The Velveteen Sales Rep

Velveteen Sales RepWhen I was an operations manager all I wanted was to become a sales professional. My eyes bloodshot from waking up at 3:30 am, I would peer out into the parking lot to watch the smiley sales people meandering in at 8:30, driving nice cars, wearing suits and sipping coffee.  Not to be negative, but some of the guys were real goobers, and I knew that I could bring a significant amount of value to the table in sales.  However, it took several years for me to break into sales.  I was told “no,” on more than one occasion, and was even told to give up the dream.   But I never gave up, and eventually my persistence paid off: I was given an entry-level sales position.

Over time, I was earning quarterly commission checks that were more than an entire year’s pay in operations.  Even with the success of consistent quota achievement and the subsequent earnings, I had great difficulty believing that I belonged in sales.  After all, I was not recruited, or drafted.  I did not have a degree in sales, nor did I possess a board certification.  It has always been curious to me that sales, despite being one of the highest paid professions, has no formal initiation process.  Therefore, anyone can get started in sales, but not everyone can be “real.”  This begs the question, how do you know when you are a real sales professional?

Recently, I read the classic book, The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams, to my daughters.  For those of you unfamiliar with the book, the basic idea is that a toy rabbit wants to know what it means to become real.  He learns that that key is for someone to really love you – then you become real.  Well, how about the profession of selling, how do you know when you become a real sales professional?  I would like to suggest that when you really love your product, and show someone else how to love your product, you become real.  

When you first start in sales, you may look around at everyone in suits and think that they are real, but do not let their appearance fool you.  It does not mean that they are real.  By the same measure, you may look at some veteran sales people and think that they are real, but again, not necessarily.  Contrary to what I have read in many blogs these days, the profession of selling is not dead, far from it as a matter of fact.  However, the notion that someone can be a “real” sales professional without embracing the discipline of sales is dying quickly, and I say good riddance.

So I ask you, what do you think the discipline of sales is all about, and how do you know when you are real?   

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