A Career in SalesFebruary 7, 2009
I was tagged by Axinia to write about all the jobs that I have held till now. So, here goes:
Market Development Executive – Sales
Sr. Sales Executive
Sr. Executive – Marketing
Sales Manager – South
As you can see, there is one thing that is common with all of them – Sales.
Till my final year of Engineering, I wanted to become a Software Engineer. But two incidents predominantly changed my mind. As a part of the final year curriculum, a technical project needs to be done by everyone. I wanted to do this project myself. I had selected a topic and short listed the hardware and software components required for the same. But, in spite of my best efforts, I was not even able to start with this project. Secondly, I happened to interact with a few seniors who were employed in big software companies. The feedback they gave about their jobs, was far from impressive! These two incidents moved me away from a technical field of work. The question was – What else could I choose as a career?
Till I finished my education, I was quite an introvert. I was reserved and my pursuits were more intellectual in nature – Reading books, trying to learn a musical instrument, writing something interesting and forwarding it to my friends (Now you know why I am addicted to Blogging!). So, I didn’t have the qualities which I thought were required for a good Sales person (I was not outgoing, talkative etc). This was a driving factor which led me to choose Sales as a career. My logic was, if I take up Sales as a career, I will have to attempt to transform myself as a person. I will have to develop some of the qualities required for a good Sales person. This was very important for me back then, and if a career could help me develop some skills and make me slightly more of an extrovert, it was only Sales.
Besides, I didn’t think it was a big risk, back then. I wanted to do an MBA in Sales/Marketing and I thought two years of experience in a related field would definitely be an advantage (I also wanted to earn some money to fund my higher education. But I never did that MBA because I never saved enough money to afford an MBA which was becoming costlier with every passing year. And I also had to take a break of two years and go back to studying which was quite unthinkable after two years). A strong second factor was recession. I would always be thankful for the recession that happened back then as it was not easy to get a Software Engineering job and campus placements were rare. (Actually the IT market started opening and recruited large numbers only after about nine months since I joined my first job). So, it was easier to convince my parents that I would not be able to join an IT company and hence they should allow me to take up Sales as a career (I think even the proposed MBA after two years helped here).
I was quite afraid when I joined my first job (They don’t expect much from a fresher in this career, but I didn’t know it back then). So, I was doing all that I was asked to do without complaining and to the best of my abilities. My salary was around 4000 Rupees back then but I never had a shortage of funds (In fact, I even managed to save around 1500 Rupees per month).
Companies seem to know when to keep and when to fire their employees. During my first job and for sometime in my second job my performance was not all that good. But the management never fired me for that. They were constantly monitoring what I was doing and observing if I was lying about my reports etc (Contrary to popular perceptions, lying doesn’t go well either with your customers or with your bosses in this career). In fact I was not even asked about the performance in my first job as long as I was sincerely doing what was given to me. But during the initial course of my second job, I was asked to resign a couple of times. But when I went to the office the next day, my boss would totally forget having asked me to leave (In fact, I was later told that it was done to put some pressure on me).
Pressure, is an important driving factor in sales. And the pressure is not only from your bosses but it also comes from your customers, partners, vendors and almost everyone! In the beginning it was tough to handle that. But in the due course of the job, when I found that the pressure was helping me to do my job better, I developed a more tolerant attitude towards it.
Procrastination costs you dear in this career. If you don’t respond quickly to the client’s request for quotation, some one else would be walking with the purchase order! Coordination is a quality that is important and you tend to develop fast, in this career. You are expected to coordinate everything from the first quotation to the collection of payment (And it is quite a big cycle) and also need to coordinate within the company (Like installation team, finance department, logistics department etc) and with vendors and most importantly – Customers. Touring is an integral part of Sales – You need to travel far, often at short notices (And no, there will not be much time to go sight seeing). Presentation and communication skills are also important (This you tend to develop as you gain experience). And contrary to popular expectation, you don’t necessarily need to drink a lot of alcohol to get the drive (Maybe it helps, but I never felt the need for it. Especially because it is not good for health. I do go to Pubs with my partners and colleagues but I don’t drink alcohol. In fact, I order for a sprite and give it a ‘Gin’ effect while drinking by drinking it in the style of drinking a Vodka 😉 )
So, to cut a long article short, I feel that sales as a career is like any other. It is highly rewarding and challenging. You need the right attitude and the right perspective. The right attitude will be developed as a part of the job but the right perspective needs to come from within you.
You could find similar articles in the Non Fiction section of this blog.