A test of character

Ethical, trust-based selling skills are life skills you can use and apply anywhere in any role.
I can honestly say I did not enjoy the early years of my sales career. I initially found it hard, relentless. and sometimes really distressing. I was asked to do things I didn’t always understand that significance of.


I often felt overly scrutinised by the constant monitoring of activity and performance by my managers. I worked in tough markets in tough times, and sometimes wondered if it was worth it. I felt under pressure and sometimes wished I didn’t have to sell at all, however I came to realise that this tough introduction to selling was what I really needed to prepare me for the future.


In the words of Robert Louis Stevenson: “Everyone lives by selling something.”


Over the years as my sales career evolved, I began to learn a lot more about myself and came to really appreciate the lessons I had learnt in how to lead an honourable, successful career in sales.


Would I trade my experiences and tough lessons for something easier, more enjoyable? No, not at all. I am glad I stuck with it because now I have a range of life skills that are serving me very well under many situations, especially right now.


Make no bones about it. Selling as a profession is a tough job because it requires self discipline, quick thinking, creativity, persistence, resilience, and regular self reflection. As I have often said: “Selling is not for the faint hearted.”


In pursuing a professional sales career, there is a lot to consider and integrate over time. You cannot learn how to do it well in five minutes. That is why I resonated with the article “Properties of the ideal global citizen” by Bernard Salt, which featured in The Australian 20 November 2008. In particular the final paragraphs of the article focused on what I would describe as a test of character.


As Bernard states in his article, an HR director of a Paris-based financial institution was lamenting the flightiness of Generation-Y, wishing they would sometimes trust the organisation. This HR director went on to say that “sometimes professional and personal development is best advanced not by doing what individuals want but by doing what the organisation wants them to do.”


He continued: “Personal growth isn’t always about doing what you want, or doing what is easy. It’s sometimes about doing what is hard, by enduring, by overcoming, and by persisting. This is how true expertise is gained.”


Like Bernard, I agree completely.


Over the next few years, we need ourselves and our people to sell consistently and competently. This may not go down well with everyone in your business, but it is the reality – they all need to help with the sales initiative. Selling is one of the fundamental business functions we need to ensure is not left to chance.


Making “selling” a part of your business skill set is critical, regardless of your job title in today’s busy and competitive world. I truly believe ethical, trust-based selling skills are life skills you can use and apply anywhere in any role – personally or professionally.


While you cannot acquire someone else’s sales experience and use it as your own, you can learn a sales process to accumulate your own experiences. To learn it well requires you to stick at it and persist.


The current market conditions present a real opportunity to hone your selling skills and acquire this experience and you can only acquire the experience for yourself and it may be a test of character.




Sue Barrett is founder and managing director of BARRETT, a boutique consultancy firm. Sue is an experienced consultant, public speaker, coach and facilitator. Sue and her team are best known for their work in creating high performing people and teams. Key to their success is working with the whole person and integrating emotional intelligence, skill, knowledge, behaviour, process and strategy via effective training and coaching programs. Click here to find out more

For more Sell Like a Woman blogs, click here.



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