Why Successful Sales Reps Are Made and Not Born?

January 2, 2019

Tariq Jarrar

Here Are The Facts:

We already know that there is no such thing as a born salesperson.

We were surprised to find out that only 39% of salespeople intended to go into sales.

We have supporting evidence that one in four salespeople majored in business.

Moreover, that seventeen percent never attended college.

So, if the vast majority of the successful sales reps did not choose sales as a career then how did they end up in sales?

My Unexpected Journey Into Sales

Perhaps my own career can serve as an example to that. Let me take you back in time to the winter of 1988 as I triumphantly walked out of the University of Toledo graduation hall in the cold afternoon. I thought “the world was my oyster”. Of course, back then I did not know what that proverb meant which interestingly turned out to be a quote from Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor.

Majoring in finance and minoring in banking, I was destined to be in Wall Street. I was so much into my dream that the last year of college I attended all my lectures in a suit. Luckily for me at that time, the human race was not so much into bullying.

However, someone up there rolled the dice and it wasn’t in my favor. I had to return home to a place that did not have a stock market and the most traditional way of investing was in gold, hiding money under the mattress, or if they were feeling adventurous… a bank deposit. I was still very fortunate to land a job with a reputed international bank, but that was when the fun stopped. HR could only place me in a SALES position.

I was disheartened and above all scared. How can I sell offshore investment solutions in such a market? How can I sell at all? I tried to think long and hard if there was anything I studied that had an element of sales in it, but there was nothing except reading Death of a Salesman play back in college… how inappropriate.

Many targets and a very adventurous career in sales later, I have come to the following realization: The dice were rolled in my favor. Subsequently, I became passionate about what I was doing and learned to become proud of my career, not to mention a healthy bank account and a fluffy mattress. I, however, kept on wondering why sales is a default career and why it is not an academic focus. I for one never heard of a Master’s Degree in Sales. Yes, you might point out that there are few colleges and universities out there that added sales courses to their curriculum but not as a comprehensive degree program, regardless of the mountains of statistics displaying the importance of the sales profession for all the obvious reasons.

We Live In a Society Driven By The Sales Profession

Here are some sobering numbers. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in the U.S., some 14.5 million people–22 percent of the population–work in sales or related occupations. Extrapolating that same percentage to the world, that would mean that roughly 1.65 billion people are employed in sales and similar jobs.

According to a study commissioned by author and researcher Daniel Pink, we spend 40% of our work time selling something in one way or another.

“When you deconstruct sales, it boils down to persuasion.” -Daniel Pink

To demonstrate the above findings let us join the life journey of an average human from his birth until retirement, and we will call him BABY JOE.

From Day 1 We Are Taught the Importance Of Selling

BABY JOE is a couple of months old he had his first massive poop and wants a fresh diaper, so he cries frantically – Persuasion

TODDLER JOE wants that swanky new toy in the store, so he puts on a tantrum – Persuasion

TEENAGE JOE’S hormones are raging, and he wants to get lucky tonight a lot of… Persuasions

YOUNG JOE is being interviewed for his first job – Persuasion

MID AGED JOE year-end performance review is up, and he wants a raise – Persuasion

And the cycle of life progresses with a lot of persuasions, the essence of sales. Ironically, people that are not in a direct sales role but still using persuasion don’t think of themselves as selling. Meanwhile, people that have a direct sales role don’t want to think of themselves as selling. Nothing demonstrates the last part like the many colorful sales titles ranging from Account Achievement Visionary to Results Achievement Specialist. So why do organizations whose existence depends on sales try to masquerade the role of sales professionals with bizarre titles, and why do sales professionals whose livelihood depends on it don’t want to admit that they are in sales and are more than happy to embrace those titles?

It is so unfortunate that while every other profession or the perception of those professions have evolved over the last two decades, the sales profession is still trailing an outdated negative stigma. The image of a sleazy, slimy, pushy, annoying, salesperson is still very much alive as it was 20 years ago.

So how do organizations and us sales professionals stop the negative stigma and the stereotyping?

Salespeople should be proud of their vocation. It is correct, as it was in my case, that I did not willingly choose sales as a profession. However, when I could not find a fit for my skills and needed money to survive, the sales world took me in. From this, I have become a better version of myself and continue to prosper. Salespeople should aspire to take their set of skills and professionalism to the next level in what I call salesmanship. They should set themselves apart from the negative stereotyping that a very few dubious sales amateurs are validating.

As for the organizations, they should embrace the fact that their existence depends on their sales team and should stop sending confusing messages about who they should not be; yet hold them very accountable for the organizations business growth.