Persistence pays off. Chris Peterson (Florida, Alpha Eta ’91) shares his thoughts on starting out in a sales career, but the lessons apply beyond sales.


My first year in sales was miserable. In fact, during the third and fourth month of my sales career, I almost quit every day. My experience transcended work … it was one of the worst times of my life. Every week I seemed to be faced with a decision of quitting or losing. If I didn’t quit and find a new job, I’d just keep getting rejected every week. If I quit, then I’d have to look at a quitter every morning in the mirror. As I said, it was miserable.

Of course, persistence won and by the time I celebrated my one-year anniversary, I was cruising. Toward the end of my first year – when I was the cocky young guy beating quota every month – I developed a list of things I’d tell a new sales person to do to succeed. I looked at that list recently, and modernized it below. The five most important things new sales people must do to succeed…

1. Commit to two years. The biggest mistake I made was not committing to sales. I didn’t quit, but I always left the door open because I thought that would release pressure on me to succeed. “If this doesn’t work out, there are a million other things I can do.” Since I wasn’t committed, I had the voices in my head telling me to quit. If I made a commitment of two years to myself, I never would’ve thought about my option of quitting, and I believe much of my distracting thoughts and anxiety would’ve disappeared.

2. Work your tail off and make sure your boss sees it. Get to the office before anyone else. Train yourself during non-selling time. Balance your training between selling skills, technical competence, and industry knowledge. Prospect for new business like a maniac – there is no better teacher than cold calling, social selling, and networking to a new sales professional.

Although it sounds artificial, make sure your boss sees your hard work. If your boss sees your car in the parking lot every morning before the sun rises, they’ll pay more attention to your development, give you more leads, and let you slide a little bit after those first few months of goose eggs.

3. Create a process and follow it. A consistent process is more important to sales success than a great personality. Create a weekly process and follow it. I don’t care what this process is … just do it every week. After about six weeks of consistent work, you’ll start to see the exponential growth from your activity.

4. Stay away from the complainers. 
Avoid negativity like the flu. Seriously, if you must choose between having lunch with a coworker that has the flu or one that is constantly complaining about the market or your company, take the flu. You’ve got to stay positive. Subscribe to and buy every motivational sales training book you can find. Go in debt to buy these recordings if necessary. Find some uplifting podcasts. For two years, don’t listen to talk-radio or music … only listen to these books and interviews.

5. Accept that your life is going to be out of balance for two years. 
These first two years are brutal, and you’re going to have to spend a lot of hours working. For two years, accept this. When we expect to be imbalanced and know that it’ll end someday, these challenging times are a lot easier. Because of the insane schedule that I followed in my first sales job, I’ve been able to enjoy an amazing life since then… and it started soon after those first two years. Put in your time – it’s worth it!

My story above is not an exaggeration. If anything, I kept out many details of my awful rookie year of selling. However, if someone shared this list with me, I would’ve had more success and not gone through the agony that I experienced. Take these ideas to heart and keep pushing forward. The ability to introduce yourself to a stranger and convince them to give you their money for your solution will serve you in every aspect of your life.


Christopher Peterson is the Educational and Recruitment Advisor for PIKE University. Peterson is the co-founder and president of The Vector Firm, which specializes in sales management consulting to the security industry. He has served as chapter president, Fraternity chapter consultant, chapter advisor to Eta Phi Chapter (Central Flordia), Alpha Eta Alumni Association President, and Sunshine regional president. Peterson facilitated the Fraternity’s strategic plan.

He resides in Orlando, Florida, with his wife and daughter.

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