I’m reminded of the time I lived in Phoenix while attending graduate school.  Phoenix was a much smaller city then, than it is now and I never met anyone who was actually from Phoenix, everyone had moved there from some place else.  A career in sales is a whole lot like Phoenix was thirty-seven years ago.  

I’ve met very few people in my life who deliberately planned a career in sales.  My career choice was international business, while other salespeople might have chosen a career in management, business development, marketing, advertising, finance, engineering, manufacturing, operations or countless other fields.  It almost seems as though every salesperson arrived in sales by default, not by design.  They had something else in mind and when that didn’t work out as planned, selling became the fallback.  In a sense, that makes salespeople failures from the onset because selling is not what they had in mind when they embarked on their career.

Wow, that’s depressing – a world of salespeople who label themselves as failures, working in a default occupation.  I remember meeting Jim, thirty-eight years ago.  I had just moved my family eighteen hundred miles from home in pursuit of my first professional job.  Jim told me he was a graduate of the Harvard School of Business, a Harvard MBA.  He also told me very proudly he was a salesperson.  The thought passed through my mind, “Why would anyone with a Harvard MBA want to be a salesperson?”  It didn’t make sense to me until Jim explained what he did as a salesperson and how much money he made; then it started to come into mental focus.  Jim identified problems, needs and pain and then outlined the perfect solution, remedy and prescription.  He was like a doctor in a sense and was compensated better than most doctors for his efforts.  Meeting Jim changed my career perspective in life and I will forever be grateful to him for that.

For all salespeople who never planned a career in selling, take a moment to give thanks for ending up in one of the greatest careers.  You have the chance to change lives, fortunes and companies.  Your influence can truly make a difference in this world.  Your cures and solutions can have a far-reaching impact on everyone you contact.  Salespeople with knowledge, compassion, understanding and integrity can change the world.  You may not have chosen a career in selling, but fortunately you have arrived, however convoluted the path may have been and by so doing, can participate in a truly fulfilling career

Now that you have arrived, unlike other professionals who prepare for their careers through college degrees, to achieve your destiny, you must now prepare yourself, not having planned or prepared for your sales career in advance.  Become a student of the principles of selling.  Commit yourself to study, practice and hard work.  Learn to listen first and then to speak.  Learn to view the world thru the eyes of the customer.  Become a great diagnostician and discover their true needs, contrary to what your customers might believe.  Just as doctors listen to their patients as they diagnose a medical situation, salespeople need to listen to their customers.  However, many times the patient only recognizes the symptoms, not the cause and the same is true with professional salespeople.  A salesperson’s responsibility is to discover the true need and then provide the very best solution.  

Learn the art of building relationships.  People always respond better in an atmosphere of caring and trust.  Isn’t that what you look for in dealing with others?  As disheartening as it may be, people don’t really care about you, they only care about how you care for them.  A buyer’s focus is inward to their situation and if you have a desire to be successful, put your focus on them also.  You are not the subject of concern, they are.  Never forget, without a customer, you are nothing.  Salespeople exist because there are customers.  

Two final thoughts for your training and education: always ask for their business and always pick up the check.