There are plenty of careers with a high turnover rate, but sales jobs are particularly notorious for driving people crazy then out the door. Chances are good you know someone who tried sales and failed, perhaps miserably. Perhaps you bombed at selling renter’s insurance or coupon books, and are still ashamed.
Well, you shouldn’t be. Why? Because dejected salespeople are all over the place. Companies who take a “sales approach” to growth experience a revolving door of employees, and many who try sales just aren’t meant for the job.
So, if you tried sales and failed, you’re not alone.
- Related: My Worst Job – and What it Taught Me
Case in point: Of the top 10 businesses with the least loyal employees through 2013, many of the bottom-rung companies were in sales. Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (a life insurance sales company) kept salespeople for an average of less than a year. Aflac Insurance, a company with employees who aggressively hawk short-term disability insurance, also hangs on to employees for just one year on average.
A recent study from Aon even showed that job turnover in life sciences and technology sales is currently at a five-year high.
So, why do people quit sales? With low unemployment, it’s natural for some salespeople to job hop in search of a better deal. But, there’s also something more nefarious at play – something that leaves some people who try sales absolutely wrecked.
Whether it’s the pressure to perform, the constant push to reach sales goals, the ongoing bouts of rejection, or the fact that some people can’t deal with a variable income, the fact remains that some people just can’t deal with selling stuff for a living.
And, that’s perfectly okay. After all, not everyone is cut out to be a nurse or a math teacher or a lawyer, either. Since we’re all cut from different cloth, different jobs suit our tastes and lifestyles.
Nine Signs You Have What It Takes to Succeed in Sales
Still, all of this might leave you wondering what kind of people do succeed in sales. What kind of person is okay with hearing “no” all the time – or being hung up on relentlessly? What personality type is perfectly fine with ing random people to peddle whole life insurance, cars, or vacuums?
Who on Earth is okay with earning thousands of dollars one month and zero the next? Just who?
To find out what personality types succeed in sales, we interviewed professionals who live and breathe this competitive industry. Who is destined for a career in sales? Here’s what the experts had to say:
#1: You have an understanding of human nature (but not necessarily an extroverted personality).
Many people assume you have to be extroverted to succeed in sales, says sales executive and expert Judah Ross, vice president of membership for his local chapter of the Global Inside Sales Association (AA-ISP). However, Ross says this isn’t actually the case. Out of the highly successful sales representatives he works with, Ross notes that the vast majority are just as introverted as they are extroverted.
What makes these workers successful is that they know when to turn on the small talk and when to keep to themselves. Successful salespeople also tend to have a deep understanding of human psychology and human nature, he notes. “They know what motivates people.”
You don’t have to be overly outgoing to succeed in sales. Instead, you need to know when to talk and which words might motivate your customers to buy.
#2: You’re intelligent and quick-minded, but not necessarily book smart.
While sales may not be rocket science, there is a certain amount of intelligence required to understand your customers and tailor your message to what they want to hear, says Jeff Goldberg, president and lead sales trainer at JG&A. If you’re not smart enough to pick up on cues from potential clients, you may miss out on a sale or lose it to someone who’s better at honing their message.
“You don’t need to be a genius, but you do need at least half a brain,” says Goldberg. “Sales is often a game of thinking on your feet.”
#3: You’re competitive and you want to make lots of money.
Goldberg says the best salespeople are the ones who have a real hunger for success – and even for competition. They desire earning more and achieving their goals almost at any cost, which is probably why they’re okay with the constant rejection and pressure that comes with a career in sales.
Young sales reps who are recently married and ready to buy a house and raise a family are typically good prospects, says Goldberg. Ex-athletes often make great salespeople as well, because they hate to lose and love to win.
#4: You’re assertive.
Salespeople who shrink at the thought of speaking their mind may not last long, says Goldberg. Why? Because they need to be assertive and willing to say things their potential clients may not like to hear. Heck, some potential clients may not want to talk to you at all. How can you get that first meeting if you don’t have the guts to speak up?
“Salespeople should never be aggressive, but you do need to be assertive,” says Goldberg. “You have to be willing to people who don’t know you, get them to agree to meet with you, establish rapport quickly and get them to open up to you.”
If you’re shy or like to hold back, it’s going to be tough for you.
#5: People like and trust you.
While we’ve all heard stories of sleazy salespeople, Goldberg says salespeople with the most integrity are the ones who perform well over the long-term. If you’re unethical or unfair to your clients, your career in sales will probably be short-lived.
Customers buy from people they like and trust, says Goldberg. If you’re someone who’s generally likable, you’ll probably do better in sales than if you’re hard to warm up to.
And while it’s easy to think salespeople are sleazy across the board – or that you have to lie, cheat, and steal to make a living at it – that’s not true at all.
The truth is, the salespeople who are honest get the most repeat sales and referrals. And those with the most repeat sales and referrals are the ones who earn the most money.
#6: You’re an optimist.
The best salespeople are those with a “half glass full” mentality, says sales and marketing consultant Aleksandr Biyevetskiy, founder of RoofingCalc.com. You need to be unrealistically optimistic in order to face multiple rejections but still believe you’ll come out ahead.
“Are you resilient?” asks Biyevetskiy. “You have to possess a high degree of optimism and interpersonal energy to face multiple rejections inherent to sales,” he says.
If you hate hearing “no” and let multiple rejections scare you off from pursuing new leads, sales is not for you. But, if you can hear “no” a few times and still think you’re on the verge of a breakthrough, a sales career might be right up your alley.
#7: You’re a good listener.
While sales professionals need to be able to state their case, they also need to earn their client’s trust, says Biyevetskiy. That’s why sales people need to be good listeners. While the sales process requires a lot of back and forth, the best salespeople know when to shut their mouths and listen for once.
“If people sense that you’re not really listening to what they have to say, then you’re not going to make the sale,” says Biyevetskiy. “It goes back to emotional intelligence, which includes knowing when to talk and when to shut up and listen.”
#8: You have a strong work ethic.
You have to have a solid work ethic to succeed in sales, says Yoni Pogofsky, managing broker at the Pogofsky Group realty in Chicago. Since most sales jobs let you set your own hours, someone who’s prone to slacking off won’t cut it.
If you show up to work at 10 a.m. and work until 3 p.m. because it’s a slow day, you’ll never make it, says Pogofsky.
“A successful salesperson needs to have a fire under them, and they need to start that fire.”
#9: You have grit.
The final marker of a successful salesperson is something that can’t be taught in school. To persevere in sales, you have to have grit and determination along with the mindset to keep going when the odds seem stacked against you.
It takes grit to complete strangers when there’s a good chance they have no desire to talk to you. It takes grit to show up to work with a positive attitude when you’re not quite on track to reach your goals for the month. And it takes grit to pick up the phone again when someone shuts you down, perhaps rudely.
“Any way you look at it, you’re going to face a lot of ‘no’s’ when you’re in sales. This can really beat down the average person and discourage them from pursuing further,” says Ross.
But often times, it only takes one more call to finally get that “yes.”
The people with grit are the ones who reach for the phone, while those who lack it quit and go home.
Holly Johnson is an award-winning personal finance writer and the author of Zero Down Your Debt. Johnson shares her obsession with frugality, budgeting, and travel at ClubThrifty.com.
- Eight Jobs Where You Determine Your Salary
- The Danger of Selling to Your Friends and Family
- How to Make Money
Have you ever tried a career in sales? How did it go?