What other profession do you know where when someone says, ‘well he’s a salesman’, that can mean, more often than not, the person I’m referring to is a conniving, impatient asshole?

I’ve thought a lot about my profession as my career in digital advertising sales has evolved. It is an interesting profession that I’ve enjoyed but there are things about being a salesperson that I’ve always been intrigued by. For starters, a lot of salespeople, even very good sales people, don’t like to think of themselves as being in a sales profession. They will call themselves ‘business development’ or ‘account manager’ or ‘chief strategy officer’, while often their goals all ladder back to a direct sales relationship with the company that employs them. They might pass it off as, ‘well everyone sells’, and while that is hopefully the case, why shy away from what your profession is? Own it and be proud to say you’re in sales.

I don’t believe this lack of ownership happens in a lot of other fields and you have to ask yourself, why. Which brings in the other side of the sales relationship, the customer. Most customers don’t enjoy salespeople and many times they have very good reason for it. Salespeople can be conniving, they can be terrible listeners, they can be uneducated on their own product, they might not understand a customer’s needs, timing or empathize with their pain points. All of these traits in sales people are bad and it leads to the profession being run through the mud. This also leads to downward spirals within organizations; salespeople are treated like cattle, ushered in and out based on poor performance goals set by management. Often in this structure, bad salespeople get promoted for the wrong reasons, these promoted managers hire salespeople of their ilk and poorly set expectations create even worse results. Product people end up despising salespeople and salespeople become intimidated in their roles and they revert back to primal instincts. Kill or be killed and say goodbye to making a good name for yourself or your profession.

This doesn’t have to be the case. Sales is an outstanding profession. I don’t say that in a ‘go-get-em champ, ra-ra’, sort of way. I mean that sales should and will(if Percolate has a say in it) be a sought after and a well-respected profession. Sales can teach you a lot about yourself and the people around you. It will help you understand how to best navigate situations and relationships in ways that will make you a better person. The title of sales should mean that you are a person that is thoughtful, that you know how to access a situation and you can provide solutions through listening and learning that makes the customer a better person as well.

A few characteristics of great sales people I’ve had the opportunity to work with:

  • Emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand your own and other people’s emotions in a way that you can get the most of our yourself and the people around you. This is also a great sign of someone with the ability to achieve C-level ranks within the company in time. They can deal with situations where emotions can run high and they make themselves and others feel great about it. What is the best way to build your emotional intelligence? Start listening.
  • Curious. Laddering back up to emotional intelligence. Being curious and naturally asking questions is hard work and sometimes can be awkward. Curiosity leads to learning and the more you can learn the better you will sell.
  • Drive. Sales can be tough. You have to understand that and love to motivate yourself and the people around you. Most importantly, and this happens a lot, you can’t be embarrassed by your drive.
  • Meaning. Sales comes down to creating meaning behind what you are selling. Sure, you have heard that anyone can sell a product they believe in, but I’m talking about more than that. Even great products can break down and if you don’t have a meaning for why you are selling your product, you won’t know what to do when your product doesn’t perform. Meaning also should allow you the freedom to forgo compensation for stretches of time. In order to make meaning it is important that you are doing your work in a way that it means more than money. Find that meaning and sales becomes easy. You also won’t find a customer who doesn’t love to get behind a person with meaning.

All of these characteristics are achievable and require the talent of thoughtfulness, hard work and determination. So, let’s do it. Let’s all be great salespeople and make our profession one that people are proud of. Let’s not let customers be upset with our behavior or our products. If they are, ask them why. Let’s also educate customers that we aren’t in this relationship to wine and dine them, take them to expensive concerts, agree with them when they are wrong or laugh at awkward jokes(The Customer isn’t always right…. or funny). We are going to get as much as we give in the sales/customer relationship and both sides must be in agreement on this.

At Percolate, we are hiring salespeople.