Not that long ago, when my dear brother was announcing my ascension into the rarefied air of corporate executives, somebody commented that he or she would appreciate some perspective on the sales profession. Our commenter said, “I just don’t know if I’d do a good job at sales or like sales.”
I have been in sales in one form or another since I was 13 years old. In a tale that I’m pretty sure has been told here or somewhere else, Jack and I ran a mail order BMX shop out of our mother’s home for much, much longer than anybody had a right to—especially when those two someones are 19 and 13, respectively. It’s one of those things that made a lot of sense at the time, but seems downright impossible now that it actually happened.
Our mom would answer our home phone with the name of our shop when I was in school, write down whatever somebody requested, and then she would send a page to my Motorola Gold Flex with the details of the order. I would come home and then call the various distributor networks and place the order. Somehow, none of our customers thought this was weird. And we actually even made a little money!
Unfortunately, we had made an arrangement with a local bike shop to share some of the financial burden, and the owner was an unscrupulous Brooklynite who had somehow made it to Hilliard, Ohio. I don’t remember exactly all of what happened, but the long and the short of it was that our partnership was discontinued, and thus, so was our mail order shop.
That small taste of money and the thrill of the hunt led me to working at a musical instrument store after school in high school, and then another one when I was in college. I’ve been in some form of a sales role ever since, whether it was in front line sales, sales management, sales coaching and training, sales leadership, leading a national sales force, and now, as the VP of Sales for the largest privately held media company in the world.