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  • Writer's pictureWill O'Brien

Friday sales story for lunchtime

Updated: Mar 2, 2022

After 3 years, and aged 25, I was straining at the leash to join a big Tech brand and get out of selling Payroll and Personnel for a small player - sound familiar ? The first 3 years working in Tech was fascinating for a 22 year old graduate. A few things stood as follows;

Two drunk IT managers coming to a time and attendance demo, then complaining post sale, that the software couldn’t handle "The Republic of South Yorkshire" shift patterns. I was astonished that people in business could behave like this.

Winning the “Robin Hood” 125% of target award to Barbados then seeing grown men trying to dance to Reggae music having consumed unfeasible quantities of “Banks” beer.

As a young impressionable man I saw the company hire 6 “big hitters” and looked at them in awe. They were all fired within 12 months after being found out - leaving faster than a Vindaloo. It was time of questionable HR practices, questionable hiring practices with people making up CV’s to get into the industry.

My funniest customer memory was doing a final payroll presentation to a finance director and his regional accountants to a firm in the poultry business. With the date agreed I asked the PA to send over the names and titles of the attendees. I got the following names back and said “excuse me are these names correct?" Think about it.....

Mr J Bird

Mr P Gosling

Mr J Fowl

Mr R S Peacock

During my 3 years in the “junior” job we went from selling 2-3 payrolls PA to making sure we added Payroll, Personnel, or Time & Attendance to every ERP sale. As I grew in experience so did the trust of those colleagues I worked alongside. In my last few months I became the sales office head boy, was given more money, and a shiny Mk II used pool Golf GTI. I then started piling on the pounds as I demolished buffet after buffet left over from our customers who never ate all the pies !!

Looking in a hotel mirror one night in Worcester I thought sales was a great career but I was horrified at how much weight you could put on in 6 months.


You will pile on the weight and get stressed out if you don't look after yourself. A sales career in Tech can be extremely demanding and you need a pressure release valve. Today we talk about mindfulness but I think basic physical health a prerequisite for positive mental health and the two go hand in hand.

I also learned a relatively inexperienced sales guy I could make a massive impact working alongside more experienced account managers and account directors. The key was making sure I added value to the team, became respected and was 100% dependable. These are the same qualities that apply today for those sales people working in overlay roles. So if you are guilty of "playing kids football" I suggest you stop and make your own contribution.

I learned that many of the tech industries “big hitters” were actually “big

bull shxxxxs” who relied on inflated CV’s to land the job. Fast forward 30 years and same issue is still manifest in the industry with many CV’s floating around making grandiose claims about sales performance and key wins. If you watch the film “I’m Sparticus” and you will know what I mean !

The tech economy is booming and sales success can just happen if you are lucky or fall into the right company with the right product. If you catch a wave then good for you but remember be honest with yourself as most colleagues have a knack of smelling bullsxxt a mile away.

In most tech firms sales staff are not all making 100% of quota or going on the club trips. Sales is one of the toughest jobs when you are not successful as there are few jobs where you are relentlessly measured alongside your peers. There are no prizes for doing a good job and coming 2nd after 3-6 + months of effort takes its toll. Conversely sales it is one of the best jobs in the world when you are consistently successful.

In my 30 years in the industry, having hired and coached 200 + sales and pre sales staff, I like to think I am trainer with some credible and recent insight. Top performers are the ones that set their own bar and act professionally at all times. They are not cowboys and work to a system and don’t make it up as they go along. I have yet to meet a consistently successful sales person that does not put the hours in, look after the support teams, and look after the customer.

Consistently top performers have a set of exemplary leadership behaviours and the exact reverse applies for poor performers. The same leadership traits apply to the top performers regardless of whether they are in a sales role or work, consulting, project management, pre sales, or line management.

Keeping life in balance is key to long term performance and long term success especially if you do this as your career for life. Exercise, rest, family time, and keeping yourself grounded will make this job a rewarding career for many years to come.

Good luck !

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