When Did You Know You Wanted To Be in Sales?
A question from an astute young relative has Peter Smith pondering this question in his latest column.
I was fascinated by the question, asked by my nephew, Jake, a senior at Santa Clara University.
No one had ever asked me the question before and there was no quick or easy answer.
There are, of course, poignant moments along the way that stay with us throughout our career, and I began to recall some of them as I pondered Jake’s question.
One such moment was when working at Colibri back in the mid-1990s.
As a “non-salesperson,” I had made a huge sale of pens to a giant office supply chain. Our rep for the area had not had any success with that account so I got personally involved as the marketing director for the category and made the important sale.
Later that day, the president of Colibri asked me how my appointment had gone. Acting as if I’d “been there before,” I casually replied with the details of the order.
Without missing a beat, he said, “That ain’t shit. Come back to me when it sells through.”
I did an about-face, barely containing my irritation, and walked back down the hall to my office.
In the minute or so it took me to get there, my annoyance turned into a wide smile, enlightened, even energized, by the realization that, as curt as his response had been, I had just received a sales education.
Sales should never be about sell-in.
Then there was the time, 10 years earlier as a young salesman at Tiffany & Co. in Chicago, when I sold my first Breguet watch.
I remember the look on the customer’s face when I told him a short story about Napoleon Bonaparte having owned a Breguet. That quick story was more impactful than any facts or features I could’ve shared with him.
“The answer to Jake’s question is nuanced. There’s rarely a time, or sudden revelation, when people decide sales is for them.”
Or it could have been the first time a customer challenged me on Whitehall Jewelers’ awful practice of massively marking up the price of a piece of jewelry so that it could be “discounted” by 50 or even 60 percent.
My response to the customer was, “I agree, this is a questionable practice that I have no control over. But let’s talk about what I can sell it for and see if that makes sense for your needs.”
In short, I had chosen authenticity and honesty over a largely deceptive practice and was still able to satisfy the customer and make a sale.
The answer to Jake’s question is nuanced. There’s rarely a time, or sudden revelation, when people decide sales is for them.
There may, of course, be trigger moments, when they choose to embrace a sales career, but the wiring that defines top salespeople is evident from a very early age, certainly long before we give a first thought to jobs or career paths.
Kevin Mitchell wrote in his fascinating book, “Innate: How the Wiring of Our Brains Shapes Who We Are,” that, “We are different from each other in large part because of the way our brains get wired before we are born.”
One of the earliest and most fundamental of traits in people who become successful in sales is an inherent competitiveness from a very young age.
In thinking about Jake’s question, I was reminded of two observed markers I noticed in his young life that might be indicators of his sales orientation.
The first was his incredible competitiveness playing soccer as a boy growing up on the fields of Glendale, California and the surrounding towns. Jake’s dad often boasted about how seriously Jake took his game and how incredibly motivated he was to drive himself to the highest standards.
The second moment was when we were having one of our all-too-infrequent visits a few years ago at his home.
We were all sitting around the fire pit singing songs, telling stories, and enjoying a wonderful evening and, in the middle of it all, Jake excused himself to retire to bed early as he was running the L.A. Marathon the next morning.
I was both impressed by his discipline and left to wonder about whether he was even old enough to run a marathon.
I would add to Susan’s assessment that temperament is evident in the choices we make growing up—the activities we pursue, and the attitude and drive we bring to those activities, be it sports, debates, drama, fundraising or any other art form, academic or social situation that ignites our competitive spirit.
It’s not so much that we choose sales, but that sales chooses us. If you are one of the lucky ones, use that talent wisely.
Have a great holiday season and be safe!
The strategic acquisition will bolster the luxury titan’s production capacity in its watch and jewelry division.
The new brand, Metal Alchemist, focuses on unisex, classic jewelry designs.
The 2022 edition of the retailer’s annual publication pays homage to the coffee farms and shops of Puerto Rico.
From laboratory-grown diamonds to design to country-of-origin, GIA's Alumni Collective™ has a seminar to suite your needs.
The partnership brings Claire’s jewelry and accessories to 20 Macy’s locations in time for the holiday season.
Starring CEO Sabina Belli and other celebrities, the videos emphasize the importance of supporting women who have experienced abuse.
Give your customers the best diamond buying experience this holiday season.
Kalisher started out manufacturing watch bands and later got into publishing, authoring two books and serving as publisher of Chronos.
Scheduled for Feb. 1, the event will feature six gemological education presentations and three hands-on sessions.
The jewelry cleaner manufacturer jumped up to No. 3066 on the Inc. 5000 list.
The Dec. 1 jewelry sale at Bonhams-owned Bruun Rasmussen will have several other pieces of royal jewelry on the block.
Its Q3 sales dipped as inflation took its toll on shoppers in the U.S. and Europe.
The S.S. Central America sank in 1857 off the coast of South Carolina, carrying tons of gold from the California Gold Rush.
Plus, see this year’s list of nominees for the Jewelry Design, Media Excellence, and Retail Excellence awards.
Debuting today, it is open to Provenance Proof blockchain users.
Assure is the program the Natural Diamond Council launched in 2019 to test lab-grown diamond screening devices.
Intercept Silver & Jewelry Care distributes anti-corrosion and anti-tarnish products.
Senior Editor Brecken Branstrator’s highlights include a chrome tourmaline ring, a giant opal necklace, and an American mined stone.
Police in Calumet City, Illinois are looking for several suspects involved in the robbery of a jewelry store in the River Oaks Mall.