How Do You Know If Sales Is Your Path?

How Do You Know If Sales Is Your Path?

I’ve met people that knew from a very young age that they wanted to be lawyers, doctors, writers, police officers, and fire fighters. My younger brother, Jason, knew he wanted to be a professional stand up comedian when he was in third grade (His teacher gave him an assignment to draw a picture of what he wanted to be when he grew up. He drew a stick figure with the words “comedy man” scribbled above it).

I don’t know any person that grew up dreaming of being a salesperson. I am sure there must be someone somewhere that grew up dreaming of carrying a bag, but I’ve never met that person (and I have met a lot of salespeople).

So how do you know if sales is your path?

To be honest, I have no idea how to answer this question. But since a young reader wrote to me to ask me to answer the question, I’ll do my best to share a few thoughts.

If you don’t love what you do, then you stop doing it and do something else. You only get one ride on this great, spinning rock. That ticket is good for about 80 or so trips around the Sun and then you are greeted with an evicition notice. So far, there’s no appeal. I can’t think of one good reason not to do what makes you happy. If selling doesn’t make you happy, then do what does make you happy (Unless you decide to become an entrepreneur. If you believe that being an entrepreneur isn’t a sales job, you are in for a seriously big surprise).

If you aren’t happy prospecting and opening relationships, if you don’t relish the challenge and rewards of creating a relationship out of thin air, then selling might not be your path. If you aren’t comfortable working on the line between conflict and collaboration, then selling might not be your path. If you would rather be told what to do, repeating the same tasks over and over again without being required to use all of your persistence, all of your initiative, and every ounce of your resourcefulness, sales might not be your path. I could make an exhaustive list here, but it won’t help.

I love selling because I love the competition and challenge. I love creating value by solving problems. And I love helping other people get results that they wouldn’t get without my help. But that’s me. That’s my path. Yours is different.

No one can answer the questions as to what your path should be for you. Most people won’t even bother to give you good advice. They’ll tell you to play it safe in a world that punishes people that do so. The best I can offer is that you shouldn’t do something that doesn’t make you happy, and to know that discovering your path is your path—and it might take you a lot of years to stumble upon it.

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  • Jeremy

    Anthony, you sure know how to get me pumped up! I knew I was destined for the sales direction at age 19 after a $250K of sales in 3 months of an entrepreneurial endeavor. I’ve reflected numerous times on when the seed was originally planted, and it goes back to fundraising for school at age 12. I was hooked on the thrill of connecting with people and making results happen. The rewards. The risk. The anxious excitement. It never gets old! Thanks for the article.

    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      Thanks, Jeremy. I wish I could claim to have had found sales (or entrepreneurship) so young. But at about 12, I found rock-n-roll!

  • Keith Nerdin

    This is an interesting question. I always knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur but always hated the idea of selling. After getting detoured from entrepreneurship I ended up as a railroad conductor for Union Pacific when I kept coming across the advice that if you wanted to be a successful entrepreneur, you had to know how to sell. Finally I quit my job and took the only sales job that came to mind–selling cars. It scared the crap out of me and I didn’t enjoy it at all. I felt like the schmuck I’d always stereotypically thought that car salesmen were. It wasn’t until I spent quite a bit of time in deliberate practice and AFTER I got pretty good at it that I started to like it. I eventually did really well and was hooked on creating the value you mention here (and no…I never yelled, “IT’S 4TH AND 10…4TH AND 10 BABY!!”).

    What kept me going until I got to where I enjoyed what I was doing was looking at what I was working on as one project following another. I didn’t view my work as a lifelong calling or something I was under any pressure to settle on. Ironically, by giving myself this out, I’ve ended up with a really fun, fulfilling sales-focused career.

    Thanks for taking a crack at answering a tough question! Perhaps my own past and experience might provide a slightly different (but complimentary) perspective to your young reader. Keep asking questions and pursuing growth and development and you’re going to have an awesome career!

    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      I’m incredulous, Keith. How could win without the “what’s it going to take” close?

      Thanks for sharing your story. I think a lot of people will relate to not discovering sales as a lifelong calling deliberately, but rather falling into it, having fun, and feeling good about creating value.