The Loneliest Job in the World

This article is for those of you who have been in sales for some time. Those of you for whom the glow of the job is beginning to dim a bit.

Some non-salespeople think that salespeople lead an incredibly busy social life, full of free meals and days on the golf course. That we get to travel to all sorts of interesting places and stay in great hotels, eat in fancy restaurants, and get to meet and entertain all kinds of interesting people. What a wonderful life we lead!

If only.

Outside Looking In

From the outside, selling certainly looks interesting, lucrative, and easy. After all, all we do is go around talking to people all day.

There is another side to selling that these people don’t see. In many cases, not even our spouses see it – the downside of selling.

How many times have you returned home after a week on the road, tired and grumpy (being on the road does that to you) only to have your spouse welcome you home with open arms, a litany of the week’s problems, and a request to go out for dinner? Out for dinner! After a week on the road, you’re sick of eating out and a home-cooked meal, even if it’s only wieners and beans, holds enormous appeal.

Eating on the road alone is a bummer. I figure that a restaurant meal on the road costs me about $2.00 a minute to eat after it actually arrives at the table. A $20 meal takes me about ten minutes to consume. A $30 meal, maybe fifteen minutes. This same meal, shared with my spouse, would easily last four times as long. It’s lonely eating by yourself.

Socially Tiring

Then there’s all the entertaining we’re supposed to do. Entertaining is supposed to be fun and relaxing, friends meeting friends, having a good time.

First of all, prospects, clients, and customers are rarely friends. At best, they’re business acquaintances and not people you can share private thoughts with. You need to be on your guard the whole time you’re with them, so you don’t say or do something inappropriate. Those of us who have let our guard down and lost a sale as a result can understand this. Others will have to make their own mistakes.

Entertaining is not fun, it’s socially draining. After a trip on the road, one of the last things I want to do is go out for a social evening, even with friends. I need time to recuperate.

Many people believe that most salespeople are social butterflies and spend their evenings on the road in whatever bar is handy. In truth, many of us, at the end of a day on the road, are delighted to get back to our hotel room, wade through the paperwork, and then collapse in front of the TV for some mindless viewing. Nothing too strenuous though.

Living Out of a Bag

Whenever I’m on the road, I try to spend the company’s money as though it were my own and, consequently, I stay in hotels I would normally stay in when travelling on my own nickel. The result is that I end up in clean, comfortable hotel rooms of moderate size, with the telephone and computer jacks located on the wrong side of the room, and one chair that was designed as a medieval torture device if you sit in it for more than fifteen minutes. I’m exaggerating a bit about the chair thing, but I do wonder if the people who decorate these rooms ever stay in them.

The point is, people think that salespeople on the road stay in palatial hotels when, in fact, we don’t. And if the truth be known, we’d probably be happier in our own beds.

On the Road Again

You get up in the morning, alone, have breakfast, alone, drive to your first call, alone, go through a number of socially straining calls throughout the day, eat lunch, alone, make more calls and then drive back to your hotel at the end of the day, alone.

Notice the word alone. For the salesperson on the road, this is a very lonely job.

Now, top this off with the fact that not every sales call you make turns into a sale. If you have a 25 percent closing ratio, you get three “Noes” for every “Yes” you get. Not fun.

Why Do It

So why do we do it? We all have our own reasons, and here are some of mine.

I like helping people and being able to provide solutions to my prospect’s problems fills that need.

I enjoy the freedom that comes with being on my own, and I have the discipline to do what needs to be done each and every day, not just when I feel like it.

Selling has been lucrative but I’ve earned every penny of it. I’m pleased that I’ve been able to basically write my own paycheque all these years. I took home less pay when I put in less effort and more pay when I turned on the jets.

I’ve met many people over my thirty-plus years in sales and with a 25 percent closing ratio, I’ve met an awful lot of people who didn’t buy from me, but I never met a person I didn’t end up liking.

I had the opportunity to travel to places I would have never traveled to, as well as some I’ll never go back to again. All great experiences though.

All in all, sales and selling has been good to me and, in return, I’m proud to consider myself a sales professional.

Even if it is a lonely job.