Sales by Serendipity
When you ask little kids what they want to be when they grow up, you’ll usually hear everything from doctor, to veterinarian, to ballerina, police officer, fireman, whatever. But what you don’t hear often (if ever) is, “I want to be a salesperson.”
Now unless this kid is growing up in a household where their mother or father, or some other prominent figure in their life is very proud of the fact that they’re a salesperson, this isn’t a career that kids are typically exposed to. We aren’t taught the ‘Art of Selling’ when we’re in school and I don’t think it’s something that kids strive to be. I honestly believe that the majority of sales people out there are ‘Accidental Salespeople’ and they somehow stumble into a career in account management, or they pick up a little side business from home where they’re selling some type of product or service, or they realize the potential of a commission based career in sales. Whatever their reasoning, it just kind of happens.
The concept of the Accidental Salesperson isn’t new and there have been a few different books published with that as the title. I haven’t read any of them but I feel like I have my own experience to share as having fallen into sales as a career. I’ve been in some type of customer service or another pretty much my entire working life but when I first began to truly take selling seriously was when I became an Account Manager at a radio station.
I was 23 years old when I graduated from University and I had just earned a fancy Bachelor of Business Management that I felt qualified me to take over the world!
However, this was 2009 and there happened to be a serious financial crash going on in the economy at the time. It honestly felt like no one could escape what was happening and there were some tough times going on for people. It was scary and so business owners were being overly cautious which resulted in a lot of people being laid off and losing their jobs.
I had worked a couple of different jobs while I was in school – for quite a few years as a waitress in a busy bar and then about a year and a half as an office manager for a cleaning company. Regardless of the fact that I always worked, I was still coming out of school with some serious debt to deal with – about $18,000 to be exact. The more embarrassing part about that was that my parents always paid for my tuition and I was living with my boy-friend who never charged me rent. How I would later become a ‘financial advisor’ seems like a ridiculous concept looking back…..
Regardless – I had some bills to pay but I’d gotten a degree and I figured that should earn me a cushy job in a cool business and they’d agree to pay me $80,000 a year. Well, that didn’t happen. I applied for more jobs than I can remember and I went on more interviews than I can count. The cool thing is that I received an incredible amount of interview experience and I typically always got the interview because my resume was beautiful and polished, but the feedback was always one of two things:
- I was underqualified because I didn’t have much for experience, or
- I was overqualified because I had a degree and they knew I would outgrow the position.
I really was just trying to find a job at that point.
As long as the salary was decent, I was willing to take the shot. Except for when I interviewed for a position at the youth emergency shelter and I realized after they offered it to me that I wasn’t the right person for that. I know my mental limits and I don’t think I would have been able to find a work/life balance when dealing with such serious issues every day. I had to find something that I was going to be able to make my own but in the meantime, I had to make some money so I did what I do best and I got busy hustlin’ at the always busy Earls Restaurant as a lounge waitress.
I specifically chose to go to work at Earls because I had worked there as a hostess when I was 16 and I knew that the clientele would be successful businesspeople that I could network with as I was serving them. I love networking and meeting new people so I figured it was a win either way but I was planning to use my current job to find my dream job. It just so happens that I was one heck of a waitress so I figured it would only be a matter of time before the right opportunity would come up and after a few patient months, I was right!
It was through a frequent Earls customer that I heard about the position at the radio station because she was the Sales Manager there already and they were hiring. The next day, I printed off my resume, wrote a cover letter, got dressed up and personally went into the station to apply. (At that time, I always did my best to hand deliver resumes instead of emailing so I’d have a better chance of making a connection and impression.) She interviewed me on the spot but let me know it was ultimately the General Managers decision and I could expect to be meeting with him next but on another day as they were interviewing a few different people for the job of Account Manager. I was on pins and needles for about a week but I finally got the call for the follow up interview with the GM and I was STOKED!
I still have the grey dress that I bought for that interview. I think I wore some gaudy purple jewelry with it at the time, but the dress is actually quite classic and every once in awhile, I still put it on to see if it fits. I bought a sparkly new lip gloss that sealed my confidence in the parking lot and then I walked in there feeling like a million bucks! Thanks to all of my prior interview experience – I nailed it.
He told me that he was impressed with me and he felt good about my potential but let me know that he was still meeting with a few more people that week. So the waiting game began again and I anxiously waited for a phone call with the job offer, however, I was a little deflated when I got the call for anotherinterview! This would now be my third interview for this position and although I wasn’t overly nervous and I felt good about it, I was beginning to be skeptical of the process. Would I be shortlisted down to 2 or 3 and then still not get it?
Well the opposite happened.
I was shortlisted after that 3rdinterview and then finally called back for a 4thwhere I was offered the job! I was beyond ecstatic and so excited about the opportunity to work at a radio station – this was going to be such a fun job! Plus, I would finally have a salary with a stable income and a career I could build on (I would later discover how challenging sales could be and that the salary wasn’t going to last long!) but at the time, I was over the moon! I could finally start using my education and building a career I could be proud of.
Fast-forward two months and I made the first, biggest decision of my sales career.
One of the other account managers was leaving the station and her book of business would be open for someone to pick up. It would mean that I would forfeit my salary and go strictly to 100% commission, but I valued the businesses in the book and I saw massive potential to build relationships with these clients so I went to my GM and told him that I wanted it. Somehow, I convinced him to give me the shot but immediately I became responsible for the entire budget of that book and my annual income depended on how well I hit the targets set for me.
It was definitely stressful at times and throughout my life, I have definitely felt the financial effects of being a commission paid sales woman, but the good of this new life far outweighed the bad. I found that I loved being out on sales calls, I loved visiting with clients and I loved punching in my numbers and getting my budget reports each week. I stumbled my way through until I got good at selling radio and by the time I hit my stride, I was only 25 years old and had made my first $100,000 year.
This was not the career path I had envisioned for myself when I was in school. I honestly thought I was going to be a marketing executive, HR manager or even office manager and although we took ‘personal selling’ in my Management degree in University, I had never actively envisioned myself in a career in sales which I think is the same for a lot of people who are coasting through life and just not sure what to do with themselves. Sales is an absolute blast and no two days are ever the same. It gives me a limitless income potential and I have a level of freedom and flexibility in my schedule that not a lot of people have. I have to be extremely self-motivated but the rewards are always worth it so I don’t find it to be much of a struggle. The whole sales woman concept is absolutely brilliant to me. It’s terrifying sometimes – but actually the best career I could have ever walked into and at this point, I couldn’t imagine doing anything else!