Two-hour lunches and golf meetings sound great, but how much of your time do you actually get to spend on the fun stuff? Find out about the day-to-day life of a salesperson during our chat with Damien Swendsen.
Damien is currently a Sales Manager at a large, well-known high-tech firm, but he didn’t always think he’d pursue a career in sales. Read on to learn how he went from English major to sales exec and why he wouldn’t change a thing.
How long have you been in sales?
For the past 11 years.
What’s a typical day like for you?
You never know what you’re going to do in a given day. They’re never the same because you’re at the mercy of the people you’re dealing with, your prospects and clients. So you might be up at 6 a.m. for a call with the East Coast, spend some time returning emails or calls, have sales meetings (with a client or prospect, giving demonstrations, finding out their needs), and attend internal meetings (pipeline meetings, review with boss, discussions with different sides like marketing and service support). And on that same day you might have a golf meeting or a two-hour lunch to build relationships and then a 9 p.m. call with Singapore.
What are your favorite aspects of your job? What are the things you would change if you could?
I like the flexibility, compensation, and accountability. Before working in sales, I was in HR and my company instituted a hiring freeze. I realized that if we weren’t hiring people anymore, I didn’t have much of a job, so I left the company. In sales, if you’re good at your job, people will keep you on board. You don’t have to rely on anyone else to be successful at your job.
On the other hand, if you’re not producing, you won’t get paid. There’s the stress of meeting the deadlines, and it’s harder to get away because you always have email and your phone, so there’s less separation between work and life.
What did you study in college? How does your major relate to your current position?
I have a BA in English and an MA in Education. There’s no crossover in terms of ability to sell, but English taught me how to read, write, and communicate verbally. These skills all help with building relationships, having people trust you, and being able to communicate what you have to offer and understand what other people are saying. My Masters in Education comes into play in terms of teaching people how to sell and deal with other people.
What advice would you give to college students who are interested in working in your field?
It can be tough the first couple of years. People just want immediate gratification and benefits, but you have to put the work in and understand things from the bottom up. You have to have that experience of being at the bottom rung and working your way up. It’s like a chef—unless you’ve learned the basics, you won’t be able to create a beautiful wedding cake. You need those things that seem a little boring and mundane to build upon and become successful later on. I don’t think most people search out sales careers, they kind of fall into it.
Homework time! Make a list of ten jobs that sound cool to you, no matter how crazy they might be. Then think of a few ways you can connect them to your major. For example, let’s say your major is Political Science and you’d like to be a stand-up comedian. Maybe you can use your knowledge of politics and international relations as the subject for your stand-up routines, or imitate famous political figures. Just throw a few ideas out there and see what you come up with!
P.S. Did you discover anything good? Share your favorite random connection below.
P.P.S. What did you think of our interview with Damien? What appeals to you or doesn’t appeal to you about his job?