“I think I want to go into sales…” is a phrase I hear a lot of my friends, who currently hate their jobs, say when they see the success others have obtained in a sales role. There is almost a façade around sales that it’s easy to do and you’re guaranteed success. I know when I first thought about going into sales that was my idea, but boy was I wrong…
I started out as a teacher. A health and physical education teacher to be specific, and while I loved my job at the start, just getting myself out of bed in the morning became a struggle. I was working insane hours and getting paid less than most of my friends. Sure, having the summers off was a big plus, but I ended up having to work most of the time for summer conditioning programs or even just to make an extra income. Long story short, I committed to five years and lived out my commitment. When I was approaching the end of my fifth year I began seriously looking into transitioning careers, and I knew I wanted to go into sales. I saw a lot of potential in myself to be good at a sales position, but wanted to make sure it was in a field I was familiar with, so I focused my efforts on commercial fitness equipment sales.
I’ll admit I was very naïve, and I thought I would crush commercial fitness equipment sales no matter what. Thus, I jumped at the first opportunity that came my way without really digging deep into the company. I didn’t look at company culture, their comp plan, training, etc. I met the owners and really liked them both, so when they offered me the job, I took it. This cost me dearly, and without going into too much detail, I learned very quickly I made a poor decision. I was given no formal training, no tools, no pay, plus I had to relocate, which we all know is a long and expensive process. It was sink or swim and I felt like my hands were tied behind my back. Oh, and did I mention I had recently been married and found out we had a baby on the way? Yeah, it was a lot.
However, I knew my abilities and went for it. I used a phone book and google as my main tools and I set goals to meet with a minimum of 3-5 business each week. One of which was a local gym not far from my house. The gym was in such great condition and had such a positive environment that I ultimately decided to join. Not long after, I decide to take a job there working evenings and weekends to help supplement my sales job. Coincidentally, one of the roles I had was to gain new customers via selling the gym to them.
This kind of sale was much different from what I had been doing, but I really found my stride in it. I took to it like a fish to water and I loved getting to work there. My passion for the gym was contagious to everyone who walked through the door, and before long, I became a partner, owning the gym. I thought to myself “this is it, this is where I make it big”, but life had different plans.
The time came where I truly started to evaluate the next 10 years of my life and all I could think about was my baby girl (oh, and another on the way). The area we lived in was not an area I wanted to raise my family, and neither did my wife. Unfortunately, the gym couldn’t come with us and we weren’t at a point to scale out to different locations. This led to me selling my equity in the gym and looking for a new job closer to where I wanted to raise my family.
I learned from my mistake of not researching the company before my previous sales job, so this time I did purposeful research on the best markets and why. Two things were clear, technology sales were booming, and I was going to have to start at ground zero.
A friend knew of my search and connected me to a technology start-up company (Relus Technologies, now ReluTech) and I decided to apply. I chose to apply to a tech start-up for a few reasons. One was the acceleration of growth from an entry level position to an account executive position. The other, a much greater opportunity, to be known within your company.
The acceleration of growth was a huge selling point to me, as I was going to be taking a massive pay cut and didn’t want to be stuck at that level for long. I knew that if I had gone with a large tech company, the ability for growth would be greatly limited. I also knew that at ReluTech, if I worked hard and showed my worth, I could move up quickly, and I did.
The ability to be “seen” at a tech start-up was also an opportunity (or risk, if you aren’t standing out for good reasons) that appealed to me. I didn’t want to be seen as just another sales rep, I wanted it to be known that I was a valuable addition to the company. At ReluTech in particular (and I imagine at many start-up companies) they truly want you to feel valued and accepted. This not only produces more productivity, but creates a much more positive environment overall.
Coming from fitness to tech there was certainly a learning curve, but I didn’t feel left behind. I think this is mainly because of the constant change at start-ups, so, if you can roll with it and be quick to adapt, you will be running with the front of the pack in no time. Thus, my advice for anyone looking to transition into a sales career, I suggest you do your research, find a start-up, and go all in! You have to be willing to take a step before you can run.
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