You’re not a real marketer if you don’t have sales experience

I had to do this post, partly because I feel like I’ve underestimated what it takes to be successful in sales, but mostly because I’ve had a bit of a revelation over the past six weeks.  Marketers beware.  Sales people, I bow down to you.

I’ve been in marketing throughout my whole career.  Well 13 out of 15 years, and the first two I was in sales but a watered down version acting as a travel agent for travel agents.  In January, I decided it was time to leave the corporate world and start my own marketing consulting company, Sugarfly Marketing.  I also knew that I didn’t have the funds to really gear up the way I wanted to so I would also need to find another source of income.  That is when one of my very good friends, legend, and sales lightening rod, I’ll call Janet, told me about the most gratifying job she’s ever done.  She is an agent for Aflac. Yes, we all know the duck commercials!  Sure I thought, I can do sales.  Not a problem.  Little did I know, I mean, really know, what it takes to be in sales. I’d like to take my hat off right now to every sales person I have ever met, yes ex-colleagues and vendors included.

After completing my New York State Insurance exam and all the prep classes I got through (granted this is within 10 days of leaving my job) and began Sales School.  It was no easy feat coming from a background in marketing, media and travel to insurance. (And by the way, everyone should learn about insurance because no one ever teaches you this).  Sales School is one of those places that you hear people talk about quietly in the office and roll their eyes, relieved that they got through. People that have been through it already say, “well, not everyone makes it through”, “many people will drop out”.  OK, so I’m wondering what can really be so bad, I mean it is sales after all.

If you ask me now, and yes, I did survive the experience, it is more of an emotional rollercoaster and an internal strength test.  It takes a lot of energy to constantly keep a positive frame of mind when there is a high probability of rejection.  This is especially true in the insurance world. As marketers, we don’t like rejection. We don’t like to feel like we’re selling ourselves and we believe that the brand should speak for itself.  Well, in truth sales people lend much more credibility to the brands they represent than people realize.  At the end of the day you are selling yourself.  Even the best ad campaign will be ruined if a sales person walks into a client’s office and screws up in some way.

Sales School is a week-long school of hard knocks.  Who has tried to do 120 cold calls in 3 hours?  Or maybe drop in unannounced on 40 companies in a day?  Not nice?  No, not really.  But that is part of the sales school program.   It took me 4 hours to make those calls and I just got to 120 in time.  Do they make it this hard just to get the pick of the bunch?  I don’t know. What I know for sure is that it takes a certain type of person, one with perseverance, a positive attitude and people skills to get by.  Sure, the money is good, but that is only if you actually are good.

It is one of those jobs that to survive you have to:

1. Keep a positive outlook despite all odds

2: Hear a lot of “no” to get to yes

3: You can’t take anything personally

4: Hearing “no” is great, you are closer to yes

5: It is a numbers game (yes true, but it helps to target the right companies as well).

So now you know. I feel like I have finally graduated from marketing school, 15 years later.  To all the marketers out there, I recommend you get involved at a sales capacity if you can.  There is nothing like the coal face for real experience.  Since sales school I have had a lot of coaching which has not only been good for me professionally but personally as well.  If you really want to be a great marketer then actual sales experience is a must have.

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2 Comments on “You’re not a real marketer if you don’t have sales experience”

  1. Recruiters Executive March 2, 2010 at 5:12 pm #

    I worked with Aflac and I posted my work story online. Check it out in the link.

  2. Shirley March 26, 2010 at 3:12 am #


    I just had to comment on your blog. I just came across it and quite frankly am happy to hear someone really talk through the pain of a true sales person. A good sales person makes sales look quite easy — however in reality, sales is a lot of blood sweat and tears — however if you can do it, and do it well — you will always have a job. People always need good sales people. Your training was humorous to read, however I can imagine how painful it was. I commend you for living through it and most importantly for venturing down the path you are. It takes a lot to start your own business — however with your tenacity, you are bound to be successful. I wish you all the best.


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