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The Next Generation of Business Developers


Written for The Nova Scotia Business Journal

Do young professionals want to have a career in sales? Most would say no but why? Typically it’s because salespeople are thought of as less than professional and is a career path for those who can’t do anything else. I recently sat down for a discussion with three young business professionals. Two are engineers and the other from a prominent business family. None thought they would ever have a career in business development. Maybe that’s why I call sales the accidental career.

All would describe themselves as not cut out for a sales career. They are all quiet, almost introverted but they have become very successful within their industry as a business person in sales. They provided some revealing insights. You can view and listen to the full interview at

We briefly discussed the perception of what salespeople are like. They all thought of salespeople as being the extraverted, fast-talkers who convinced people to buy things even when there wasn’t a fit. Most of their perceptions were negative. The challenge was to first change that paradigm.

Another piece of ‘head trash’ was to overcome the feeling that as a young person in the business world that you won’t be taken seriously by people who are far more senior. Matt Mills noted that having product knowledge was important but also as important is knowing how to handle yourself in selling situations and having a system that allows you to anticipate scenarios that could otherwise handcuff you. Constantly developing his selling process through education, practice and role plays was essential for his success.

All three are well educated. I asked how their formal education prepared them for a career in sales, Jeff MacNeil described his formal education as the ‘back wheel’ that provided a lot of technical knowledge, and suggested that the front wheel (his business development training) allows him to professionally implement what he knows to develop top line revenue.

A business is successful only when the top line revenue increases and is profitable. This won’t happen without great business development people. In most Atlantic markets the need for great salespeople is in great demand however, there is a drought of people to fill these critical positions. Salespeople aren’t born and if you believe that they are you’ve sold yourself and many prime candidates short. There are no geniuses in sales but again there aren’t any in the CEO’s office either. Start with smart people who have drive and ambition, support their efforts and anything is possible.

©2012 Sandler Training Inc. ( is an international sales and management training/consulting firm. For a free copy of Why Salespeople Fail And What To Do About It, call the Sandler Training at 902-468-0787 or e-mail

Eric Fry

Sandler trainer