Maybe you're disillusioned with your current position? Maybe you've gotten screwed by your company? Maybe your company screwed your client? There's plenty of reasons to leave your current gig. But, don't jump from the frying pan into the fire. Here's the number one thing you'll need to discover about a new place.
Does The Thing You're Being Asked To Sell Actually Work?
This is really "Job 1." Many, many products and services are just crap. While the company and your boss are all hot and bothered about sales, maybe nobody really cares about satisfied customers.
There are many potholes in the road of sales. And sinkholes abound for professional salespeople.
You can get hammered about your sales volume, your attire, your outstanding client invoices, the work hours you keep and, even, your devotion to the sales pitch. (Are you really sincere when you pull out that old line?)
The Lawn Looks Like Horse Manure, But We Sprayed It.
This is the actual attitude expressly stated to me by a hiring authority for a local franchise of a national lawn care company.
I thought it might be fun to work the phones a bit and market the service. I'd spent a lot of time working on my lawns. Taking to homeowners who wanted a better looking lawn would have been right up my alley.
I had researched the company online and read a bunch of really bad reviews in my local area. These were some of the most hard-line, angry, bitter reviews I'd ever read. When I asked the crew boss (a friend of mine) about them, he said they just ignored them and tried to just power into appointments with homeowners who were ignorant.
Once they locked the customer into a service contract, who cared about what happened after that?
There was nobody locally or nationally tasked with addressing unhappy customers. Really, is this the kind of crap sandwich anybody would want to shove into the marketplace? Not me. PASS.
The Radio Sales Team That Could Not Be Trained Or Helped
One of my many past careers was as a sales consultant for radio station sales groups. I was invited to visit with a particular radio stations's general manager, sales manager and the sales team. They paid for the time I invested in the meeting.
The station was programmed to play hits from the 30's and 40's and had been doing it for about a year. (That's not even a demo I'm in.)
My first question was about success stories from the sales team. You know, tell me about your clients that have more business because of advertising on the station. We all kicked it around for about an hour. The upshot was that no one could come up with even one success story.
Advertising on this station simply didn't move the needle for any client - ever! (Frankly, I didn't think this was possible. I'd never run into it in over 20 years in the industry.)
I had to just walk away from the potential training project. Hey, I'm real good, but working miracles was a little out of my wheelhouse.
The Posers, The Deluded, The Liars, And The Fanatics
During any new hire interview series, you'll run into a bunch of different people who will swear that the products and services of the company are wonderful - they will revolutionize the world as we know it. Prospective buyers just simply must have it. Selling it or them will be a walk in the park.
There will be hiring authorities or managers who will extol the various indispensable elements of what you'll be asked to sell. In my experience, most of those statements are horse manure. Crap. Lies. Exaggerations. Some people know those statements are false, and some don't know that.
Then, there are the crooks. They know all the company's claims are bogus. Maybe they made up some of those statements themselves. I've, unfortunately, worked for a few crooks myself. These cats are bad news.
Perhaps worst of all are the fanatics. These are people who - in the face of all evidence to the contrary - chose to believe the company and it's offerings are perfect. The company can do no wrong. Worst, regardless of the situation of the prospective customer, every prospect must buy. Must buy!
I've worked for a couple of these and, boy, they will wear you out. The really bad aspect of these people is that they don't believe the offerings they sell would ever need any improvement. Why would they? They're perfect!
There's Only One Voice That Matters: The Customer's.
Customers will be happy to tell you if a product or service is any damn good. So, that's who you ask.
Once upon a time, I almost sent a resume to a national greeting card company here in Colorado. They set up card displays for local mom-and-pop shops around the USA. I went on their web site and found the names of some of their retail customers. So I called them up and asked how the card rack was doing for them.
The overall responses to the services of the company from those retailers documented a kind of benign neglect. The greeting cards didn't seem to sell all that well and, often, the display rack for them was covered with dust. Or crickets.
You're Responsible For The End Result
When you sell something to a client, I believe a sales professional, along with the company, has a responsibility to do everything possible to help the success of your customer. Selling them a rack of cards that nobody buys at the retail level is just a waste of everybody's time and precious energy.
As a pro, you've got to discover the track record of your potential employer's offerings before you tie your career to any company.
Sooner or later, you're going to be the hero or the goat. You're the one who has to live with yourself and sleep well at night. You're the one who's personal livelihood and reputation is at stake.
So, your basic first skill would be an ability to pick an employer whose products and services are first-rate and that work. Things that would "move the needle" for a client.
A New, Spectacular Product Offering That Was A Dud
I'd been working at this particular place for a few years selling lead generation services to one segment of businesses. Pretty basic proposition. I might have been selling a cool, calm spot in a moat, but I didn't know for a while about all the alligators swimming below the service.
A new, bright shiny service was introduced by the company: websites for $49.00. The front-facing website was a case of an alligator's eyes showing above the surface. What was below the surface was the real monster.
Maybe a Trojan horse would be a better analogy.
I cranked my efforts up and was one of 250 reps who sold the heck out of those websites. Just about the highest performer!
The first website I sold was delivered about three weeks later. It was for a lawn service company and had a big, fat photo of a mini-bulldozer tearing up a street (in front of a home that had a lawn???). The second delivered design was just as disjointed. Hideous.
Located below the surface of the water was the fact that the websites were being farmed out to a Japanese company. All the interaction between my company and the supplier was conducted solely by email. It became obvious there was a language problem (to say the least).
I only found this out because I was a seasoned pro, had positive relationships all throughout the company, and was relentless in tracking down stories. Even so, I only learned of the miss-mash of this deal during a very hushed, hallway confession.
Another alligator under the surface was the website terms and conditions. Essentially, the company (mine) retained all ownership rights to the website for which the customer paid. There would be a significant additional fee assessed if the customer tried to move "their" website to another hosting service.
When I tried to talk to the worldwide vice-president of sales about the disconnect between the customer's business and the illustrations on the website design, he was unmoved. He said, basically, that's what we're delivering. I asked if he really meant that we intended to deliver a crappy customer experience. He seemed perplexed and repeated, "that's what we deliver."
Even I know when it's time to ride. Giddy-up!