words because odds are you’re about to get punched in the face by the real world. It doesn’t matter if you graduated with your high school diploma or a PhD.
Life as you knew it is over: shit’s about to get real.
It’s been over a decade since I graduated from college, and I can still remember my first job out of school like I just left it. I was fortunate in a few ways. I found a company that was willing to hire a college graduate to take over an entire sales territory. I worked for a boss who held me to a high standard because he knew if he didn’t I was guaranteed to fail.
And in hindsight I realize I was fortunate to be somewhat prepared and (barely) good enough to succeed in my first sales job, because a lot of people don’t make it.
If you’re entering a career in sales, interviewing for sales roles, or even considering it, please read this. As someone who survived his first sales role by the skin of his teeth and has hired entry-level sales reps for nearly a decade now I want you to know what you’re getting into. I want you to survive when things are tough and thrive when you have some momentum. Both will happen, trust me.
Let me start by saying that sales is a fantastic place to begin your career, and now is an even better time to jump into it.
You know why it’s awesome, now more than ever? Buyers have more power than ever. This means a sales rep’s role is to help the buyer in their purchasing journey, and the best guides will win. It’s collaborative, it’s healthy, and everyone wins when the deal is made.
Yes, you still have to convince people to take action. You still have to know how to twist someone’s arm. Don’t worry, that’s a great thing.
Today’s sales professional knows the prospect is better off learning more, taking that next step, and making an informed decision.
Now wait, you might be wondering, how the heck do you pull off a win-win deal if you still have to twist arms? That sounds like an ethical/moral dilemma. It sounds like snake-oil manipulation.
I assure you, it’s win-win.
Here’s the real dilemma. What is a prospect’s natural response to a salesperson? “NO!”
Someday you will hit the right person at the right time and you’ll wish it was always that easy. Sorry, that’s not sales. Sales is not about taking action only when the prospect is 100% willing. Remember what I said before, great sales professionals are guides on the buyer’s journey. That journey needs to start somewhere, and the best help nudge prospects in the right way so they start the journey.
Does it sound hard? It is. Sales is really hard, especially in the beginning. Be prepared to put in a lot of hard work.
You might be one of the reps who is already talented enough to make that first sales job successful. Everything seems to come naturally. The simple truth is that you’ve done things in your life that have helped you develop skills and talents that are great to have as a salesperson.
If you find it’s a struggle in the beginning, that’s okay. Focus on getting a little bit better every day. Try new things. Steal from your colleagues. Have a learning mindset, because it’s a profession that everyone can always get better at.
The best sales professionals are always focused on getting better, too. Even if you start out by crushing it you still have a lot to learn.
Do you want to be doing the same thing at the same level in a year? How about in 3 years? I didn’t think so. Put in the time to get better.
What does that mean, putting in the time?
You have a golden opportunity to constantly improve right now. Golden. Odds are you don’t have a spouse, you don’t have kids, you don’t have a mortgage for hundreds of thousands of dollars looming over you. This is your time to put in extra hours outside of your working hours to get better.
You can bounce back so much easier right now, so take calculated risks while you still can.
This is the very reason I did a startup when I was 25. I had 2+ years of real world sales experience under my belt and no major obligations. If I lost all of my money? No big deal, I had time to recover.
By the way, when the startup folded I had lost all my money and had thousands in credit card debt for the first time in my life. One year after that startup ended I had zero credit card debt and money in the bank again.
Someday it won’t be as easy. It won’t be as easy to go to that seminar, to spend your nights reading books, honing your craft. It won’t be as easy to spend weekends building an online brand to showcase what you’re doing.
Plus, think about how much farther along you’ll be if you put in the time now.
Focus on getting better and not bitching about how hitting your quota is hard. Hitting your quota is supposed to be hard. Yes, people around you should be able to do it, but not on day 1 and not by coasting and not by doing whatever you want instead of what your manager teaches you that’s proven and repeatable.
I talk to so many college graduates who want to work for 12 months and then go travel the world. Why? You’re basically starting all over if you do it.
Go do something awesome for a few years, save up the money, then do it. If you did it right your company will be dying to take you right back with open arms when you return months and months later. Most people do the opposite, they travel and say “I had the opportunity to do it!” while their peers who came in and fought hard every day and learned something are way ahead of them.
I’m thrilled looking back at my early career, knowing that even though I felt highest of highs (closing my first huge deal only 4 months in) and crushing lows (broke and lost) I kept my eyes on always clawing at getting better.
It’s painful in the moment. It’s hard and it’s challenging. It’s totally worth it.
And I look back, see how many people gave up years ago, and realize that’s part of the reason I’ve been able to do what I’ve done in my career. Without it I wouldn’t have experienced so many things I’ve taken for granted at this point. I’m thankful I did it. I wasn’t perfect and it didn’t always feel like it was working.
That’s what I want for you, though, I want you to go for it without the ego and the expectations of glory, I want you to put in the hours and come out ahead in a few years when you finally look up to see what’s going on. Good luck!