Are You a Natural Sales Superstar?

Ever considered a career in sales? You aren’t alone. Popular misconceptions make many ambitious Asian Americans put sales at the bottom of the totem pole when considering careers. They have a vague notion of salespeople as annoying drones performing a lowly, even despised function.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

As a matter of fact, in the corporate world salespeople are the trusted warrior class. They are the samurai, riding forth to do battle on the front lines of a fiercely competitive free marketplace. Not only do good salespeople possess poise under fire, sharp minds, high energy levels, unusual degree of discipline and appealing personalities, they carry on their shoulders the near- and mid-term fortunes of their companies.

No wonder top salespeople rank up there in earnings with other highly trained corporate professionals. The average income of a wholesale or manufacturing sales rep for technical or scientific products was $65,360 in 2004, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. For a sales engineer, the mean income was even higher — $72,490.

Those compare well with salaries in other well-paying corporate departments like engineering ($66,040 for mechanical, $66,980 for biomedical and $64,620 for civil), IT ($61,440 for database administrators and $62,060 for network systems and data communications analysts), finance ($55,430 for accountants and auditors and $52,050 for cost estimators) or production ($46,690 for first-line supervisors/managers).

Working your way up to a sales management position wins even healthier paychecks relative to managers in other areas. The $91,840 that sales managers earn on average matches or exceeds the paychecks of managers of operations ($88,700), HR ($75,190), industrial production ($76,710), public relations ($74,750) and even marketing ($92,190). More importantly for the long term, in most industries, those who begin their careers as sales executives stand a better chance of working their way up to the CEO position than employees from any other corporate department!

Not that the average CEO’s earnings of $140,580 is envied by the top salespeople. In good years elite sales executives can take home far more than deskbound superiors two or even three steps above them on the corporate ladder. As a matter of fact, not even lawyers ($107,800) or doctors ($139,640) have anything over a star sales executive in the compensation department.

Money isn’t everything, you say? Let’s talk glamour. You know those movies where attractive, well-dressed people entertain distinguished clients in fancy restaurants? In real life, the people who get to enjoy swank evenings more frequently than any other class of professionals aren’t lawyers or investment bankers, they’re sales executives! That’s because even in these days of stingy expense accounts, salespeople are encouraged to keep good clients happy with memorable meals and choice events.

So now that you have some idea of what a sales career can offer, let’s find out whether you have what it takes to be a top sales executive. You may be surprised to find that the qualities you always associated with other careers are exactly the ones that make a successful sales executive.

If you can honestly answer “Hell, yes!” to all of the following questions, you have the makings of a sales superstar.

1. Are you the most disciplined person you know?

Discipline is the backbone of effective sales. Sales success requires the timely step-by-step execution of strategies and timetables day in and day out over months and years. At the highest levels, sales is much more like a marathon than a sprint, and you can’t run a marathon without the kind of discipline that puts time on your side.

2. Are you a great researcher?

Corporate sales is information intensive. You need the skills to ferret out, digest and organize key data relating to a prospect and how your product or service can help its business. A busy CEO won’t take the time to give you a primer on his company and its requirements. If you don’t put in the time to become expert on your prospect’s needs, you will turn him off even before the meeting begins. Next

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