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Selling: A career for you?

by Shelly Awaya, Business editor

Selling is not easy. You could have excellent communication skills and get along well with others, but it’s not just your personality that gets the account or makes the sale.

Some people look at the quality of products, some look at price, some even look at service. It’s the salesperson’s responsibility to determine what the customer wants and the strengths and weaknesses of what is offered.



If you are considering a career in sales, here are some things to think about.

Pro: All the money you can make, especially if you work on commission.

Con: If you’re strictly on commission, having a slow month can hit you hard in your wallet. Spam anyone?

Pro: No supervisors breathing down your neck while you’re on the road selling.

Con: If you have a quota and you don’t meet it, your supervisor will breathe down your neck.

Pro: You get to pass out business cards so everyone knows your name.

Con: Sometimes customers forget your name (even how to spell or pronounce it) despite the dozen business cards you’ve given them. (“Thanks for stopping by Sherry.”)

Pro: You get to set your own hours.

Con: You work long hours.

Pro: If your job requires you to travel, you get to see cool places on somebody else’s tab.

Con: If your company doesn’t reimburse you, you have to wait until the end of the year to claim expenses on your taxes, tying up a lot of cash.

Pro: You get to network with individuals in the industry on a personal level.

Con: Competitors (the bad ones) can be dirty and talk a lot of trash to sway customers to buy their products or services instead.

Pro: Sales meetings or conventions—you get paid to attend a conference and mingle with colleagues on the company’s tab.

Con: If you have mandatory meetings or conferences away from the office, you may have to pay your own way. (See above regarding your taxes.)

Pro: You get to look cool talking on your cell phone about stuff that sounds intellectually important to passersby.

Con: If you’re not having a swell month, your cell phone doesn’t ring at all.

Pro: You can earn frequent flyer miles. (116,000 and counting!)

Con: If you don’t fly anywhere to sell, you don’t rack up mileage at all (except on your personal vehicle).

Pro: SPIFFS and bonuses! (SPIFF is an acronym for Sales Promotion Incentive Fund—the extra “f” is added for pronunciation purposes. It’s a company’s way of motivating sales reps to sell more of a product or service in a specified time for a cash or prize incentive based on what was sold.)

Con: If your company isn’t large enough to offer SPIFFS or your company doesn’t pay out bonuses, you get nothing except your regular pay. (Gosh, you could work at HPU.)

Pro: Seeing long-time customers and having a good time.

Con: Going to see a potential customer and getting the shoulder shrug like you’re a pest.

Pro: Great customers who are wonderful to deal with.

Con: Pain-in-the-neck customers whom you dread dealing with, but they work with you because there’s no one else who will put up with them.

Pro: Calling a customer and receiving a call back or response.

Con: Calling on a customer and not receiving a response at all, not even a “No, thank you, I’m not interested.”

Pro: Having customers who know who you are and acknowledge you by name.

Con: Walking in on a customer and having them mistake you for a competitor for the hundredth time: “What’s your name again?” “Who are you with?”

Pro: Getting a huge account or sale.

Con: Losing a huge account or sale, especially if you worked really hard.

Pro: Customers who understand in times of error or delay.

Con: Irate customers who only hear what they want to hear.

Pro: Decisive customers who know what they want and how much they’re willing to pay for it.

Con: Finicky customers who play games and divulge your prices to your competitors or make you “sharpen your pencil” just so they can get a better deal. (“Sharpen your pencil” is an industry term that means your prices are too high.)

The wonderful world of sales: a dream job, you wonder? Hardly. Well, maybe sometimes. Is it worth it, you ask? If the money’s good and the people you work with are great, yes. If your stress level is as high as your liking of luxury and your customers are difficult, probably not.

The best thing about being in sales is sharpening your own ability to communicate effectively, and having a wealth of knowledge about what you’re selling. Customers want people who know what they’re talking about. You’re the expert, like it or not. You have to sound and act like one, or else they will simply look elsewhere to get what they need.

What it boils down to is the customer’s bottom line: What can you do for the customer? Frankly, you’re the slave to the industry masses. Your livelihood depends on whether they buy from you or not.

Would sales be a career you’ll venture into once you’ve graduated from college? Whether you’re selling an actual product or an intangible service, you must be able to handle constant challenges of the sales industry. Many people can and do make a ton of money doing it. And you have job security, unless you’re selling something that becomes obsolete like canister vacuums.

If you’re sold on sales, there are a lot of sales jobs in Sunday’s classified.


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