Sales career has a solid future in stormy times


What's your reaction when you open a newspaper and read a headline like this one that appeared recently in The Wall Street Journal:
"IBM to Export Highly Paid Jobs to India, China"?

Do you feel anxiety?


Fear over your own job security?

Headlines like this have become common over the last few years and reflect a growing trend in American companies -- cutting costs by sending work to countries where labor is cheap, leaving thousands of American workers without jobs.

In these financially uncertain times, when even local corporations like Eddie Bauer and Microsoft have moved desirable, high-paying jobs out of the country, the question arises:
Who can you rely on to ensure your employment, lifestyle and career goals into the future?

In truth, there's really only one answer to this question:
The only person upon whom you can rely to create this kind of security for you is you.

I believe that a career in sales is an excellent way to achieve long-term job security. Selling is one of the few professions where a person is not limited by age, sex, race or formal education. As long as people are committed, self-disciplined, hard working, build their product knowledge, develop their skills and adopt an attitude for success, they can look forward to a promising career in sales.

Selling can be a fun, enjoyable and potentially lucrative career for individuals who possess successful personality traits combined with product knowledge, superior selling skills and the sincere desire to serve their customers.

Unlike most of the departments in a company, such as marketing, human resources, accounting -- departments that are often subject to layoffs and deep cutbacks -- sales is the only department whose sole purpose is to create revenue.

Therefore, the sales force is the lifeblood of any organization.

Salespeople are the reason why a company turns a profit.

They are also the first people to whom management turns to help dig the company out of a financial downturn. Professional salespeople, then, are an unquestionably vital asset to the company, and it is in those times when the financial chips are down when their value is often the most clear.

The necessity of the professional salesperson to an organization places him or her in a unique position of power. In sales, financial rewards are based on performance. Thus, peak performers, those salespeople who effectively combine both excellent product knowledge and an effective sales method for serving their customers, quite literally create their own job security.

After all, a proven track record of sales success is a phenomenal bargaining chip. Even in financially turbulent times, sales professionals who consistently demonstrate effectiveness create their own career opportunities and often have a choice of jobs.

If the idea of having your choice of jobs appeals to you, consider whether you possess the personality traits that contribute to a thriving sales career.

According to the research of Herbert and Jeanne Greenberg for the Harvard Business Review, a successful salesperson will display many of the following traits:

  • strong ego-drive -- a strong need to persuade and convince others;

    empathy -- the ability to understand and relate to what others are thinking and feeling;

    ego-strength -- the ability to rise above the rejection that often comes in sales situations;

    forcefulness -- the ability to convince without appearing pushy or aggressive;

    decision-making ability -- reaches decisions quickly;

    ability to handle detail work -- the organization and commitment to do all the things necessary to move the sale to a close;

    open to new ideas -- willingness to consider and/or initiate alternate or innovative approaches to situations.

    ability to communicate -- has good verbal and written language skills; is a good listener.

If these characteristics sound like many that you possess, the next step is to improve upon and develop them.

First, your interest must be high. Interest is the decision you make to develop, practice and apply all the information available to you that will cause you to become as successful as you're capable of becoming. Developing your product knowledge and learning how to empathetically listen to and understand your clients' needs are two ways to build your interest.

Second is your attitude; that is, understanding and putting into practice the idea that positive thoughts produce positive results and negative thoughts produce negative results. The attitude you choose to have, whether enthusiastic or pessimistic, will ultimately determine your success - or failure.

Energy is the idea that, as a sales professional, you are continually developing your capacity for success by getting a little better every day. Hard work, continuing your sales education and remaining persistent will all be rewarded as you become a progressively stronger, more effective salesperson.

The method you use in your sales career is by far the most pivotal part of your development. Learning an effective method -- the precise, step by step procedure that covers all the points in the selling process and leaves nothing to chance -- will be the key to becoming more than a salesperson; you will grow into an accomplished sales professional.

Furthermore, in terms of creating job security, learning and employing an effective sales method can ensure that even when you switch companies or even industries, your level of success will remain consistent.



Roy Chitwood is an author, trainer and consultant in sales and sales management and is president of Max Sacks International, Seattle.