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  • Writer's pictureLacy Starling

#75: Salespeople aren't Unicorns

At a (socially distanced, masked) coffee meeting last week, I had a really interesting conversation with a dear friend of mine who has been in sales for even longer than I have. We were discussing recruiting salespeople, and my friend mentioned that every time he interviews someone and asks why they want to be in sales, if they give him an answer like, "I love to golf!" he immediately passes on them.

You see, he's been in the business long enough to understand that golfing (or other, related activities, like taking people out for drinks or playing tennis or going to football games) is a vanishingly small fraction of the work that goes into making sales. Sure, it's the glamorous part, and it is certainly a cliché—the sales guy (it's always a guy) out on the links, closing deals and slapping people on the back while chomping a cigar—but it is not what salespeople actually do.

This is one of the most common misconceptions I run into out in the world, when I talk about how sales needs to be respected as a career, just like engineering and architecture and accounting. Good salespeople, salespeople who make a successful career out of selling products and services, work hard. They work really, really hard. They create systems, they retain knowledge, they grow, and learn, and innovate, and persist through rejection and economic downturns and product lifecycles and pandemics (ahem.) They are not just lightweight frat boys who golf 18 holes and then go out for drinks.

Being a good salesperson is not about having a low handicap (I don't golf, so I just had to Google if a low handicap or a high one was better) or having the "gift of gab." It's about following through, and always being on time, and being willing to let a customer vent about a mistake that your operations team made, and memorizing product specs every time a new product comes out, and bouncing back after rejection. There is no magical quality that makes a salesperson great—not even a Tiger Woods-level golf game can save you if you are terrible at any of the things I mentioned above. And thinking that some people simply have this "magical quality" that makes sales easy does them, and the rest of your team, a disservice.

Salespeople are not unicorns, folks. They are Clydesdales.

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