A career in sales is a compelling choice for people who are looking for leadership opportunities and a sense of achievement.
Sales jobs are also attractive because of the potential for lucrative income, in addition to perks like using a company car and credit card.
Some are natural-born salespeople, but the skills to succeed in sales can be learned and improved upon. If you’re interested in sales and want to take your performance to the next level, we’ll discuss some key things to achieve a successful sales career. We’ll also cover pitfalls to avoid like abusing a company credit card or failing to report a company car accident.
Satisfaction Is Top Priority
Whether you’re new to sales or have been in the profession for a while, remember that you have two audiences to satisfy: your customer and your boss.
Keeping your customers and your boss happy has to be your primary objective if you want to bolster your sales career. Here are very simple, but always effective, ways to achieve that goal.
Satisfy Customers by Listening
If you don’t satisfy your customers, someone else will. The question is, what do customers really want? The answer is to be listened to.
Most customers, and the successful companies that they do business with, agree that listening is key to customer satisfaction. But the term “listening” is so generic. How do you really listen in a way that keeps your consumer of goods and services happy and coming back for more?
Effective sales listening is more than just talking with customers about their current problems that need immediate solutions. It actually entails spending significant “non-selling” time getting to know your customer.
Whether the customer is an individual or a business, a successful salesperson takes the time to develop an authentic and meaningful relationship. They ask questions to learn more about the customer’s background, interests and long-term goals. A good salesperson never treats a customer as a one-off relationship.
Ultimately, nurturing and growing the customer relationship will yield sales. Listening to customers provides vital information that will help you sell them the right product or service. Selling them what they need makes you a problem solver, which will not only satisfy customers in the short term but also drive repeat business for their future needs.
Listening also means being prepared to hear and acknowledge negative feedback. Great salespeople have to lean into their customers’ dissatisfaction as well as their satisfaction. Bill Gates is credited as having said, “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.”
So, be prepared to take on customers’ grievances, and take accountability. Never take offense. You want the customer to always feel like they are a part of the solution and not a source of the problem.
Satisfy Your Boss by Communicating
The number one way to satisfy your boss is to do your job and do it well. When asked what it takes to do the job well, most bosses will say effective communication.
Effective communication doesn’t mean overcommunication. Bosses don’t want to be bombarded with unnecessary status updates or questions with answers that can be found on your own.
Just as listening is for customers, effective communication is the means to develop an authentic relationship with your boss. You can only develop a genuine rapport with your boss through personable interactions and meaningful moments.
Ask yourself how often you communicate with your boss. Is it only in meetings or when a problem arises? And how do you communicate most of the time — email, phone or Zoom? That won’t set you apart from your sales colleagues.
Make it a priority to ask your boss to meet for coffee or lunch, or find other opportunities to get to know them better professionally. Ask about their background and goals, and ask how you can help. Let them know their priorities are your priorities. These are stepping stones to building an authentic professional relationship.
Keep in mind that effective communication always means professional communication. Even though some employees have close personal relationships with their bosses, the focus should be on developing a strong and productive professional bond that leads to boss satisfaction.
Don’t Abuse Company Perks
Those were some do’s to succeeding in sales. Now, let’s discuss some dont’s.
A lot of people are attracted to sales because of the perks. Sales positions commonly come with use of a company car and company credit card. If you get to enjoy those perks, make sure you don’t abuse them. If you do, you could lose them, lose your job, and possibly face serious legal consequences.
Company Car Rules
Often, car travel is an essential function of the job. Sales typically requires daily traveling to meet with customers and vendors. So, many salespeople use a company car, rather than putting their personal cars through the wear and tear.
Company cars are clearly a perk, but there are rules that govern employee use.
Company Cars Are for Company Use Only
A company-owned vehicle should only be used for business and not personal use. Personal use is an expense that is not related to the operation of the business.
A salesperson would be expected to use her company car to call on existing customers or solicit new customers. But, it would be unacceptable if she used it on her days off, or to run personal errands on a workday during working hours.
Non-employees, non-business-related passengers, family and friends are typically prohibited from riding in company vehicles as well.
For tax purposes, driving to and from work may be considered outside the scope of employment.
The “company use only” rule protects the company from carrying their employees’ personal expenses or other liabilities. But it also protects the employee from possible tax liability.
Using a company-owned vehicle for business is not considered taxable income to the employee. On the flip side, if an employee uses a commercial vehicle for personal use, it becomes taxable and must be reported on their W-2.
Practice Safe Driving in a Company Car
Employees who drive a company vehicle must also use care in driving safely and maintaining the security of the vehicle and its contents.
Use of handheld cellphones to text or call while behind the wheel of a moving vehicle being used on company business is typically strictly prohibited.
Employees should never operate a company vehicle or a personal vehicle for company business if they are under any physical or mental impairment that renders them unable to drive safely.
Depending on company policy, employees may be responsible for any driving infractions or fines as a result of parking tickets or minor moving violations.
Reporting Company Car Accidents
Employees must report any accident, theft or malicious damage involving a company vehicle. Will a salesperson be responsible for damages in a company car accident? The answer is typically no.
An employer’s company car accident insurance policy will likely pay for damages and injuries caused by an employee in a covered accident while driving a company car.
Employees, however, may be liable to pay damages for an accident in a company car if they were driving outside of their scope of employment and were at fault. Depending on the policy, accidents in a company car driving to and from work may not be covered.
In addition to the potential for legal liability, if the behavior leading to the accident was reckless or violated company rules, the employee could be fired.
Company Credit Card Rules
Like company cars, company credit cards are a privilege that comes with great responsibility. The credit card rules follow the same tenets as the company car rules. Successful salespeople abide by all rules all the time. Most companies have specific consequences, including termination and possible legal consequences, for employees who fail to do so.
No Personal Expenses
Do not mix personal expenses with business expenses. Most companies have very strict policies in place that no one is allowed to use company credit cards for personal expenses. The usage of the card should be limited to business-related activities.
While it is ok to use the company credit card to take a prospective customer out to lunch, it can’t be used to pay for a round of after-work drinks with friends or a family restaurant night. A company credit card should never be used by any individual other than the authorized employee.
Depending on the circumstances, there could be civil and criminal liability for employees who use a company card for personal expenses or engage in fraudulent activities relating to the card.
Employees with access to a company credit card are typically required to submit regular detailed reports of all charges, receipts, and applicable accounting codes. Good salespeople submit timely and accurate usage reports and attach receipts and other requested submissions to the company for verification purposes.
Keep Company Credit Cards Safe
Employees can be held responsible for the security of a company credit card. Employees should ensure that the card is kept in a safe location to prevent it from being lost, stolen or susceptible to fraudulent activities.
Employees are also responsible for maintaining the privacy of company information, including credit card numbers and account information. It is imperative to keep the card’s number private.
About the Author
Lauren Blair is a lawyer who writes for the legal site, FreeAdvice.com. She has over 25 years of experience in business litigation.