What's Your Problem?

I am looking for a job in sales and I'm totally confused.

by Jeremy Bullmore
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Since graduating four years ago, I've held a number of sales jobs but never for long, as I've either been working with the wrong people or have been given a telesales role (not what I want). I understand you may ask why I've left my jobs, and whether it's me just not getting on with others.

All I can say is that I haven't liked any of my jobs, but I really do believe there's a sales job out there that I would love. I have strong sales skills and will excel at selling, given the right working environment.

What do you suggest for someone passionate about selling and developing business, but who doesn't know which route to take?

A: Having read your question three or four times now, I'm beginning to feel as confused as you are. One of the dominant characteristics of great salespeople is a relentless optimism. Thirty years ago, the Parker Pen Company used to issue its salesmen with a monthly newsletter that carried a regular feature called something like Salesmen's Sayings. Here's one of them: 'Remember! The only difference between a stumbling-block and a stepping-stone is the way you look upon it!' There speaks the true 'my glass is not half-empty, it's half-full' salesperson. You don't seem to be one of them.

I can understand your aversion to telesales and I don't blame you for wanting something more fulfilling. But you seem to be a bit picky for the sort of committed salesman that you claim to be. You've either been working with 'the wrong people' or not in 'the right environment'.

Too many stumbling-blocks and not enough stepping-stones; and always somebody else's fault. Four years is a long time.

My strong suspicion is this (and it's true for a lot of excellent salespeople): you need to be passionate not just about selling things but also about the things that you're selling. You must have some obsessive interest, something you bore your friends about: real ale, old books, new clubs, property conversions, proportional representation, lion dung, garden gnomes, squash clubs, aromatherapy.

Forget the immediate salary: look for a job selling things that interest you a great deal and about which you're already knowledgeable. The chances are that you'll find yourself working with a bunch of congenial, compatible people and having - at last - a thoroughly satisfactory focus for your selling skills.

- Jeremy Bullmore has been creative director and chairman of J Walter Thompson London and a non-executive director of both the Guardian Media Group and WPP. Address your problems to Jeremy Bullmore at: editorial@mtmagazine.co.uk. Regrettably, no correspondence can be entered into.

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