My first sales job was delivering newspapers. I knocked on people's front doors and asked them to subscribe to the newspaper. When they said no, I asked them to subscribe to the Sunday paper. My 12-year-old self must have felt the dopamine drip from hearing yes and being handed money, something I had too little of. Like Pavlov's dog, I made the connection between asking a prospect to buy something and acquiring money. This experience didn't make me money motivated; I was motivated by not wanting to be poor.
While a career in sales can pay the bills, it isn’t like any other job. After a few more decades and a bit more experience, I’ve identified five reasons to love working in sales. All can be difficult to find in other professions.
Reason 1: Control Over Your Income
A lot of people like working in sales because it is one of the few roles where you have some control over your income. Your ability to make more money in sales is ruled by a couple of factors. The first factor is your discipline for doing the work of selling. The second factor is your effectiveness as a salesperson.
In business, selling is the ultimate meritocracy. Working in sales finds you making more money than other people in the same role. Those who do too little or don't practice their craft will not make as much money. Even when everyone sells the same company and the same product, under the same manager and in the same territory, while facing the same competitors, individual results will vary greatly.
Reason 2: Maximum Autonomy
I worked in an operational role in staffing for five years. I was told to call companies to see if I could help them. When my new manager recognized I had won more clients than his three salespeople, he forced me to take a field sales role against my will. Once I was unchained from my desk, I was a lot happier. Instead of sitting in an office, I was driving all over Los Angeles meeting new people.
You will like working in sales if you like maximum autonomy at work. You can make your calls to schedule appointments when you want to, you can pursue clients you wish to win, and you can sell in a way that suits you—as long as your way creates value for your client in the sales conversation.
But you must be careful here. The salespeople who fail do so because they lack discipline. Autonomy is only valuable to people with discipline.
Reason 3: Being Valuable to Others
When I was working in an operational role, I helped my clients by sending them the people they needed to run their businesses. When I became a salesperson, I had to create a different kind of value. I had to help my prospects and clients succeed by helping them with the changes that would improve their results. While I was not consultative, because I was an operator, I knew what the client needed to do to improve their results.
In sales, you meet with your prospective clients when they are trying to improve their results and need help. If you are a person who likes to help people and make a difference in their lives and their businesses, you may do well working in sales.
Reason 4: Creating and Developing Relationships
I know many sales organizations believe that relationships don’t matter. The worst of these companies look at their prospective clients as a wallet from which to draw revenue. This short-term thinking isn't for people who work in sales. It's better to take a longer-term view of your relationships.
I like people. I like learning about people. If you are the kind of person who likes meeting people and developing relationships, you may enjoy working in sales. Salespeople who take a longer view of their relationships will find their relationships provide them with a sustainable competitive advantage. All things being equal, relationships win. All things being unequal, relationships still win.
Salespeople are generally "people" people. They enjoy developing relationships.
Reason 5: You Are Goal Oriented
The person with goals is suited for work in sales. The person who wants a certain lifestyle, a better life for their family, the opportunity of leading a team or setting out on their own in the future would do well in sales. The person who is disciplined enough to plan their time and their work in pursuit of their goal will find themselves at home in sales. A role in sales is dominated by the clock. You must do the right work in the right way at the right time to succeed. Goal-oriented people are, almost without exception, people who work on their personal and professional development.
People without their own goals, who are not interested in improving themselves, will find it a struggle working in sales. They may have a job in sales, but they won't love what they do.
For Those Considering Work in Sales
Selling is a craft. It's important to know it takes time to develop as a salesperson. Some people may tell you it's a number game, but that isn't true. It's a game of effectiveness. There are ways you can speed your development, but if you are new to working in sales, you would benefit from reading and studying The Only Sales Guide You'll Ever Need. If you are already in sales, you will advance even further by studying Elite Sales Strategies: A Guide to Being One-Up, Creating Value, and Becoming Truly Consultative.
If you want control over your income and more autonomy than in most other roles, and if you enjoy being valuable to others, developing relationships, and remaining goal-oriented, you will like working in sales.