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A little-known training ground with huge personal development gains is on sales. It doesn’t sound glamorous, but learning sales can teach you how to handle pressure, rejection, negotiations, and how to communicate like a rock-star.
Life lessons I learned from sales
It started with optimism and a can-do attitude. I was convinced I was going to be a sales superstar. In fact, I was so convinced that the manager at the Ford lot believed it, too.
At least, until I started crumbling under the pressure of the sales environment.
A couple months into my new job and things were not looking so good. Besides making almost NO sales, I had a big hole in the sole of my shoe and it was raining, hard. Another potential client walked off the lot because I was terrified of approaching and did a really bad job.
I joined the sales team at Ford to change my life. But I couldn’t even afford to change my shoes. The optimism I felt the day I was hired was fading fast. Day after day, I was supposed to put a smile on my face – but I felt empty inside.
Every time I saw someone on the lot, I cringed because I might have to talk to them. That was my job, but the daily rejections were weighing heavily on me.
Then one day, I learned a lesson that I would never forget. The sales manager called me:
“Eddy, someone just drove on the lot. Go talk to him.”
I dragged my wet feet across the giant car lot to greet this potential client. I could hear the water sloshing inside of my shoe from the small lake that I had soaked up.
I greeted a guy sitting in an old Mercury. He obviously needed a new set of wheels.
“Uh, hey. Do you need any help?” He answered with a very disinterested look on his face, “Um, no I’m OK. Just kicking tires…”
I felt like an idiot for failing, again. I needed a sale badly, but I didn’t know how to keep a customer’s attention.
I made my way back across the lot knowing the sales manager was going to ask me what just happened. I could feel his eyes glaring at me as I got closer to the showroom.
That’s when I received one of the most valuable life lessons on body language: “Eddy…as soon as you got to the car you shoved your hands in your pockets. Insecurity was written all over you.”
This insight into body language opened up a new world of communication that I was unaware of. Your body will always tell other people what you’re feeling.
In spite of my crushing experience at the Ford lot, I learned some big life lessons. They’re part of the foundation of soft skills which I apply to my business and social interactions every day.
My bumpy start helped make me to become the man I am now. Every experience is valuable if you learn its lessons – especially when you fail.
Nine different sales and business superstars contributed to this post. Here are some life lessons that these business and sales leaders want to share with you:
Life lessons from sales superstars
“Don’t assume that because something is the conventional wisdom in the organization that it based on wisdom. Question and doubt the basic principles of what you do on a frequent basis.”
“[Sales taught me] that learning to understand, respect, and work within human nature is the key to success, whether in sales or any other area of life.”
“The distance between a dream and the stark reality of the present is a major problem. Setting a huge goal is supposed to be hugely motivating, but comparing your current state to your eventual goal is in fact incredibly de-motivating and demoralizing — and is usually the reason we give up on our goals.
Instead of thinking about the end result, the key is to a process and a routine. Pick something you want to do, break it down into daily chunks, commit to keeping your head down and grinding out those daily chunks… and one day you’ll lift up your head and realize you’ve accomplished what that once seemed impossible — even to you.”
“Beyond a close circle of people who care about you, don’t worry what others think.”
– Daniel Pink, author of Drive: The Surprising The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us @DanielPink
“My #1 life lesson from sales: It’s truly energizing when your authentic motivation to ‘sell’ is driven by the desire to deliver great value and improve the condition of the client. Not only does that propel you to talk to more people and help you handle objections and rejection, but it changes how your clients perceive you! Instead of seeing you as selfishly pitching them, you get perceived as someone who wants to help, and then their defence shields come down.”
“Sales isn’t something you do to somebody. It is something you do for and with somebody. You have to wade into the breach and have the difficult client conversations that others fear. It’s your willingness to ‘go there’ that makes you a trusted adviser and someone worth doing business with. Face your fears and help others face theirs.”
“You’ve got to be tough to succeed in sales because there are so many obstacles. Sales taught me how to keep going in the face of adversity; how to be get up after being knocked down; and, how to relentlessly, and single-mindedly pursue a goal.”
“Sales made me a tougher man by forcing me to realize that numbers do not lie and at the end of the day, you—and you alone—are responsible for your numbers, the primary number being your bank account balance, which is the direct result of your bad or good decisions.”
“Sales made me a better man because I learned to come to grips with who I am, not what other people thought of me. Sales is a personal development course with a pay plan attached.”