TALKING SALES 61: “Why choose a sales career?”

Sales career 700x460                    Sales is a great career” – an interview by John Smibert.


John Dougan cartoonIn this interview John Dougan enthusiastically explains why sales is a wonderful career for a young person to choose.

He explains that it is very rewarding, not just in income terms but in the satisfaction salespeople get from helping their customers.

He also talks about the significant variation in activities from week to week and year to year. And in particular John points out a major career benefit in  the exposure that they get to general business.  Very early they get the opportunity to work with many sections of their company and develop broad skills. And even more interesting is the exposure they get to their customers’ business.

Very few other careers get the same level of exposure and variety.
See the full interview below.

John Dougan is the Intrepid Sales Detective, a noted writer and blogger on sales effectiveness.

See more of the ‘TALKING SALES’ series here


John S: Welcome back! I’ve got John Dougan with me again – welcome back, John!

John D: Thanks very much, John!

John S: We’ve had discussions about sales as a career, and I know you’ve spent a lot of time early in your career coaching and developing young graduates in sales.

John D: Spot on.

John S: Tell me, why is sales a good career for people?

John D: Sales isn’t a good career for young people, John, sales is a great career for young people!   I think the exposure that they get to general business – and let me be as ambiguous as that – is fantastic. You know, they get opportunities to work alongside marketing, operations, the get an opportunity to be the front line of an organisation early on – that’s fantastic!

John S: And exposed to customers, right in the guts of what the customers are trying to achieve, understanding the issues and challenges their customers have.

John D: Well, isn’t that the piece we still enjoy? You know, I’m 10 years down the line, and the idea of having every day being a different day, having to have that level of agility.  You call me the Intrepid Sales Detective – that’s basically because of my desire and passion for the investigative skills that I have to use when I speak to the customers.

There are things about sales that should excite young people when they think about sales careers – not the stigma that’s attached, especially in this country – with the fear of having to behave like a used car salesman or being the wolf of Wall Street; whatever it happens to be. There are some really great benefits by being in sales, and the primary benefit is the satisfaction of bringing genuine value to your customers.

John S: It’s a very noble career when you focus on it, and particularly focus on the customer and creating value for the customer. If that’s what you’re all about then it is a noble career.

John D: Well, we spoke about it before, John; it is a profession. And not only that, when you get involved in sales you are training every single day to hone the skills that are required to actually be consultative, to actually be an investigator, and to actually have conversations with your customers where they reveal things to you that may display that they are in either trouble, or they’re growing and maybe aren’t able to control that growth.

John S: That’s really exciting and rewarding, isn’t it?

John D: I seem to be getting very excited about it, John, so that’s good!

John S: [laughs] Tell me a little bit about what sort of characteristics that you think a young person need to have – what sort of competencies and capabilities do they need to have – if they want to move into a sales career?

John D: Yes. There are competencies that you would say inherently fall well in a sales career. The first one is confidence, and I don’t mean brash confidence and I don’t mean arrogance, I don’t mean anything in that way.

John S: Yes, because I think introverts probably make a better salesperson in a lot of cases than extroverts.

John D: Oh, on occasion introverts, because of their incredible level of self-awareness, are very good and very trustworthy when they’re sat in front of clients. Not only that, they can actually take all the energy that a client gives from an extroverted point of view, and use that internally and communicate it effectively and articulately about what they want to solve.

John S: Yes. They tend to be great listeners, which is a primary skill in sales, right?

John D: Something I could improve with, John, it seems.

John S: [laughs] And what other characteristics?

John D: Again, don’t get me wrong, they still have to be driven. The idea that sales is very much like a contact sport… I know that there are lots of mediums and communication methods that are replacing that somewhat – ‘social’ of course we’ve talked about already, huge component of it – but to be driven towards achieving an objective and a goal is still very important.

John S: That’s really interesting. I think a lot of the young people get a lot of value out of your thoughts on this subject, John. Personally, I think it’s a brilliant career. I’ve spent 30-35-40 years in it now – sales, sales management and sales leadership – and I’ve got to say: I’ve loved it, my job’s changed every year or two over those 40 years, and I’ve seen a lot of my other student colleagues that went into a professional role – be it a doctor, be it a marketing guy or whatever – and they stay doing much the same thing every day for  their whole career!

John D: Of course.

John S: And the change and the excitement in sales in just wonderful!

John D: It is indeed.

John S: Thank you very much for your insight, John – I appreciate it!

John D: Thank you, John!


If you like John Dougan  you can see more of his interviews here:

  1. Adapting Sales Process to Buyer Behaviour
  2. Choosing the right sales methodology
  3. The social selling evolution
  4. The sales profession


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John leads three related organisations, Custell, Strategic Selling Group and Sales Masterminds APAC. These help B2B selling organisations, who recognise the need to transform their sales capability, to respond to the tsunami of change that is starting to wash over us all. He works with people who recognise that to survive they must more strategically support their customer in their buying journey - and understand that they must become specialists in the customer's domain in order to be of value to them. He also helps sales teams build differentiated personal brands and leverage the digital and social worlds to engage to create trust and value.

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