A Career in Sales – Chance or Choice?

Henry Ford’s famous quote, “They can have any colour they want as long as it is black” is a little outdated in an age where information is at everyone’s fingertips. His other one, “Nothing happens if no one sells anything” is timeless.

I came across this recently and it made me reflect that for lots of people going through school, university, TAFE, early jobs, etc, a career in sales is much more about chance than choice, not many people start out saying “I want to go into sales”.

Most other career choices aren’t like this – you generally choose to be a builder, engineer, doctor, accountant or teacher, landscaper, IT, hairdresser, policeman (or woman)…. the list is endless.

Luck – Good or Bad

I took a job in sales during the “recession we had to have” because there was nothing else around; I’d been to university and at 22 thought I knew everything. It only took about three weeks in sales to realise I didn’t know anything. Luckily for me I had a boss who sent me to a sales training course; this was over 25 years ago and I can still remember the enormous impact this had on me, I was on my way.

Persistence – Good to Great

As so aptly put by Henry Ford in the above quote, all businesses need sales revenue to survive and thrive, meaning sales people are in the spotlight and need to be comfortable being so. When all is going well, it’s like being a rock star on stage; when it’s not, it’s like a thief caught red handed.

It is often said that someone is a natural sales person which I think this is a little unfair. My view is that it is like anything else, if you are good at it you will more than likely be successful but if you want to be great, you must work hard over a long period of time, keep developing, make mistakes, reflect, learn and keep going.

Rewards – Endless

“85% of your financial success is due to your personality & ability to communicate, negotiate & lead. Shockingly, only 15% is due to your technical knowledge.”

This quote above by the Carnegie Institute suggests that even the most brilliant ideas need to be brought to life by commercially through influence.

I have met many engineers, plumbers, hairdressers and teachers who have become great sales people – they weren’t always this way, they had started on their path, weren’t quite fulfilled, took a sales job (sometimes as an interim) and found themselves enjoying it; some are now running national sales teams or their own businesses.

Sales can do that, it can be chance on the way in. I like to think the best ones then make a conscious choice to become the very best sales person they can be leading to a financially rewarding and emotionally fulfilling career.

Charlie Pidcock