A bilingual sales representative who started as an administrative assistant shares some of the wisdom she gained during her eighteen years in sales.
What is your job title?
Would you describe what you do on a typical day?
I do a bit of everything: check the market (what industries are performing better, employment trends) follow up on proposals, generate and update leads, identify clients, create sales messages, send out campaigns, follow up with clients, etc.
What is your ethnicity? Has it ever hurt or helped you?
I’m Hispanic “white” which may be kind of confusing for some. I believe it has helped me and hurt me, but both experiences are just as good. I have seen how stereotypes are still alive and well in many people, and that we just need to do our best, demonstrating that being Hispanic and multicultural brings many good things and advantages to the table.
What languages do you speak? How has speaking another language helped you?
I’m a native Spanish speaker and fluent in English, and I “mumble” some French. Speaking more than one language has been an enormous help to me professionally. Without English, I may have had to flip burgers for a while when I arrived in the United States; though, I wouldn’t mind doing this because I believe all experiences teach you something.
What did you learn the hard way in this job and how did that lesson happen?
I have learned to happily accept change and gracefully adapt to new situations. Don’t cling to old stuff or deals that didn’t come through. Analyze what happened, learn, and move on. It happens every day with work situations.
What don’t they teach in school that would’ve been helpful to you?
My parents taught me to always say “please” and “thank you”, and life taught me to smile. Those three have proved to be very helpful and no school teaches you this.
How did you get started in this line of work? If you could go back and do it differently, what would you change?
I happened on a sales career by chance. I was extremely shy when I was younger and would have never guessed I’d be able to sell anything to anybody. In a position as an administrative assistant and while performing a number of tasks that involved face-to-face customer service, I learned to deal with people from different countries, education levels, backgrounds, etc. This experience led me to enjoy interacting with different people very much, and sales and marketing came as a consequence of this.
On a good day, when things are going well, what’s happening and what do you like about it?
I especially like to try new things and figure out new ways of completing a task. I also like effectively connecting with clients. Even if I don’t get them to buy, knowing that I am advancing a relationship with a client and that there is sales potential is great.
When everything goes wrong, what’s happening and what do you dislike?
When everything is going wrong, there is usually a lack of connection and communication, which gives me the opportunity to analyze and identify why things went wrong, make necessary corrections, and again, adapt.
What is your favorite part of your job? What areas do you struggle in or wish you could avoid?
My favorite parts are connecting with people and the feeling that I am contributing. On the negative side, salespeople have been demonized for showing lack of professionalism. So this is my struggle: to earn the trust of my clients working in a consultative manner, listening to their needs, reading between the lines, understanding their goals, and helping them reach them. I have to build their trust so they know I’m there to contribute to their success and not to sell them a product they do not need.
How stressful is your job?
Sales can be stressful because every month we start from zero again. So we are as successful as our sales are every thirty days. To me, believing in what I do and how I do it is key in handling the stress.
Are you able to maintain a comfortable or healthy work-life balance?
Yes. I believe that work is what I do, not who I am. So having a right work-life balance, spending quality time with family and friends as well as having fun with all sorts of hobbies or interests, helps my balance and directly impacts my job performance.
What’s a rough salary range for the position you hold? Are you paid enough considering your responsibilities?
Various sales consultants have varying levels of financial responsibility and are paid based on this. Some work only on commission. Being paid enough is subjective. The key is to live a lifestyle that is within your means and finding satisfaction in what you can afford. To me is a continuous learning process to adapt and make smart choices. Considering my responsibilities and skills, I believe I’m paid enough when the market is good, which is not the case right now, but it will happen again in the future.
What’s the most rewarding moment you’ve experienced in this position? Of all the things you’ve done at work, what are you most proud of?
I have several to choose from; however, it all comes down to the moment when I realize I have earned the trust of a client. Without trust, there is no business relationship, no recurrent sales, etc. Also, having a sense of purpose in what you do is very important. And I find great purpose in my job.
What’s the most challenging moment you’ve experienced? What would you prefer to forget?
It was when I went through very serious personal things, (my mother’s illness and a divorce) and I needed to find the strength to deliver at work in the best possible way while going through all that. It was my network of colleagues, friends, and family who helped me carry me through those times.
I prefer to forget nasty clients, though it is important to make the best out of the interaction with them and learn from those negative client experiences.
What education and skills do you need to get hired and succeed in this field?
Formal education is important in any field. In sales, however, without the right attitude, there is no success. You need to like people and enjoy interacting with them, be confident, organized, read your clients, and have a strong work ethic.
What would you tell a friend considering your line of work?
You need to believe in the product in order to sell it successfully.
How much vacation do you take? Is it enough?
I take two weeks vacation. The time off is very important to me because this time, when well-used, strongly contributes to my well-being and the right state of mind to excel at work.
Are there any common myths you want to dispel about what you do?
I want people to know that good salespeople are professionals, and we are ethical and care about our products as well as our clients.
If you could write your own ticket, what would you like to be doing in five years?
I like what I do, so I hope to continue doing it while I follow a career in psychology.