There are specific pieces of advice we get that shape our entire life. The best piece of advice I ever received was to pursue a career in sales before committing to law school. I had wanted a career in law since middle school because I wanted a life where I’m being constantly challenged and pushed out of my comfort zone, but my career in sales has equally if not more fulfilling.
After roughly four years in sales at Yelp, I can’t imagine where I would be without that piece of advice. Here are the 10 biggest life lessons I’ve learned along the way:
1. How to toughen up. Growing up I never had thick skin and would take things very personally. Working in sales has taught me that sometimes people wake up on the wrong side of the bed or have a rough day. Regardless, their frustrations or anger usually have nothing to do with me. Remembering that everyone is only human allows me to take things much less personally.
2. Mastering communication. Through working in sales I’ve talked to people from all walks of life, and learned how to effectively get my point across to a variety of people. Some like to vent or make decisions on emotions, some care about numbers, and others are an open book. I’ve learned that being a great communicator has less to do with what you say and more to do with how you listen.
3. How to read others. Most of our job in sales requires being able to read people. We want to understand what a business owner is looking for through questions and active listening; this is called Emotional Intelligence. By listening closely and being genuinely curious about the people I’m talking to, I’ve not only increased my emotional intelligence at work, but also in my personal life — something my friends and family are very thankful for.
4. Be assumptive. Sales has taught me that I’m more likely to get what I’m looking for if I assume the person I’m speaking with wants to do what I’m asking of them, especially if I give them some direction for how to do it. For example, my chances of getting a free upgrade at a hotel increase if I say, “I’d greatly appreciate any upgrade you have available” instead of asking, “Do you possibly have any upgrades available?”
It’s similar to giving directions to someone in the car. If you’re trying to get somewhere you’d never say, “Well, if it’s not too much of a hassle, can you maybe turn right at the next light?” You’re simply going to say, “Turn right at the next light.” The same pertains to anything else you may want in life.
5. Anything worth having requires hard work. Most deals we close don’t fall out of the sky. They’re a result of weeks or months of hard work. The same concept applies to anything you want to achieve in your personal life.
6. Patience & persistence are key. I have gone through periods in sales where it would be easy to freak out and start second-guessing everything I’m doing. Instead, I’ve learned it’s much more effective to stay positive and patient, and trust that my hard work will pay off. That is often a lot easier said than done in the moment when you’re struggling to hit your goals, but there’s a phrase we use a lot around here: “trust the process.” It means that if you’re doing all the right things, listening to feedback, working hard, and controlling the things you can, eventually you will get to where you want to be. It may not be today or tomorrow, but it will happen!
7. You don’t get what you don’t ask for. The biggest and most valuable lesson I’ve learned is the ability to ask for what I want, regardless of what it is. If the host at your favorite restaurant walks you to a table, but you really want a booth, do they know that if you don’t tell them? No! Don’t be afraid to be vocal with your wants, and, like I said before, be assumptive with how you ask for them.
8. Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right. This is most true when working in sales, an industry that relies on your confidence. I’ve learned how to always believe in myself. The moment you doubt your skills is the moment that everyone else does as well. It’s normal for all of us to have moments of doubt, but fake it ‘til you make it!
9. Sales is part of your everyday life. Whether you’re getting your friends to agree on a place to eat, convincing a friend to go out, or getting out of a ticket, you’re selling. Whenever you’re trying to get someone to agree with you, you can apply the persuasive skills you learned in sales to your everyday life.
10. Be authentic. In almost every aspect of life, we’re encouraged to fit in. However, most of your success in sales depends on being authentic. You want the people you’re calling to like you for you, so you’ll thrive by being yourself and not fitting into a specific mold. What could be better than that?
Thinking about a career in sales? Apply for our Inside Sales Representative role in one of our five U.S. offices at www.yelp.com/careers!