A career in sales is tough and you can’t afford to take yourself too seriously.

I’ve read a brilliant book, The Sales Survival Handbook by Ken Kupchick which details the realities of a career in sales, sprinkled with humour.

Here is an edited excerpt on what salespeople can expect in their career. Ken has arranged these into three categories—the good, the bad, and the crazy.

The Good

Let’s start off with all of the great things that can happen to you in sales:

  • You have the opportunity to make more money than you’ve ever made before but you’ll never have to worry about what to do in your free time since you won’t have any.
  • You’ll get to meet many different people from all walks of life and it’s the only job where you can call someone dozens of times without having to worry about a restraining order.
  • There is great job security since nearly every company in the world has a sales force.
  • You are in complete control of your own income, which means you’ll be able to buy lots of new things you’ll never get to enjoy since you’ll always be working.
  • You will become an expert in persuasion, which can help you in business as well as relationships.
  • Your coworkers will become like your family—the kind of family you want to abandon forever once you’re old enough to leave.
  • The fast-paced and diverse lifestyle of sales can make the workday feel exciting.
  • Once you have established a big enough recurring customer base, you can have a more flexible schedule and spend your time pursuing your passions, if you have any left by that point in your life.
Clown Sad

The Bad

Sales is a constant battle for success; here are some of the challenges you’ll deal with:

  • Customers lie to you on a regular basis, which has spawned the popular sales phrase “buyers are liars.”
  • Compensation plans and quotas change constantly, and while management presents them as “new and improved,” they almost always make it more difficult to earn money.
  • Sales can be so stressful that some people experience PSSD—Post-Sales Stress Disorder.
  • Management constantly puts more and more pressure on sales reps to produce. “What have you done for me lately?” isn’t just a guilt trip from your spouse anymore, it’s a guilt trip from your sales manager, whom you spend more time with than your spouse anyway.
  • At the end of every month, quarter, etc., you go from “hero to zero,” when everyone starts from scratch again. If you performed poorly, you go from “zero to zero,” and if that happens too many times in a row, you go from “zero to unemployed.”
  • The competition can be intense, nearly violent, and doesn’t always play fair, and that’s just your coworkers.
  • Even though you’re usually selling to new people, the repetition of prospecting, pitching, and following up will make you dream about work every night, when you’d rather dream about your manager falling down the stairs.
  • The sales training “gurus” your company will hire have never successfully sold anything in their lives except for their sales training to your company.
  • Demanding clients and hard-driving managers will mean long work hours, and you will get to see your family less than you’d like to, or exactly as little as you’d like to.
  • Since you’ll be making more money than you’ve ever made in your life, an audible gasp will emanate from your throat when you see how much money has been taken out of your commission check for taxes.
Clown Shoes

The Crazy

Here are some crazy facts that you need to know if you want to survive in sales:

  • It takes an average of 12 follow-up calls to close a deal, which is at least 11 more calls than you’ll ever feel like making.
  • The best time to cold-call someone is between 4:00 and 5:00 p.m., which is exactly when the rush of your gigantic afternoon energy drink starts to wear off.
  • Thursday is considered the best day to prospect, by which point in the week all you can think about is moving to a country with a three-day workweek.
  • In 2007, it took an average of less than four phone calls to close a deal, and now it takes eight. At this pace, by 2030, it will probably take 300.
  • An average of 50 percent of sales go to the first person to contact a prospect, and zero percent go to the first person to show up at the prospect’s house at midnight.
  • Only about 11 percent of salespeople ask for referrals, probably because the other 89 percent wouldn’t recommend themselves to anyone either.
  • Each year in business, you’ll lose about 14 percent of your customers and 42 percent of your hair.
  • Nearly 13 percent of all the jobs in the United States are full-time sales positions, and the other 87 percent are filled by those who spend their days ignoring salespeople.
  • It is estimated that over half of the people making their living in sales should do something else, which is a fact that slightly more than half of us are already well aware of.
  • Over 90 percent of all customer sales interactions happen over the phone, which is bad news for any salespeople who have a really high-pitched voice.

You can Buy Ken’s book on Amazon here.

Sales Survival - Ken Kupchik

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Tony Hughes
Tony is an international keynote speaker, best selling author, leading professional selling educator, award-winning blogger and the most read LinkedIn Author globally on the topic of sales leadership. As an experienced CEO and company director with 35 years of sales and business leadership experience, he is ranked by Top Sales Magazine as the most influential person in professional selling in Asia-Pacific. Tony has served as Director of Sales for public corporations and as the Asia-pacific Managing Director for a number of tier-one global technology companies, and teaches 'modernized selling' within the MBA program at the University of Technology, Sydney. Tony also sits on a number of advisory boards, with clients including: Schneider Electric, New Zealand Government, Salesforce, TAL Life, Zip Water, Findex, BAE Systems, Flight Centre Travel Group, Red Hat, Agilyx, NEXTDC and UBT with their 4,000 member companies globally.