What Doesn’t Kill You…My Story

Rough Start

Some say that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.  After twenty years in sales I’m happy to say I’m stronger than ever.  Like many of us starting out though, I did not really intend to be in sales.  In fact, I hated my first attempt at it (I don’t think my first employer was too happy either). It was way tougher than I ever imagined and simply being a good communicator was not enough to get the job done.  I’ll never forget that this tiny little software company had paid someone to write a script for cold calls that I’d be making.  They tossed me a Fortune 1000 list of companies, the new script and “poof” I was their instant sales person! Needless to say it was a disaster.  I lacked everything a new sales rep needs.  Basic sales training, a decent understanding of what I was selling (and why) and someone to pattern myself after – a mentor.

As Luck Would Have It

As I was licking my wounds and desperately looking for a marketing position (not a chance), I took the opportunity to oversell my minimal skills and landed a job with a burgeoning software company called Ashton-Tate in their telesales department.  It turned out to be just what I needed.  Selling software to retailers (way before chain stores) turned out to be great fun and great learning.  I was fortunate to run into my first great friend and mentor – Larry Delbert -  who is one of the few “natural” salespeople I’ve ever met.  Larry and I would follow each other to several companies during our careers (more about him later).  My advice – create your success by finding a mentor or a coach and, most especially, someone who will be honest with you and tell you the truth.

Right Place – Right Time

Through all of this I was also going to college  as I was pretty young and still trying to get my degree.  While at an evening class, I noticed that a lot of the students were a bit older than I was.  Imagine me for a moment that I’m wearing a bright and shiny polyester baseball jacket with the Ashton-Tate logo emblazoned on the back (it was the 80′s).  Fortunately for me it caught the attention of another student who just happened to be a sales manager for a little known software company in West Los Angeles.  Bill Trimble turned out to be a very persistent guy and finally convinced me to take an interview with his company – Candle Corporation.  All I can say is that it seemed too good to be true.  Sales offices in Marina Del Rey, CA and the opportunity to make some real money seemed unreal.  In the end I agreed to hire on if Larry would take the leap of faith with me.  Bill hired us both.

The Real Work Begins

Candle turned out to be a company that expected excellence from the word Go!  Looking back now I can appreciate their perspective of “If we’re going to invest in you, you’d better perform!”  Sales training back then was not as formalized as it is today.  We were required to read and listen to sales and motivational programs.  Weekly reports were due during the sales meetings about what we learned and how it applied to our work.  The early lessons I learned here have never left me and my success skyrocketed.  If you are an independent sales professional invest in training for yourself.  If you are lucky enough to be in a corporate sales role, take advantage of every sales training course they offer.

Oops…

You may have been wondering – “Does this guy ever get knocked off his pedestal?”  Yup!  We all make career moves that we regret.  I am not alone in that.  I tried out sales management for a spell (if you call eight years a spell) and fit three start-ups into my career path.  I’m not saying that management and start-ups are wrong for everybody.  What I am saying is that I was not listening to my heart.  What I now realize is the my young aspirations of climbing the corporate ladder coupled with all of the challenges involved in doing that clouded that fact that I really enjoyed to be an “individual contributor” (which is a real fancy name for salesperson).  It took me a few years to get back to basics, but being a dedicated sales professional is the most fun I’ve ever had!

It’s Simple But Not Always Easy!

It took me awhile before I began to introduce myself as a salesperson instead of faking another title so as not to embarrass myself.  I’ve come to embrace sales as the last true opportunity to work independently and manage my own destiny.  I think you can too.  If there is anything I’ve learned through all of my struggles and success it’s that the sales profession is really pretty simple.  As with many things in life, however, simple does not always mean easy.  Stick around and check in with me every now and then.  I’d like to offer you the opportunity to achieve breakthrough sales success and to avoid some of the many pitfalls that I, and most salespeople,  encounter.  I think I can make the simple truths about sales a little easier for you to put into action.

Happy Selling!