What does ‘success’ mean in Sales?

Owain Williams, Sales Directer at The Change Organisation writes: –

“I know what I want from my career and I believe my experience in the Sales industry enables me to understand how I can achieve what I want but I’m also conscious that some of my definitions of success have changed over the course of my working life. So, I want to probe the variety of views regarding ‘success’ in sales and why these views may change over the duration of a career in the industry. Maybe anyone considering a life in Sales might benefit from this and maybe those seasoned vets who read this may be able to offer other insights.

When I first started my selling career, it was as a 14yr old punting ice creams on the seafront in a dilapidated caravan and my idea of success at the time was earning £100 a week which, to the joy of my bosses, I would invariably put back into their machines in the arcade. I had a job and it gave me money to fuel my addictions; that was ‘success’ to me at the time.

My next sales position was, whilst at college, working after hours for a prominent double glazing company. Success for me was still based on earning money to fund my lifestyle but the important competitive edge (if you’re not competitive then I’m not sure Sales is for you) had crept in too as I placed great importance on being the best amongst my peers. I also took great pride in overcoming rejections of which, as I’m sure you can imagine, there were plentiful!

A couple of years later, I found myself on a plane to Tenerife ready to embark on a ‘proper’ sales career selling Timeshare. My short term success plan was to come through training (notorious for an extremely low pass rate….I came top of my class by the way) and the long term plan was to make lots of money whilst living a hedonistic life in the sunshine a million miles away from the saddos stuck in 9-5 office jobs (the irony is not lost on me); my ‘success’ gauge clearly hadn’t yet changed. I made a sale on my very 1st tour and continued to perform above target in my 1st 6mths. In doing so, I made lots of friends, just as many enemies, earned a decent living and played very hard. Although I liked the idea of earning lots of money and my Parents were very keen for me to start saving, my reputation amongst my peers was the most important aspect to me and that was what I mainly measured success against. Interestingly, it wasn’t necessarily my reputation as a successful salesperson that was important to me. I was keen to be recognised as being capable but, overall, I just wanted to be liked and thought of in a positive way. Over the next few years, my views of success remained the same until I hit the ripe old age of 21 and started to think of my future. Did I see selling Timeshare as a stable and long term career? Could I earn lots of money to help me live the lifestyle I aspired to? Could I gain more responsibility as I started to like the idea of a managerial position? That was what I wanted and that was what success started to look like to me. I decided a career in Timeshare couldn’t help me get to where I wanted to so I started to make changes in my life and, by fate of pun, I found myself at The Change Organisation.

It’s generally the case that a salesperson will perform better when selling a product they’re passionate about and in an environment that keeps them motivated. After having worked for pretty much 4yrs either in a hotel or on the beach, I can categorically state that it wasn’t the prospect of working an office based job selling IT that motivated me to come back to England. However, I was prepared to make these sacrifices as the job fulfilled all of the criteria which prompted me to move out of Timeshare. The part about making sacrifices is very important as we’d all love to become huge successes only doing things that we’re passionate about but the reality of life is that, for most of us, we will have to do some things that don’t score particularly high on the motivation scale in order to fulfil the bigger picture. For me, as time has progressed, I have become passionate about IT and the fact that a lot of my time is spent sitting in an office as both of these are now simple facts about the path I’m taking towards my long term goals. Success for me today is still based upon earning the money needed to support my planned lifestyle as well as achieving the targets that come with my role. In order for me to achieve these targets, all of our staff must achieve their individual targets so my focus is on supporting each individual towards being a success so that I’m a success! Of course I’m hopeful that I’m well thought of by all of my peers but it’s not a key criteria for me; they can say what they want about me personally but as long as my professional results can only be spoken of positively then I’m happy. Of course I’m still competitive but I’m no longer looking at others and benchmarking myself against them; there will always be someone else who brings in more profit or opens more new accounts. I now only compete with the challenges that are set for me and usually by me.

One criteria of ‘success’ has stayed constant throughout my Sales career to date; earning the money needed to fund my chosen lifestyle. Not many other industries provide the same earning capacity as Sales and, if you have ‘it’, you can earn the funds needed to live your chosen lifestyle. Some like to buy material objects, some like to invest, some like to save and some like to give. However you choose to spend your own money is your own business. The point is that ‘success’ in Sales has a variety of meanings to different people, in different sales roles and at different stages of their careers BUT I’m willing to place a bet that, at any time, in any environment and regardless of position, all of us working in Sales share one same view that ‘success’ is based upon earning the money we NEED to live the lifestyle we WANT. Is that what success means to you?”


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