I used to pretend that working in sales is like this one David Foster Wallace story. It’s the last one in Brief Interviews with Hideous Men.
In the story, the narrator hits on this girl and she tells him about this time that she went hitchhiking. While hitchhiking this girl gets picked up by a man and she quickly comes to the realization that he is going to kill her. She spurts out a bunch of information about herself in an effort to seem human. She thinks that if she can make a connection with him, she will be able to save herself.
And that’s kind of what a job in sales is like.
Only, of course, the stakes are much lower. Rejection is the worst thing that can happen. Plus, no one wants to have a strong emotional connection with someone who is trying to sell them something. They want to have a superficial and pleasant connection, at best.
If you can get someone to see you as an actual human being though, they might at least accept your phone calls.
It’s depressing, but no one wants to have a Virginia Woolf style “moment of being” with you. They want you to explain why they are calling you.
Regardless of whether or not, people really want to connect with a sales person. I’ve learned a few more things that are applicable to the rest of my life:
1. People can hear you smile. No matter how shitty your day is, if you smile you can trick people into thinking that you’re happy to talk to them.
2. Another person’s personality can change depending on whether or not you’re emailing back and forth, talking on the phone or speaking in person.
3. Your relationship with someone drastically changes after you’ve met them in person versus just speaking to them on the phone.
4. Getting someone to like you is entirely different from getting someone to buy something from you.
5. It’s possible to have the same conversation with ten different people.
6. Sometimes, for completely inexplicable reasons, people don’t like you. In the same way that sometimes you don’t like other people, but of course, you can learn that by doing other things. Not just selling.
7. Personal touches go a long way for people. Something as small as a handwritten note or remembering that someone’s son plays soccer can be much appreciated.
8. It can take a long time for someone to make a decision.
9. You can always tell when you get someone who has worked in sales before on the phone with you.
10. There’s nothing better than finding someone who wants to talk to you after a day of leaving voicemails. Only sometimes, it catches you so off guard that you’ll start reciting a voicemail to a live person on the other end. This will confuse them.