Millennial Advice for Sales Hopefuls
By Fahd Pasha
Sales is a profession that has been around forever. It has evolved throughout the ages, from bartering in the town marketplace, to going door-to-door, to online and beyond. It has led to many successful careers and lucrative livelihoods. At a time when a majority of entry-level jobs require three to five years of work experience, going into the sales profession can be a hard sell for young individuals. While it might be brushed aside by its reputation, sales can be a very rewarding career path.
To illustrate the value to be gain from a sales career, we spoke to a twenty-something millennial, Luke Shaughnessy. After having spent two years working in a sales role, he shared with us his thoughts about this often misjudged career path.
Tell us about your current role.
I work for a third-party logistics company (and the second largest in the U.S.) for clients who need to move products. We sell a service.
What motivated you to enter the career of sales?
Mostly, how competitive it is. I come from a sports background and have been a competitor for my whole life. I always had that drive to challenge myself to do better than others. I also had the chance to see my college teammates succeed in sales, so this was an important factor for me when I was considering my career path after college.
As a student athlete, how did that experience help you in your sales career?
As I mentioned, my competitiveness played the biggest role, but I’d also say that teamwork and discipline provided me with the traits required to succeed in sales.
Discipline was another important aspect of my background that has helped me in my career. In college, I had to follow a strict schedule to accommodate both classes and sports. Coming from that lifestyle, I think I was destined for a sales career. In my job, I need to be available 24/7 for my clients, sometimes even attending a client calls at 2:00 or 3:00 a.m. Having that regiment and structure certainly prepared me for this career.
Are there specific traits you think help make for a good salesperson?
A pleasant personality and an inner drive to succeed is what makes a good salesperson great!
As with any job, but more so in sales, if you’re not great at communicating, you’re pretty much out of luck. Often, individuals will be doing phone sales. These are situations where the listener doesn’t know you, cannot see you and probably gets several calls of the sort on a daily basis – so relationship-building becomes key.
Creating these relationships were the core of growing my business. I have to gain their trust before selling anything. This is why a potential customer ultimately chooses me over another salesperson.
With sales comes rejection. So how do you handle it?
Rejection is part of the game. Sometimes, sales can be a numbers game, so you’ve really got to pound the phone – even if you strike out on Monday, you have to pick up that phone on Tuesday. There is no other way.
Being able to talk through your rejections can really help you – and not taking it personally is really important. For me, I treat it like a game. It’s similar to being cut from a team, and with practice, getting back into the thick of things. Obviously, you need to have thick skin, as people can say hurtful things. But with the right mindset and willingness to succeed, over time, it gets easier.
Do you think introverts can succeed in a sales role?
Introverts do bring special qualities – they’re organized, focused and structured.
Like I said earlier, at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter as long as you have the right personality and can successfully build relationships. I’ve noticed in my career that the first five seconds of a call is everything. The person on the other line is either all business or someone who’d be open to having a friendly conversation. Introverts may do very well with the former – but ultimately it’s their connection with the person that they’re selling that matters the most.
What advice do you have for students who are considering a career in sales?
Students need to factor a lot of things before making that decision. Some sales positions are commission-based, which can be different than working in a salaried job with a different sort of pressure. You’ll also want to decide if you’re comfortable with selling over-the-phone, or travelling, or perhaps working longer hours. These situations aren’t for everybody and can take their toll.
It’s not all bad though! It’s very rewarding to create these relationships with people, especially since they trust you with their business. Providing that service and being there for your clients helps creates opportunities for their business, which leads to their company growing – because of you.
Funny story, a client of mine once revealed that I was the second person she told the news about her pregnancy, and I have never met her in my life. But because we have that relationship and trust, where it’s not just business, it certainly makes coming to work fun.