A - I'd say it's about an average of forty-five hours a week out in the field actually making calls and probably another ten to twelve hours a week at night doing preparation for the next day. A significant portion of my job is preparing return-on-investment analyses for an account, basically for shelving opportunities. When I get involved in something like that, it's a lot of number crunching and a lot of analysis. That could take twenty hours at night over the course of a week. It is my job to put together a report and an analysis, then a presentation. Not a nine-to-five job!
Well, every day is a little different. I would say the average day is at least ten hours. A lot of the time it's more. Quite a bit of it is driving time. I think the smallest percentage of my time is selling, actually sitting down and going over the program with customers when they're going to buy. That's perhaps only 10 percent of my day.
How much time does a sales representative put in? Honestly? Probably about thirty-five hours on the average. Now when I first started, granted, I worked a little harder. But if one looks at the average, once the territory is set up the way it should be, and the sales representative is keeping up with things, it's about thirty-five.
When I moved up from a sales representative to an account manager, I went from working thirty-five hours to working seventy. Saturdays, Sundays, nights. It's incredible. I guess it depends on how much an individual wants to put into it. In our company, especially for a woman, a person really has to work hard.
Q - What skills do you think are most important for success in this type of selling?
A - The most important thing is attitude... a positive attitude, because there are a lot of ups and downs in the business. You never make every sale you want. Not every dealer is rational. So you need some patience. When I first started, I had people throwing me out of the store and not talking to me, saying that the last person who came there didn't do a good job and didn't take care of them. You just have to keep plugging away and be persistent to show the person that you are willing to work together, and that you deserve a fresh start. I don't think someone with a computer background who never got out of the library would do very well, and I think it would be highly unlikely that such an individual would be offered a position with us.
Our objectives are to have people who have a four-year college degree and are in the top of their class academically. Although we didn't hire anyone below a 3.5 grade point average, that isn't our cutoff point. In reality, we would have hired someone who is above a 3.0 in their area of concentration and who has had business training in college. We don't think there is an ideal sales type. It's very difficult to say there is one type. Generally, we look for people who are intelligent in terms of their grades and who have a track record of leadership in terms of accepting assignments throughout their career. We look for someone who has good listening skills and who is able to think very quickly and verbalize those thoughts. We ask what we believe are very difficult questions, and the ability to listen to the question, understand it, and then come up with some sort of logical answer is critical.
It's a lot of pressure, and I guess I feel a lot of pressure toe because I am one of the first women. You go to a national meeting, am someone comes up and says, "Oh, I've heard about you, you're the guinea pig." It's either sink or swim. I guess I want to do the best job can, so that no one can ever say I got ahead because of my sex instead c my ability to do my job. So, I think I work maybe a little harder than some people would, trying to overcompensate sometimes. I guess it' just a personal thing. It's your responsibility, and you've got to do the very best you can to achieve the goal. One quarter I missed my budget b} less than half a percent! To miss by a lousy half a percent... It's enough to drive you crazy!
Probably as stressful as you let it be. It varies from individual to individual. I personally love competition. I get a kick out of sales contests or drives, or my boss saying, "Can you sell X amount more than you did last time?" and then going after it. I was very involved in sport! Before I came to the job, and once I started to get a good grip on the sales it just became a lot of fun. So, for me it's not too stressful. I'd say if yot don't enjoy sales, it could be very stressful.
My husband has to yell at me in the middle of the night. I'll bt sitting there sound asleep, saying, "I'm going to make my budget, I really am, believe me I am!" And he'll wake me up and tell me to quit thinking about it. So I think about it even when I'm asleep! It's a lot of pressure, what advice would you give someone who is going into this type of selling?
My advice would be to recognize that you are going to make a lot of mistakes. Don't worry about it. If you are not going to make them when you first start, watch out later on. Then you can't afford to make them, or make as many. No matter what career you are interested in, whether it's sales, marketing, accounting, or whatever, get some practical experience during the summer months or while you are in school. Talk to people who are in the field, "off the cuff," just so you can expose yourself to it. Then you can make a more intelligent decision concerning a career and at the same time you get a taste of what goes on out there.
I would have given anything to have taken more case courses. I think they help you to develop a method of finding a problem, attacking a problem, and implementing a solution. I think these are a part of selling skill. Case courses try to teach you to probe and to find the key aspects of the person you're dealing with and to handle those aspects.
Most if not all career planning and placement offices are not entirely sure what the sales industry is all about. They think that there are these people out there with plaid hats and plaid sport coats carrying wicker suitcases and wearing bow ties. In some companies that may very well be true, but I think in most major companies the job is really more that of a sales professional. It requires the ability to understand distribution systems, pricing systems, and promotional vehicles and to work your territory in accordance with this knowledge. Thus, I think that aspiring salespeople should aggressively pursue the major corporations to look for a summer internship program between their sophomore and junior years. This will give them an opportunity (1) to find out if sales is truly what they want to be involved in and (2) to put themselves miles ahead of those four-year candidates who have no sales experience.