8 Reasons You Should Not Work in Sales

Many people seek a job in sales because they believe it fits well with their natural temperament and attributes. Often, it’s because they mistakenly believe that selling is easy, a belief all too common among certain B2B sales professionals. Others find their way into a sales role because they have friends, family members, and acquaintances in sales, who earn a lot of money because of their results and the enormous advantage of a variable compensation plan. The problem with variable compensation for most people is that it pays you exactly what you are worth.

While there are very good reasons to pursue a role in sales, notably that it improves your results in every other area of your life, some characteristics will doom your sales career from the start. If any of them describe you, be prepared for a massive transition to have any hope of a successful sales career.

No Self-Discipline. A sales role provides more autonomy than most other roles in business. Without the strong self-discipline to match the freedom sales provides, you are doomed to fail. You cannot procrastinate or negotiate with yourself. Instead, you have to do the work of sales consistently, without anyone ever having to ask you, prod you, inspire you, coax you, or threaten your job.

If you can’t will yourself to do your work, you will struggle in sales.

A Pessimistic Attitude. Selling requires pursuing a lot of different outcomes, including some that many perceive as negative. You’ll often ask for a meeting only to be told no, and at some point you’ll get all the way through the sales conversation, only to lose a deal you believe you should have won.

Pessimists don’t fare well in sales because of how they perceive and respond to negative events since in this field those events are all part of the game.

No Personal Accountability. Those with a propensity to blame external events or other people for their problems don’t generally enjoy selling. Your success in sales is individual. It’s a lot like Thunderdome, where two competitors enter and only one leaves. In this case, the winner leaves with ink on paper and the loser leaves with nothing. You win, or you lose. It is never the client, your company, or your competitor.

Only those who are willing to own their losses earn the right to own their wins.

Conflict Aversion. The nature of selling requires being comfortable with conflict. Much of the conflict is of a relatively low level, like when your client challenges your view of their problem, your solution, or your approach to helping them gain better results. You also run into some conflict around pricing and negotiating deals that make sense for all parties. But there is more, and often more serious, conflict around your execution—especially when it harms your client.

Those who are willing to be accountable for results, accept the conflict, and jump into the foxhole with their clients do well. Those who avoid conflict don’t last long.

No Interest in Business. While it’s true that you don’t need a degree in finance or business to be a great salesperson, it would help you in a lot of scenarios. In fact, a complete lack of interest in business will make B2B sales incredibly difficult for you.

When your job is offering people advice on their business, you cannot be consultative without the business acumen and situational knowledge to offer your advice— and to convince your client to take it seriously. No one needs to take advice from someone who knows less than they do.

Poor Self-Image. A poor self-image isn’t the same as a poor image. There are great salespeople who don’t look as crisp as they might, but they do well because of their character traits and their gifts, particularly confidence and self-assuredness. When you need other people to believe you belong in the room, the first person you need to convince is yourself.

How you feel about yourself contributes to your success or failure in sales. Those who believe in themselves do better than those who harbor self-doubts about who they are and what they deserve. It’s part confidence and part conviction, and it isn’t something you can fake.

Believing Selling Is Easy. At least seven times, I have had people tell me that their beloved Jimmy or Jenny is a natural-born salesperson. That statement was often followed with the knee-slapper that they could “sell ice to an Eskimo.” What that statement means is that the person can sell to their parents, who are the type of people who put a “no soliciting” sign on their door to stop themselves from buying. Your prospective client is very much like your mother or father in that regard, but they don’t find you nearly as charming.

Reality doesn’t mind smashing your hopes, dreams, ambitions, and desires. It disabuses you of your delusions without anything that resembles sympathy or mercy. You are free to believe what you will, but you are never free of the consequences when you deny reality.

Learned Helplessness. Creating success in sales requires taking initiative and exercising fantastically human resourcefulness—a combination of imagination and creativity in the service of solving problems. The opposite of resourcefulness is learned helplessness, deciding to give up unless and until someone does something for you. This is not only detrimental in sales but also harmful in any human endeavor.

Only those who take action before it is necessary and solve problems without waiting for someone to rescue them do well in sales.

Your success in sales is largely the result of who you are and how you approach the art and craft of professional selling. It is not for everyone, and it will very quickly expose your weaknesses, your liabilities, and your character flaws. But for those who are willing to grow into the role, it will smooth off your rough edges and improve you more than a hundred other professions.

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