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The Definitive Guide To Sales Part 1: Industry Overview

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I worked in sales for the better part of a decade and the skills I learned in that time are the most important ones I have in business and in life. Everything in life is sales, from companies selling you products to your girlfriend selling you on marriage. You are selling and being sold every minute of the day.

Now I’m not going to lie and tell you I liked being in sales because life in sales is hard. I don’t have to lie to you because I’m not your boss and I’m not a sales trainer. But despite how tough it was at the time, what I’ve learned from almost a decade in hard-nosed sales is invaluable. At the end of the day I came out of the meat grinder tougher, more skilled and holding a wad of cash to fund my new life.

When it comes to your mission, you’re going to need capital and you’re going to need to know how to sell. Despite the fact that it’s, sales is the best place for you to make bank and hone your craft. Sales is one of the rare industries where a guy under 30 can get his hands on the cash he needs to buy his freedom. A good salesman can make over $200,000 per year and even a half decent salesmen should be making $70,000. There are few industries that give non-specialists that kind of pay, especially young guys.

If you’re planning to go into sales or are already there, look at your time in the game as B school for hustlers. Learn how to close, learn how to service your customers and most importantly, learn how to toughen up in the face of stress and rejection. But don’t do what I did and give the corporate world most of your 20’s. Grind out a few years, hoard your money and get the fuck out.

In this four part guide I’m going to break down the game in-depth from an industry overview in this article, to what to expect from life in sales in part 2, to how to sell in part 3 and how to service your customers in part 4. I want to give you everything I know so you don’t make the same mistakes I did and so you can get the most amount of cash and skills out of your time in sales.

Now before we get into the job terminology, sales environments and breakdown of the key industries, you need to understand what sales really is:

What Sales Really Is 

Sales is manipulation. A great salesman is a great manipulator, no exceptions. The dictionary definition of manipulation is: to change by artful or unfair means so as to serve one’s purpose.”  But I would take it one step further and say that all communication is manipulation. Everything you communicate to people is to serve your purposes, how artful and how unfair you are depends on your level of skill and your ethics. Even when you’re helping others it’s only because it makes you happy. Everyone is manipulative, a good salesman is just better at it.

Sales training is nothing but learning how to manipulate others and how to lie effectively. Sales training is school for sociopaths. Everyone lies, lying is social lubricant but average people are rank amateurs, salesmen are professionals. That’s another thing your boss and sales trainers won’t tell you. All the objection management, inflection training and closing pressure you learn is not to service your clients better, it’s to make their money yours.

Now, manipulation on its own isn’t going to get you paid. What gets you paid is solving a problem. And like everyone else, your potential client will want the best product for the best price to solve his problem. Your job as a salesman is to manipulate your potential client into thinking that you have the best product for the best price. Whether you actually do is just a bonus.

Once you’ve got interest, getting someone to buy from you is just a matter of overcoming their objections which are only about two things, trust and money. Trust that you can solve their problem and whether your price is worth having that problem solved.

Does this mean you have to sell your soul to succeed?

Absolutely not, just understand that your average sales manager will expect you to do things you might not be comfortable with, but the choice is always yours. How ethical you are in solving your clients’ problems is up to you.

But make no mistake, doing the right thing will almost always cost you money, it’s cost me plenty of deals over the years. I’m not going to preach to you guys but I truly believe it was worth it. You’ll never feel good about yourself when you defraud people for a living no matter how good you are at rationalizing. Try and hold onto as much of your soul as you can. If that means you need to quietly kill a deal where the client isn’t a good fit then do it.

The Importance Of Sales

The sales force is the most important department of any company because if you can’t sell your product, you don’t have a business. Sales is the only department that generates revenue, every other department is an expense. Ironically salesmen are treated worse than almost all other employees for the very reason that they are so vital.

If the HR manager fucks up and forgets to fill the diversity quota nothing happens because her job is irrelevant. When you fuck up, companies lose money. Most companies can’t afford to have their salesmen fucking up so they drive them hard and replace them often.

Sales pays well not because its rocket science but because no one wants to do it. Most people can’t even make a cold call let alone endure one week on a high pressure floor. Your willingness to endure pain is what will get you paid.  Most people can’t handle the constant beating you have to take while still forcibly imposing your will.

Sales Job Terminology

Inside Sales

  • Inside sales means outbound phone sales with the addition of email and Linkedin as secondary tools
  • In some cases you’ll have inbound calls but they will usually go to the senior salesmen
  • Inside sales is generally less prestigious and pays less than outside sales because almost all high level business deals are done face to face
  • Many guys never transition from inside to outside sales because they can create a great illusion on the phone but can’t present well in person
  • Inside sales also includes dealerships

Outside Sales

  • Generally you’ll need a valid driver’s license and a car although some companies give you a company car
  • You’ll usually have a higher base than inside sales plus a car and phone allowance
  • Outside sales means you’ll be responsible for a territory or region and will have access to all the potential clients in that region
  • Having a territory works to your advantage because it’s harder for other salesman to steal your clients, in inside sales territory is much more of a grey area
  • Outside sales is generally more prestigious so you’ll usually have more freedom than an inside salesman
  • You’ll generally be measured on the amount of client visits you make as opposed to the amount of calls you make
  • Many outside salesmen work from home and only come into the office occasionally
  • A friend of mine in outside sales makes over 6 figures and only works 2 days a week

Hybrid Sales

  • Hybrid sales is a combination of both inside and outside sales, it’s also the most effective type of selling there is
  • It’s primarily an inside sales role with an objective of usually 1 or 2 face to face meetings per week
  • It’s a smart position for most companies to have because it squeezes the most out of their salesman

Short Sales Cycle 

  • A sales cycle is the amount of time it takes to close a deal as well as the speed in which you get paid
  • In general the shorter the sales cycle, the less skill is required of the salesman
  • On short cycles the focus is on using pressure and emotional appeals to close deals in one or two calls at the most
  • Picking up girls is also a short sale, guys who think otherwise get friendzoned

Long Sales Cycle

  • The longer the sale, the more relationship building and servicing the client is necessary
  • In general the longer the close, the more complex the deal and the more skill needed from the salesman
  • An extreme example of a long close would be in Aerospace, these guys usually wait 3 or more years for a deal to close but can pick up a 7 figure commission when it does

Products 

  • Products are usually cheaper and require less contact with buyers, referred to as customers
  • Product-based sales generally relies on volume because the size of the deal is smaller and in many cases there is no recurring revenue

Services

  • Services cost more and require more consistent contact with buyers, referred to as clients
  • Service-based businesses usually have fewer clients but get more money per client, are harder to close and have a recurring revenue model
  • In general it’s easier to make targets from recurring revenue than from incremental, it also means you can get paid without having to do anything for that month

Hunting 

  • Many ads for salesmen will emphasize having a hunter mentality
  • A hunter is a guy who can aggressively bring in new clients
  • You should be wary of any company emphasizing a hunter mentality because it means they probably are unethical and burn through a lot of clients
  • When guys brag about being a “hunter, not a farmer” like many sales managers do, it means they rip their clients off

Farming

  • Farming is servicing your clients properly and building relationships
  • A good salesman is a mix of both a hunter and a farmer, a guy who can bring in and retain business
  • The best way to retain business is to deliver on what you promised and treat your clients well, that means if you want to keep clients don’t be a scumbag like Jordan Belfort

B2C

  • B2C means business to consumer or selling products to individuals
  • With the exception of financial services and big ticket items this is usually the lower end of sales

B2B

  • B2B means business to business or selling products to businesses
  • These deals are usually more complex, take longer to close and need more skill on the part of the salesman

Sales Job Environments

1) Boiler Room/Call Center

Expectations

  • 200 calls per day
  • 2 to 3 hours per day on the phone
  • No outside sales
  • Hit your numbers

Perks

  • None

Rundown

  • Call centers are usually run by mid size to large companies operating legally or are a department within a large company
  • Most companies use call centers as an outsourced, low-level “sales force” to sell low-margin, short sales cycle products and services in volume
  • I use sales force lightly because it’s more like a zombie army than a team of professionals with many call centers not allowing any deviation from the script
  • Boiler rooms are usually smaller organizations operating either illegally or at semi-legally

Culture

  • Horrible, call centers are suicide factories
  • Usually some kind of illegal or highly unethical activities going on (with the exception of call centers run by large companies)
  • Revolving door culture, salesmen are easily expendable and the majority quit or get fired quickly
  • Dress code is usually casual or at best half-assed business casual
  • Low quality of workers: dropouts, new immigrants, young kids
  • Management are usually human garbage who resort to tactics like fear, intimidation and yelling to motivate their staff
  • I can tell you from first hand experience what a nightmare these jobs are but they make an amazing training ground for salesmen

2) SME (Small To Medium Sized Enterprise)

Expectations

  • 10 to 70 calls per day for inside sales
  • 5 meetings a week for outside sales
  • 1 hour plus on the phone
  • Potential for travel
  • Hit your numbers

Perks

  • Car allowance, possibly company car
  • Possibly company phone
  • Travel expenses on rare occasions when you do travel

Rundown

  • In general your earning potential will be less than a large company so these companies will sell you on the potential to move up the ranks quickly but this is usually bullshit
  • Positions are more solidified than they look and when new positions open up, many times they’ll bring in people from the outside, it really takes a lot to get off the sales floor
  • Also many SMEs operate month-to-month and always have to worry about meeting payroll
  • This means they are quicker to fire under-performing salesmen and will generally put more pressure on you than large companies

Culture

  • Culture and dress code vary but are usually less uptight than large corporations
  • Sometimes you can luck out with a fun, all guy culture especially if you’re in a branch environment without an HR staff
  • Many times you’ll be working face to face with the owner who has a vested interest in you working hard and will usually walk by your desk a few times a day to hover over you

Conclusions

  • SME’s are the most variable sales environment
  • Sometimes they will be laid back but sometimes SMEs with a small sales team will put more pressure on you than call centers because you represent so much of their revenue
  • Working in the SME is not necessarily bad but I would always choose a large company if you can get the work

3) Large Company

Expectations

  • Call volumes rarely measured
  • Call times rarely measured
  • 3 to 5 meetings per week as most large companies use outside reps
  • Expect to travel, in a lot of cases cross-country
  • Hit your numbers

Perks

  • Car allowance or company car
  • Company phone
  • Travel Expenses

Rundown

  • In general large companies are the best places to work, pay the best, have the best benefits and have the most career security
  • The downside is it takes forever to move up and you can forget about making the C Suite
  • Large companies generally sell expensive and complex products and services
  • Sales cycles are usually 6 months to a few years
  • Large companies can easily sustain these long sales cycles because they have access to a ton of cash and don’t have to worry about making payroll

Culture

  • Large company culture is boring, uptight, politically correct and usually comes with a strict dress code and code of conduct
  • Unfortunately there are plenty of HR girls and office managers named Barb or Marni wasting company money on enforcing this bullshit
  • Most non-salespeople who work at large companies are neutered, culturally white, married drones who make terrible worksafe jokes

Conclusions

  • In general large companies are by far the best places to work
  • Your salary, commission and benefits will always be highest at a large company
  • Job stability is better at a large company because they have a lower turnover rate and less chance of going bankrupt
  • You work nowhere near the owner and the revenue you bring in won’t make or break the company, this means you’ll have a much longer leash and more opportunity to hide and slack off
  • You can forget about moving up, although for our purposes you want to own your own business anyway so that doesn’t really matter

Sales Jobs By Industry

1) Direct Sales

Channel

  • B2C

Role

  • Inside Sales

Salary

  • $25,000 to $75,000

Environment

  • Call Center

Products And Services

  • Household products
  • Time-shares
  • Telecom and media subscriptions
  • Delegates for conferences
  • High interest credit cards
  • Penny stock frauding services
  • Bullshit self help products

Requirements

  • Opposable thumbs

Companies

 Job Description

  • Selling low to mid-range products and services to customers
  • Deals are usually one-offs so customer service is unnecessary
  • Direct sales is usually done through call centers but some commission-only companies let skilled closers telecommute
  • Commission only companies can afford to do this because they don’t have to pay your salary, many times these companies are at the higher end of direct sales

2) Capital Equipment

Channel

  • B2B

Role

  • Hybrid Sales or Outside Sales

Salary

  • $50,000 to $200,000

Environment

  • Large Company

Products And Services

  • Chemicals
  • Office equipment
  • Industrial supplies
  • Medical and dental equipment

Requirements

  • B.A.

Companies

Job Description

  • Selling capital equipment requires in-depth knowledge of the product but you usually don’t need formal training like you would for technical sales, most companies will train you in-house
  • Territory is mostly regional as opposed to cross-country
  • You can make some pretty serious dough selling equipment especially when you get into medical and dental
  • Generally you’re selling into department heads of hospitals/institutions, branch managers or purchasing managers of large corporations
  • This is a great place to aim if you’re coming out of university and can present well

3) Technical Sales

Channel

  • B2B

Role

  • Outside Sales or Hybrid Sales

Salary

  • $75,000 to $400,000+

Environment

  • Large Company

Products And Services

  • IT
  • Logistics
  • Aerospace
  • Weapons
  • Software

Requirements

  • Specialized degree for field

Job Description

  • Technical sales is similar to selling capital equipment but usually requires formal training and close collaboration with the tech guys in your company, you can’t hire any retard off the street to sell mainframes
  • Since the products are complex they tend to have the longest sales cycles of any industry
  • Tech sales also means you need to be a relationship builder and service your clients well since there are so few companies in your market
  • Tech sales pays well because the combination of people skills and tech skills is hard to find thus making you valuable
  • Tech is also a great industry for keeping customers because of the amount of friction to switch providers
  • If you sell a CRM, chances are you’re going to get at least 5 years out of that deal because the overhaul would be so costly and time-consuming for the client

4) Insurance 

Channel

  • B2C and B2B

Role

  • Inside Sales, Hybrid Sales or Outside Sales

Salary

  • $50,000 to $300,000

Environment

  • SME or Large Company

Products And Services

  • Life And Health
  • Automotive
  • Property and Casualty

Requirements

  • Industry designation
  • B.A. for larger firms

Companies

Job Description

  • As a personal lines insurance broker it’s your job to cold call potential buyers as well as tap into your family contacts to get them to buy personal policies
  • Many successful insurance brokers will have cold callers or assistants booking meetings for them but starting out you’ll have to do this for yourself
  • As an insurance broker you’re a full stop shop responsible for building and maintaining your book of business
  • Meetings are usually booked over the phone and closing is done in person
  • Generally you will be reselling policies or working directly for a major insurance company
  • The big money is in selling property and casualty insurance to businesses, like insuring buildings for example
  • Not all commercial firms are large companies, there are some high-end boutiques in the SME
  • If you can, aim to get into commercial right out of university

5) Recruiting

Channel

  • B2B

Role

  • Inside Sales

Salary

  • $50,000 to $150,000

Environment

  • SME

Products And Services

  • Staffing solutions
  • Executive recruitment

Requirements

  • Opposing thumbs

Job Description

  • Recruiters, otherwise known as headhunters get paid on behalf of companies for placing employees with them, usually a percentage of the employee’s first year salary
  • Recruiting runs the gamut from low-level staffing firms to high-end boutiques who focus exclusively on the C suite
  • Many recruitment agencies specialize in certain industries like engineering or sales
  • Recruiting is generally a high call volume industry with two different targets to sell, companies looking for employees and employees looking for companies
  • Shitty recruitment firms will take any employee and spam blast their resume to all parties concerned
  • Good recruitment firms discreetly access C suite executives and get them better job offers while they’re still employed
  • Employers pay better for these recruiters as they get access to in demand candidates they wouldn’t normally be able to recruit
  • Since recruiters only get paid when they place clients in jobs, they will tell job seekers anything to get them to sign a contract
  • Keep this in mind when a recruiter is selling you a job and especially when they’re selling you a job as a recruiter

6) Financial Services

Channel

  • B2B and B2C

Role

  • Inside Sales, Hybrid Sales

Salary

Environment

  • SME or Large Company

Products And Services

  • Financial planning
  • Commercial currency brokering
  • Investment Advice

Requirements

  • B.A.
  • Industry designations for financial planning and investment advice

Companies

Job Description

  • Your job is to make a very dirty profession seem reputable
  • Your job is to make your client’s money your money
  • Whether your client makes money for themselves just makes it easier to retain them
  • Despite all the fancy titles and designations, your job is to sell them as many products as possible and earn as much commission on each deal as you can
  • Your best clients will have the most money and the least intelligence
  • To do this you have to pretend like you know where the market is going when in reality no one does
  • If your client was smart they would put their money in low M.E.R. index funds, medium yield bonds or high interest savings accounts and not fuck with you at all
  • But since they are investing with you, that means you can put them into derivatives you don’t understand, volatile stocks and high-fee, low-performing mutual funds
  • Financial services is the only industry in the world where you can get paid for making your client’s problem worse (losing them money instead of making them money)

7) Advertising

Channel

  • B2B

Role

  • Inside Sales or Hybrid Sales

Salary

  • $50,000 to $150,000

Environment

  • SME or Large Company

Products And Services

  • Conference sponsorships
  • Print advertising
  • Digital advertising

Requirements

  • None

Companies

Job Description

  • The main ad sales jobs are in print advertising in magazines/newspapers, digital advertising on websites and sponsorship slots at conferences
  • Print advertising is dying a slow death except in B2B and luxury publications but digital is more than filling the space print left behind
  • Your job is selling advertising for your publisher to marketing directors of corporations or account executives at media companies
  • Ad sales is usually a hybrid role with a decent budget for wining and dining clients
  • Most ad budgets are booked by the start of a company’s fiscal or calendar year so you can expect the majority of your deals to be booked between October and February
  • Usually there is a decent amount of client management you need to do because clients always want to change their ad or complain about why it’s not performing
  • Unfortunately your product doesn’t always solve your clients problem
  • In the days of print advertising that was easy to hide but in digital it’s not and can result in you losing clients for things that are out of your hands

8) Real Estate

Channel

  • B2C and B2B

Role

  • Outside Sales or Hybrid Sales

Salary

  • $40,000 to $400,000

Environment

  • SME or Large Company

Products And Services

  • Residential real estate
  • Commercial real estate

Requirements

  • Industry designation
  • A vagina (for residential)

Companies

Job Description

  • For residential real estate your job is to sell homes on behalf of the seller and take a commission on the deal
  • There are some buyer’s agents but they are relatively rare
  • You want to get the seller to price the home at market or below to get a quicker commission
  • Most people want to price their house above market which means you could be waiting a long time when the house doesn’t sell
  • In a hot market you can make tons of cash but in a slow market you will struggle, it’s a very cyclical industry
  • For commercial real estate you’re selling buildings on behalf of businesses, there is really good money in this but it can take years to close a deal

9) Pharmaceutical 

Channel

  • B2B

Role

  • Outside Sales

Salary

  • $75,000 to $300,000

Environment

  • Large Company

Products And Services

  • Prescription Drugs

Companies

  • Merck
  • Pfizer

Requirements

  • B.A.
  • Being a hot girl, most drug reps are hot girls because they’re selling to doctors aka men

Job Description

  • Pharma reps make bank, especially if you’re selling popular drugs like Viagra or Lipitor
  • It’s primarily outside sales selling into doctors offices, and department heads of hospital
  • Similar to medical devices but less closing skill is needed because drugs are less intrusive and expensive upfront

Part 2: Life As A Salesman