The internet has done plenty of wonderful things for salespeople, from providing enormous resources to helping us connect with prospects. But it’s also had the effect of normalizing and amplifying toxic myths about sales.
To be sure, these myths were around long before sales blogs and social media, so they’re not necessarily new. But the communities that have sprung up online have mainstreamed these assumptions like never before.
We wanted to take a moment to debunk some of these myths, so that people who quietly disagree with them don’t feel like they’re alone. Here are six toxic myths that far too many salespeople believe:
1. Positions that offer a base pay aren’t “real” sales jobs
There’s something to be said for the sink or swim world of commission-only sales jobs, and it takes a certain kind of drive and self-belief to enter a role without any safety net. There are plenty of reasons why a company might offer a base salary, whether it’s to attract top talent, give staff something to live on during a long sales cycle, or simply to show their commitment to their employees. So, while most salespeople tip their hats to commission-only sales reps, there’s nothing wrong with people who choose a different path.
2. If you don’t do well in one sales job, then sales isn’t for you
While it’s true that nearly all sales roles share some common characteristics, the idea that all sales jobs are the same is laughable. One company might have a short sales cycle, while another might have a longer one; one might be a high volume inside sales office, while the other might be a higher ticket outside sales force; one might sell a product that has a target customer more closely aligned with a person’s interests, while another might not. And all of these variables can determine whether a person succeeds or not. So if one sales job wasn’t a great fit, you should at least try another one before throwing in the towel for good.
3. You can close anyone if you’re good enough
There’s a pervasive myth, propagated by movies like Boiler Room, and Glengarry Glen Ross, that goes something like this: every person is a customer, and the only question is whether you’re good enough to sell them or not. While this might sound heroic and poses a nice challenge to obstacle-loving sales reps around the world, it’s more Hollywood screenwriter fantasy than true life. Not everyone is a buyer, and not everyone can be convinced to change their mind if you’re good enough, or if you push hard enough. That being said, this myth does have some utility, since it puts salespeople in a positive, can-do mindset, which isn’t a bad thing when faced with nearly insurmountable odds. But you’d be better served learning how to weed out bad prospects in favor of good ones than trying to fit a round peg in a square hole.
4. Making money is all that matters
It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that most people go into sales for the money, but if that’s the only reason you stay in it, then you’re not setting yourself up for a satisfying existence. Believing in what you sell, finding joy in making customers happy, feeling like you’re a part of something bigger, or understanding that sales is just one career out of many you’ll have in your life, are all great reasons to believe in what you’re doing, just as long as money isn’t your one and only goal.
5. Salespeople are born, not made
Either you’ve got it, or you don’t, right? Not quite. We’ve all heard the refrain about how there’s the natural salespeople of the world and then there’s everybody else, but if you’ve spent any amount of time in a sales office, you know that’s complete nonsense. Successful salespeople come in all shapes, sizes, and personality types. There are introverts you could never picture starting a conversation who become top producers, and others who recall just how bad they were at selling before being trained. And, there’s a bloody ocean of outgoing, confident extroverts who couldn’t cut it and are now doing something completely different. The truth is, salespeople are born, and they’re made.
6. Work-life balance is for the weak
This toxic myth stretches far beyond sales, and is an indictment of how our work culture glorifies working above well-being. However, a shift seems to be on the horizon as more and more studies have linked a better work-life balance with higher productivity. Sales is a bit more complicated, since your pay is tied to your productivity, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep the paradigm shift in mind. Sometimes, taking a step back can help you move forward, so make sure you avoid getting burned out, because that’s the inevitable consequence of this myth.