Advancing Life & Work

My First Year in Field Sales

"I was once told by my sales professor that roughly 85% of marketing/business/finance majors went into inside sales in their first year after graduating college. You guessed right, I was among that 85%". Read all about Jay's story!

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Like many other young and ambitious individuals, I was able to promote and excel out of that role quickly. Like every other millennial, I thought to myself: “I’m young, smart, and I represent the future. I can do what these outside account managers are doing, but better.” If you’re thinking “Boy, he’s wrong”, I would agree with you. In December, I had my focal point review with my manager to discuss my first year’s performance. I told him I have learned a great deal from my peers, mentors, and customers this past year.

Here are just a few of the best pieces of advice I have received:

“The only source of knowledge is experience.” – Albert Einstein

Experience takes time. Yes, it’s easy to ask any customer in solution-based selling “What keeps you up at night?” True selling isn’t at all how many recent college graduates perceive it to be. It is very easy to read, learn and regurgitate information. It is much more difficult to be patient. You can go through a sales cycle and say you have sold a product line. But just like every role-play you’ve done, the thing you’re truly learning is the process of repetition and cycles. The more patience you exhibit and cycles you experience, the more knowledge you gain. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Mistakes build knowledge. Knowledge is experience. Let time takes its course.

“A distraction is not a distraction, unless you pay attention to it.” – Anonymous

I remember writing to a colleague that was also in her rookie field year, “A company split, 2 business units being sold off, 3 different direct managers in one year, and we’re still here!” She responded with “Well it’s a new year, new quota, all we can do is work towards that now." Light bulb. It’s easy to get caught up in distractions and focusing on things that don’t impact your direct responsibility. You cannot control the things out of your control. It’s best to focus on revenue-generating work and driving your sales. Don’t get caught up in work outside of that.

“You have to be hungry. You have to want to conquer.” – Arnold Schwarzenegger

I am a territory/acquisition account manager. My role is a mix of retaining our current install base and hunting for new logos. Much of my business is transactional. It is easy to work on incoming leads and refreshing the needs of the current and consistent customers. But like my manager said, “Be aggressive.”

Jay and his best companion!Jay and his best companion!

Form 1: Don’t rely solely on what the company provides; you need to hunt outside of the standard tools. Like a baseball player, every at bat counts. The more at bats, the better chance you have to get on base. Getting on base is how you score. MONEYBALL, thanks Brad Pitt! Aside from the standard tools the company provides, go out and prospect on your own. No deal is too small. There is potential and winning in every customer prospect. Yes, prioritize the ones that are most important. But if you don’t hit singles or doubles, you won’t get an RBI or score.

Form 2: Being aggressive also helps your customer. We’ve all dealt with the internal nuisances of our company. When I am aggressive, I am competitive for my customer too. It’s important to be their evangelist to your company. When you challenge your company and fight for your customer, you can not only win their business, but also their trust.

“Being self-critical is good; being self-hating is destructive. There’s a very fine line there somewhere, and I walk that carefully.” – Daniel Radcliffe

I see my first few years in sales as time for growing, for which I have a passion. Many of us have received the advice, “Be a student of the game”. Sure, learn from your mistakes and grow from them. But it’s easy to fall into the trap of not believing you are good enough, or paying too much attention to the “should of, could of, would of” comments that start appearing in your head.

Yes, as sales people, we love metrics and we want to produce results. But it’s important to not focus on the destruction, but more on the positivity of constructive criticism. It encourages growth.

The difficultly lies in managing the blurred lines, and we’re not talking post happy hour. Self-criticism and self-destruction are not black and white. So when you give yourself advice, think about how impactful that advice will be in years to come.

“Success is no accident.” – Pelé

By the end of the day, I will continue to drive. I will continue the best practices I have been taught, learn from the advice I’ve been given, and focus on what I believe in. Like the quote “Success is no accident”, there is no coincidence. Don’t believe me, just make sure you read Outliers by Malcom Gladwell’s. Pele’s quote continues, “It is [success] hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love what you’re doing or learning to do.” If you believe in that and practice that belief, you will reach that visionary level of success.

About the author

Jay Virdee, Enterprise Account ManagerJay Virdee, Enterprise Account Manager

Jay Virdee is an Enterprise Account Manager for Hewlett Packard Enterprise. He joined HPE fresh out of college, because of the company's track record for success and the innovation they drive as a company.

He is a proud alumni Chico State where he received a degree in Organizational Communication and minored in marketing.

He currently resides in Portland where in his spare time you can find him hiking with his dog Alfie, cooking, reading, and spending time with family and friends. You can connect with Jay Virdee on LinkedIn.

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Employer brand and digital media evangelist. Proactively searching for new trends and best in class practices to find, converse, share, engage and refer potential candidates and bring the best Talent for the company.