Subscribe to Our Blog

How to Succeed When You’re an Accidental Salesperson


Traditionally, if you were a salesperson, you probably received a business degree and had a seasoned sales pro as a mentor. Or maybe you just loved selling, so you read every sales book available and kept abreast of industry trends online. However, with 7 million unemployed workers in the U.S. and 6 million job openings (many in the hard-to-fill sales field), it’s more likely today that you’ve found yourself in the position of the “accidental salesperson,” a term coined by Chris Lytle in his book of the same name published nearly two decades ago.

How to Succeed When You’re an Accidental Salesperson

Of the 1.9 million bachelor's degrees issued in 2015, 364,000 of those were in business—the most of any field. That means that one of every five bachelor’s degrees awarded every year goes to students who’ve studied finance, accounting, marketing, management, and general business—but not sales. At the master’s level, business degrees also topped the list at 185,000 issued, but most MBA programs don’t offer any sales-related courses, and those that do are focused on sales management. So even if you do have a business degree, you likely received little to no academic training in sales.

Most people—especially millennials, who make up the largest portion of today’s workforce—think of a salesperson as the sleazy, pushy, used car salesman trying to sell you anything just to make commission. Sales has evolved, and no matter what your title, if you work in a customer-facing capacity, you’re in sales.

Whether you’ve chosen sales or sales has chosen you, understanding the fundamentals of selling is vital, especially when 39 percent of B2B buyers say they’ve chosen a vendor based on the skills of the salesperson rather than the price, quality, or service features of the offering.  So, now that you’re a salesperson, you have to figure out the fundamentals of selling and create a repeatable, successful sales strategy. You’re probably asking yourself:

  • How do I generate leads?
  • How do I weed out prospects from info seekers?
  • How do I use social media and remote meeting tools for sales?
  • How to I land face-to-face meetings with a prospect?
  • How do I cater my sales strategy to millennials?
  • How do I assess who the key stakeholders on a given sale are?
  • How do I keep up momentum to close a sale?
  • How do I write and present a proposal?
  • How do I confirm a sale and get the check?
  • How do I follow up and grow the sales relationship?

A good way to start exploring what it means to be a salesperson is by reading books or other resources that offer a high-level look at the strategies for and fundamentals of effective selling. It’s also a good idea to seek out a mentor with plenty of experience in sales so you have someone you can go to with questions.

Ultimately, when you’re ready, the best and most effective thing you can do to succeed as a salesperson is to invest in yourself by signing up for formal sales training. Did you know that the average salesperson has received only three days of sales training in their entire career? And most of that is training on the product being sold, rather than how to sell. With 10,000 baby boomers retiring every day, there is a growing dearth of talent across industries, and Gen Xers and millennials will be tasked with filling those gaps. The amount of available jobs is unfortunately met by a lack of skilled workers, so sales training can launch you to the head of the pack and help you succeed as a salesperson.

If you’re a millennial, you’re poised to change and evolve the sales field, and you probably don’t even know it. As digital natives, millennials have an innate understanding of marketing, social selling, and more, all of which are changing the B2B sales model. Pairing the fundamentals of selling with digital prowess means millennials are uniquely positioned to succeed as salespeople. According to a PwC study on the changing the generational workplace, “Millennials’ use of technology clearly sets them apart. . . . This is the first generation to enter the workplace with a better grasp of a key business tool than more senior workers.”

Whether or not sales is where you saw your career going, if you’re ready to become a true a sales professional and not just go through the motions, sign up for Selling in 6 today. 

Sales Training That Works! Selling in 6.

Read more blogs on Selling Performance

Posted by Mark Jewell