Admissions from a Sales Guy – Feb 2018

I never should have been in sales. I didn’t fit the persona. I don’t have a competitive bone in my body; I am an introvert; and I like dogs more than people.

Now if you are a former sales manager of mine who for some unlikely strange reason reads this, you may be saying, oh hell yes! I told you! I knew I was right – that bum! Of course, if that is the case, just so you know, I am four years comfortably retired, sitting in our Airstream, having a cold beer at an RV/Golf resort in Palm Springs with my bride.

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But that misses the point of my story. I’m pretty sure I have a point to this story. Maybe not – we’ll see when we get done. You may care more than I whether I had a point to this story.

As I was finishing up my undergrad education back at Boston State College (100+ years ago), I coordinated a “career day” as president of the management club. We had representatives from close to 50 organizations show up to make their organizations visible to the BSC grads (higher education, military,, for-profit, not-for-profit…).

Well, the reason I share this story is that one of the results (there were several) was I was asked by an insurance company to interview and take a personality test. You know me and tests – well, maybe you don’t. Anyway, I took the test and they determined, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the last thing in the world I should do is get into sales. Glad we settled that. Phew. Maybe I should be a vet – I mean, I do like dogs.

Like any good story, there are twists and turns. One of the other outcomes from that career day was I was asked by the representative for Babson College to apply for my masters degree (MBA). Truth be told, she didn’t know my anemic grades (particularly from my first two years at North Adams State College), but was impressed by the career day event. Some people have low thresholds for success.

Long story short, I got in; probably lowered the school’s overall GPA by a good 10th. But I got the tee shirt. Soooo… you are saying, there was a sales story in here somewhere? Well, sure enough there partner!

A brother of a high school friend was trying to sell me (I was working as a GM for a chain of retail liquor stores while in school), and one thing leads to another, and after graduating with my MBA I got an entry-level sales job selling cash registers up and down Main Street, USA. See mom and dad? I have potential! That MBA wasn’t for nothing!

As history often shares, one thing would lead to another, some great, and some not so great. I made or exceeded my number pretty regularly over a career of 30+ years, was lauded as the #1 and #2 salesperson worldwide on two separate years, and was asked to pack my bags more than once. A sales career is not for the feint of heart.

Now I mentioned at the outset of this diatribe that I never should have gotten into sales. That is not entirely correct. I loved sales. And I was good at it. I wasn’t competitive, except against myself. Could I produce the best possible solution for my customers? That was always my goal, but it had far less to do with my competition than it had to do with my understanding the needs at hand from my customers. Listen. Don’t talk. It’s not about you.

I am an introvert, but that doesn’t mean I can’t exist in society, be charming, and have very social interactions. I just need recharging – quietly. Don’t bust my chops.

And yes, I do generally like dogs better than people. Sorry.  Don’t think less of me.

Now what in the world made me think of this topic for a blog post? Where I sit, I am watching an over-abundance of old white people (yes, I do realize I am an old white person – not my choice, just my destiny) playing pickle ball. If you have to ask what is pickle ball, I congratulate you.   It is when old white people who have more money than good sense or health get together to exercise their competitive strength in a game similar to tennis. Find a place where winning isn’t at the expense of others. It exists.

In watching this game unfurl, I realized how non-competitive I really am. In this pickle ball game there are winners and losers, and most of the activities that I enjoy do not have winners and losers – think running, hiking, biking, kayaking, photography, even golf. In any of these activities I am competing – it just happens to be with me. No small animals are harmed in my activities. Generally. It’s not a perfect world.  OK, there was that chipmunk…

But if for some strange reason you are considering a sales career, or quite frankly whatever career you may be considering, just follow your heart. You will be severely tested throughout your career, no matter what you choose, so you need to stay true to yourself, heed the compass. You know better than anyone what is right for you. As Chevy Chase said in Caddy Shack, be the ball. Nananananana…

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