“Michael Jordan plays ball. Charles Manson kills people. I talk. Everyone has a talent.”
-Nick Naylor, Thank You For Smoking
I am a salesman. As far as salesmen go, I’m even pretty high-brow. You see, I sell a service, not a product, and I only talk to businesses, not your mom and dad as they’re sitting down to dinner. I’ve sold video games, cell phones, VIP stadium seating, naming rights, malls, and skyscrapers. I shit you not. I’d even go as far to call myself a “consultant,” but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. I am a salesman, and a pretty damn good one at that, but holy shit, do I hate it.
We’ve all been there: good at something with absolutely no desire to do it. Think of the star athlete who only played a sport because his dad wanted him to, the violinist who only practices because her mom makes her, or the young adults who only have kids because they’re really good at having sex without condoms, birth control, or good timing.
Part of growing up in an awful economy means that a lot of us, if we are even lucky enough to get one, undoubtedly take a job in something that we are competent in and pays the bills, not something we actually want to do or enjoy doing. Sales companies are always hiring, but here are the top 5 reasons why a job in sales sucks.
1. You Constantly Have To Be “On”
In sales, your attitude dictates your success. There is no time for personal stress, family issues, illness, or even a bad day. Of course feigning niceties is a useful skill in short term public interactions, but doing it over a long period of time is something you do when you’re trapped in a relationship you need to get out of. “Smile and dial” is unfortunately a lifestyle, not a catch phrase.
2. People Hate You
When it comes to careers that people despise you for, salesmen are undoubtedly right up there with lawyers, IRS agents, politicians, internal affairs cops, and politically-active celebrities. Get used to striking out more often than the ugly guy at the bar. You will call people when they are right in the middle of something important, push things on them they probably don’t need, and bother them long after you already know it won’t get you anywhere. Worse, a lot of these people have to do the same exact thing for their job, or at least did at one point, but do they understand? Of course not – they’re just rude or waste your time. If you don’t already, you’ll learn to hate people too.
3. Commission Is Great…Eventually
In theory, for us aggressive go-getters out there, commission sounds like the ideal setup. You eat what you kill, your pay reflects the effort you put in, and the upside is literally limitless. What they don’t tell you is that in some careers, sales cycles take years, not days, you don’t have the relationships yet to be effective, and after splitting the fees with your company, teammates, and the government your take is dramatically less. Get used to credit card debt.
4. You Aren’t Valued
I hear stories about places that really care about their employees, places that know there’s more to a person and what they bring to an organization than the dollar signs attached. Salespeople think in terms of dollars, however, and at first you’re costing them more to have a desk, phone, and a computer than you’re bringing in. Sure, someday the tides will turn, but until then you’re not a person, you’re an “investment.” Need more money to function as a human being? They’ll say “go out and make it” while they’re holding one hand behind your back and your inexperience is holding the other. Think about leaving? They’ll get mad because they didn’t get a “return” on you.
5. You Could Have Done This Years Ago
As you pay your monthly student loan debt, it is worth remembering that you most likely could have done the exact same job, and been just as effective, prior to college. I don’t know about you, but I currently use zero skills or information that I learned after high school. Although I probably wouldn’t have been hired thanks to the idea that a college degree is required for almost anything these days, had I started after high school I would be actually making serious money now and wouldn’t have the debt load on top of it.
Doing what you have to do instead of doing what you want to is arguably a part of growing up, and don’t get me wrong, it could be a lot worse. I could be a telemarketer, work retail, or not even have a job at all. I’ve been in all of those situations before. Maybe at a different company, with different people, in a different industry, or with more financial security I would feel differently. Who knows?
A career in sales takes a certain type of person. People say it takes someone who is personable, aggressive, charming, assertive, direct, and even good looking, but those are just how you get in the door. You stay because you can take almost constant rejection, don’t mind “pledging” a company for a good while before you start to profit, ignore the regret brought on by knowing that nothing you did led you to this point, and have no problem with being fake at most hours of the day.
I could make the proverbial sale of snow to a snowman. After all, I’m a salesman, but I’m on my way out.