I remember clearly seeing the advert in a copy of Metro. For while I’d been considering my future career options and was slowly coming to the conclusion that, as enjoyable as working in a ‘lifestyle’ job was, it was never going to make me rich. I’d never really had a problem with self confidence and Media Sales sounded exotic, I imagined working on Q or Mojo, going to album launch parties and rubbing shoulders with the Stones or Oasis. This was the career for me! I arranged an interview and called one of my best friends, who already worked in ‘publishing’ for the inside scoop. I was brought back down to earth quickly. His first job had been on Cross Stitch Crazy Magazine and he was paid about eight grand a year, I was going to have to revise my image of media sales.
I went to the interview with the recruitment consultant and was given a further reality check. At the sprightly age of 28 I was considered an OAP in sales exec terms and the consultant thought publishers would be reluctant to take me on, I was ‘too old to mold’, and probably had my sights set on a higher salary than they could provide me with. They were wrong on both counts, I had no qualms about making compromises as long as there was a pay check at the end of the month. I attended a group interview at a leading international B2B publisher (no really) and was distraught to sit in a room with about 15 other people, half of whom were target smashers extraordinaire (see @completeledge on Twitter to get the idea). I’m sure I recall one guy playing the guitar in the interview, which at the time made me think of David Brent and I had to stifle laughter, which I truly hope was not the reason he didn’t advance to the next interview stage. Unfortunately for them, and fortunately for me (I think), sales has moved on somewhat and I got a second interview and then the job. I’m still friends with some of the other successful applicants from that group interview and it’s been interesting watching their careers develop.
My first office environment was quite a shock, we had huge screens on the wall detailing every member of the sales teams call stats, and whenever a director walked in the room they lit up like Blackpool in December as everyone scrambled to get on the phone. Our sales director was from the old school, a right dragon that had her favourites and you weren’t one of them until you proved yourself. Everyone sales professional can remember their first sales role and most have a similar story to tell of high call targets, tiny basic salaries, awful bosses and equally awful clients. But your first sales role is also where you learn if you have the resilience and motivation to make a success of sales. All the ‘other stuff’ can be learnt along the way but you have to be a certain type of individual to get up every day and go to a job in sales. Because you work with such like-minded individuals, the sense of camaraderie is great; it must feel similar to being part of a band, or top sports team such as Liverpool FC (guess where my sporting allegiance lies). I also remember clearly how intimidated I was picking up the phone for a cold call for the first time, what if I forgot an essential price, or piece of circulation information? What if they told me to **** off?? It’s amazing the lengths that some sales professionals go to avoid speaking to clients, whether it is to call fax numbers or cinema information lines so the call logging software thinks you are hammering the phone. You always get exposed quickly.
Since my first role I’ve been lucky enough to hold down some great positions with equally great employers. I’ve made some great friends and I’ve travelled the world because of my job. And I’m really happy I went to that interview that set me off down the road I’m travelling.
Why did you get into sales?