For What Kind of Company Should a New Rep Work?
So you’ve decided on sales, now what. Not too long ago I was mentoring a young would-be salesperson and he asked the ultimate question-what kind of company should I be looking for? Ninety percent of the time I have a ready answer for any question. I had to stop and think about this one.
I was reminded of my first sales job as a pharmaceutical rep in 1973. I was happy to get into sales so I wasn’t analyzing whether this was the right move for me. Plus, I had more than one mouth to feed at the time. Once I learned enough about the job to be dangerous I realized that there were three things I did not like:
- I was on a group annual bonus.
- The selling format seemed unnatural. I was actually reading features and benefits off a card.
- I couldn’t easily connect the dots between a presentation and whether the doctor would prescribe the drug. Typically the doc could say yes I’ll prescribe the drug but checking with the pharmacy might not indicate that.
With that said here are a list of things a new rep should think about when considering their first or second job. (By the time the third job comes around most salespeople know what they want.)
- Distinguish between a tangible and intangible product to sell. In my opinion tangible is easier if you’re new to sales.
- Has the company been in business for years? As a new rep I would want my first job to be with a company that has a track record, i.e. one that has been around for 10 or 20 plus years and has revenue in the hundreds of millions and over.
- Does the company invest in sales training for their new salespeople?
- If the company is a manufacturer do they have an active R & D department and how often do they introduce new products?
- If you are in the process of interviewing or even if you are not, talk to several of the salespeople and ask them about the sales managers. How do they manage? Do they get into the field and work with the salespeople? Are they pound-the-desk types or are they committed to developing their salespeople?
- Look for a company that has a professional sales culture, one where there is collegiality but also healthy competitiveness. If you get a sense that there is a lot of carping and complaining among the salespeople-beware.
- If the compensation plan “caps” the salespeople at a certain income level give some serious thought to whether you take the job. Even for a first or second job I would not suggest working for a company that limits what a salesperson can make.
- A salary plus commission is a better choice. Later in your career if you want to go straight commission because the money is significantly better then have at it.
- If you are an outside rep look at the size of the territory, the amount of travel, and the potential revenue for the territory. A good sales manager will at least have an approximation of the potential.
The more questions you ask the less doubt you’ll have about the company. When I was in my twenties I tended to not ask enough questions. Bad idea.
The Final Thought: “Nothing in the world is more dangerous than a sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” Martin Luther King Jr.