The bad: Most salespeople are paid a base salary plus commission based on the deals they deliver. Of course, results affect compensation in every field, but sales is one of the few professions where a huge chunk of your salary is directly tied to your performance. And what if you have a bad month?
The good: Yes, a hefty portion of what salespeople bring home is determined by how well they did the previous month. Yes, there will be months where your pay dips, whether it’s because of seasonality in your sales cycle or because deals you were counting on didn’t close.
But the flip side of risk is reward. A base salary-commission pay structure might strike fear into the hearts of some, but great salespeople know if they invest time and energy into consistently generating new pipeline and go the extra mile for their prospects, it can pay off -- big time.
2) Your success is dependent on your prospect’s decisions.
The bad: You can send as many resources, make as many calls, and send as many emails as you can. But at the end of the day, you can’t make your prospects buy.
The good: Top performers don’t “spray and pray.” Novice reps might solely focus on activity levels to judge their performance, but the best salespeople know they have to balance quantity and quality.
Instead of leaving themselves at the mercy of 100 random prospects, top reps cherry-pick their 15 or 20 best leads. This enables them to deeply understand those prospects’ problems and suggest tailored solutions, dramatically increasing the odds that they’ll close enough deals.
3) You have a quota.
The bad: Salespeople live and die by their quotas. You could be the best relationship-builder on your team, but if it doesn’t translate to deals, it doesn’t matter. When you’re having a bad month, your quota can seem like an arbitrarily set value designed to make your life miserable.
The good: Quotas aren’t randomly determined by an out-of-touch leadership team. In fact, they’re carefully calculated and represent the part of your business that you are personally responsible for. The best reps understand this and approach their quotas as an invitation to be part of their companies’ growth.
In a more Darwinian sense, quotas are also one of the most meritocratic measures of job performance. We all know someone who doesn’t seem to ever do anything, but manages to get promoted based on their charm and personality alone. Well, that doesn’t cut it in sales. Quotas mean reps who consistently underperform have nowhere to hide.
4) People think salespeople are sleazy.
The bad: Prospects who have had the misfortune of working with manipulative or pushy salespeople will be more reticent and more difficult to sell to.
The good: People are wary of sales reps because they believe you’ll call and email them incessantly with information about products they don’t need and won’t buy. The good news about such low expectations is that they’re easy to exceed.
The best salespeople know they can’t -- and shouldn’t -- strongarm prospects into a purchase. Instead, they arrive at a mutually agreed-upon solution to a defined problem. And simply by being hepful, they establish themselves as trusted advisors.
5) It’s repetitive.
The bad: There’s no two ways about it. Success in sales requires a lot of repetitive tasks. You will have days when you have to prospect at scale or send so many emails your eyes get blurry.
The good: These foundational tasks, while not inherently exciting, are the building blocks of the big, exciting moments in sales. They’re a means to an end and your ability to soldier through the less-than-titillating parts of the job are the sole determinant in whether you’ll ever feel the thrill of winning a big deal.
6) You only sell one thing.
The bad: Talking about one product, one set of features, and one value proposition can get monotonous.
The good: Every sales process is different. Each and every customer has a unique problem, so you should never have the same conversation twice. You’ll also become an expert in your field and be able to develop highly custom plans for your prospects. If you feel like you’re getting déjà vu in all your sales calls, reexamine your notes to see whether you’ve been having an overly general conversation.
7) People say “no” to you all the time.
The bad: Rejection sucks. It’s discouraging, and after a string of 10 “no’s” in one day, it’s natural to want to give up and quit.
The good: Rejection is a part of sales. It’s not a reflection on you, and it’s built into the sales process -- after all, you wouldn’t need to prospect and qualify at scale if you were supposed to be able to close 100% of your leads. The best reps can bounce back quickly and approach each new conversation with a positive attitude.
Sales isn’t for everyone. The worst parts of the job for some can be the most exciting challenges for others, and that depends entirely on who you are. If you view the items on this list with more dread than anticipation, it might be time to reconsider if you’re in the right field. But if you viewed the items listed above as exciting challenges, not grim dealbreakers, we’re fairly confident you’re looking at a successful future in sales.
Originally published Oct 26, 2015 8:00:00 AM, updated September 12 2017