Over the 30-plus years I have been in professional sales, not one of my business cards carried the title “salesman.” Some of the titles included territory manager, district manager, sales executive, senior sales executive, account manager and senior account manager. Some companies use the term revenue officer or business development manager. Regardless of the fancy title, we are salespeople, and there should be nothing to be ashamed of.

Sales offer a unique opportunity to put your individual stamp on how you approach your territory. While this is true to a certain extent in other professions, in sales it is taken to a new level.

For example, a chef can prepare a dish in a unique way that propels his or her restaurant to great success and gains national attention. A waiter or waitress in a high-end restaurant can elevate the dining experience to new levels by becoming a student of the menu and wine list to assist guests with their choices, resulting in larger gratuities. An auto mechanic with the proper education and quality tools can diagnose and repair cars faster, resulting in greater productivity and higher income. But salespeople have the most latitude in terms of how they maximize their account base to achieve the highest return.

Determining which accounts to focus on, instituting a strategic plan for each one and consistently executing on your plan will determine your success. This plan will most likely change from year to year, based on the buying potential of your customers and prospects. In many cases, your strategy and account focus will need to be modified as the year progresses. But the fact remains that you, for the most part, are in charge of your own destiny. Professional sales executives thrive in this environment. They love the fact that they are given a product or service to sell and a list of accounts to market to. They don’t have to wait for their next promotion to make a new purchase. If they make the decision to work harder and smarter than their competitor, they will most likely be financially rewarded. They have confidence in their ability to perform, and prefer compensation based on actual performance and not the subjective opinion of management.

It is for these reasons that many sales folks have a difficult time transitioning to “traditional” management roles. They prefer to take matters into their own hands and not delegate. In certain cases they don’t play the political game as well as others, and therefore get passed over for promotions. Professional sales folks who move into salaried positions unrelated to sales (not sales management) must understand that for the most part they are no longer in control of their income. Whatever salary negotiated should be sufficient to meet family needs, since you will no longer be able to give yourself a raise by working harder and smarter.

A successful career professional sales exec should never take a back seat to any other profession. The flexibility, income potential and satisfaction of turning major accounts into long-term happy clients is a combination difficult to match
in other jobs. A career in sales is clearly not for everyone. It takes sound people skills, a strong self-starting work ethic and a heavy dose of common sense. But for the right person it is an awesome career. And never be ashamed to say, “I’m a salesperson!”

Universal Sales Truth #1

Surround yourself with successful people of integrity

Proverbs 13: 20

Become wise by walking with the wise;
hang out with fools and watch your life fall to pieces.