Back in 2003, I spent some time in Beijing. For many different reasons, I decided to take a break from the hustle of enterprise software and do something for myself. One of those things I had wanted to do for a long time was to become fluent in a language. Though I could have chosen any place and language, studying Mandarin in China was the most intriguing.
Around this same time, McDonald’s was rolling out a new global campaign. The scope of this campaign was unprecedented for the fast-food purveyor, all centered around the new slogan and jingle “I’m lovin it”. They even wrangled Justin Timberlake and Pharrell Williams to write a hit song around the jingle.
The new slogan helped McDonald’s sagging fortunes and turned around what had become a company in the stock market doldrums. The beauty of the slogan was the simplicity of the phrase, which translated easily across most languages and cultures. But when it comes to the Mandarin Chinese version, it does not carry over so well.
McDonald’s slogan in Chinese is 我就喜欢 or “wo jiu xihuan” in the romanization version. The second word in this sentence “jiu” is used to argue against what someone else has said. In this case the speaker would be responding to someone who has just insulted McDonald’s food, which could be expressed as “I like it no matter what you say”.
No one in China really thinks about this too much and McDonald’s has done quite well for itself in that part of the world. Mention how odd this phrase is to native Chinese speakers and they will confirm that the phrase literally translates to “I just like it”. That is far from the sentiment of really loving something.
I had a conversation with someone last week about prospecting and sales development. He is on the receiving end of much of this outreach and still gets several cold calls over the course of a month. One thing that struck me in what he shared was that he could immediately tell when the salesperson on the other end was not loving it. He could tell instantly.
There were times in my own sales career when I was clearly not loving it. Some of that were the growing pains of being forced to move from software engineer to sales rep while not getting any training or support or mentorship. But more often the case was a point in time when I stopped loving the company I was working for and the product I was selling.
When I left for China, much of the spark for leaving started with the disillusionment I felt working at my prior company. After a year of fighting management and pushing half-baked products onto unsuspecting customers, I had finally had enough. While I was never dishonest with customers, I felt I was losing my integrity in pushing a product I simply could not believe in.
All you have as a salesperson is your credibility. In the eyes of prospects, they view the worth of sales professionals they engage from three lens:
Do they know me, my company, my industry?
Do they deliver on their commitments?
Do they believe in their products?
You can do your research on customers and industry topics. You can personalize your outreach to prospects. You can improve your habits to ensure you do not drop the ball. But there is one thing you cannot do. You cannot manufacture belief. You either have it or you don’t.
Some believe that you just have to be good enough as a salesperson to fake your way into believing your company and products. Just like experienced actors, they can play a role and come off as believable. Eventually however, the actor will break character when their scene is over. You cannot keep the facade going forever as the cracks will come to the surface to expose how you truly feel about the products you are pushing.
Another situation that arises is when you believe in the products, but not the company. This happened in my first sales role when I transitioned from developer to sales rep. I thought the product was awesome. I even liked many of my colleagues, some of whom are best friends of mine to this day. The leadership however seemed completely divorced from the reality of a rapidly shifting market that was shrinking out revenue. Eventually I jumped ship to join a few of my colleagues at an up-and-coming tech company out of Silicon Valley.
The remedy when you stop believing in the product or company is to find another place that you can be excited about. Usually that is the best fix instead of trying to slog through an emotionally draining environment. Sometimes however the lack of passion in the role is even deeper and more fundamental. It is when something inside you is telling you that you are not loving sales.
I have had many conversations with sales professionals in the Enterprise Sales Forum over the years about whether to stay in sales. These chats come in three flavors. The first is from junior sales reps and SDR’s that got into sales to build some professional experience out of school. They appreciate the job, they may even do well in the role, but they simply do not see sales as a long-term career. The second is from people that want a more expansive professional career. These are often high achievers seeking to take on leadership roles. The last are from folks that have been there and done that in sales and are looking to make a complete career shift.
I thought I would have left enterprise tech and sales for good when I left for China. I was very burned out from an exhausting year. The thing that I realized upon coming back to the US was that I thrived off of the energy of being in sales and working with customers. I just did not enjoy where I was employed. Stepping away helped me with the clarity to see that purpose in my professional life and where I felt I was most valuable.
If you are at a point where you are questioning your career and work, understand the source of that dissatisfaction. This takes some amount of self-reflection and examining your motivations. If you find you are not loving it, take action and find a situation where you experience the passion and energy again for you to excel in your career.
Take care folks and happy selling!
Mark Birch, Founder of Enterprise Sales Forum
P.S. Let me know if you want to meet up at any point in my travels. I am in San Francisco the week of April 18th for the AWS Summit. Then I am in Singapore starting April 24th. Then I am off to Berlin for the AWS Summit there on May 10th. Always glad to catch up and chat all things sales, startups, and tech!
The Enterprise Sales Forum is a professional community championing the practice of sales through monthly sales talks at chapters globally. Our chapters provide an open, collaborative and diverse environment to share new ideas, network and learn actionable insights for professional sales development.