Making it through the Surf

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Most of college was a blur but I did have one professor in particular who left a lasting impression. The course was Statistics and it was a well known weed out class. Shortly after getting through all the niceties and syllabus this rather low key professor quite calmly turned to the class and said that there was a 50% probability that neither you nor the person sitting next to you will be here after the first exam. He then mentioned, “nothing to fear… just stating the stats”. I’m glad to say I made it through the class but hate to admit he was spot on in his prediction. I respond well to fear and took it more as a challenge, needless to say he spooked a good number of us.

Starting out in sales is no different… Often you have to sign up for companies that are known weed out organizations looking for diamonds in the rough. These firms are often betting on the come, looking for track records outside of work, former athletes, people that excel in some aspect of their pre-career work life – basically anything to help justify their gut and the bet they will place on you. Graciously, they tend to give you a quarter or two to prove your value or you don’t make it beyond the first cut. The risk is often all on employee, many of these jobs are commissions only or heavily leveraged plans at best.

If homework was done right, you picked a company with a reputation for churning out winners. As a hiring manager early on, I always looked for people that were highly motivated, had everything to prove, and weren’t overly concerned with what the “training program” was. We definitely trained you but it was more baptism by fire or the equivalent of taking you off shore and then dropping you into the deep waters to swim back. Not to sound cruel, we were very much swimming back by your side but you were definitely swimming on your own.

The next level companies do a great job finding out who the top recruits are and have a good process for seeking out the best talent.  If you keep paddling hard you’ll build the needed track record of success to serve as your spring board for that next level sales gig.

You’ll find I like to net things out in 3’s to keep things simple and to the point:

  1. Getting through the surf is hard work, especially if you are new… but you have to do it to get better.  If you hesitate or hang out too close to shore sure you will definitely get pounded when the big waves come crashing in.
  2. It is important to be part of organizations that aggressively weed out the low potential or low performers. Your value will be perceived heavily from the organization you come from. People want to be around top talent, not average talent. Your future marketability depends on your pedigree and where you come from.
  3. Be proud of the tougher challenges, they make winners and help define your success in Sales and in future leadership roles.

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Good Selling,

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