I Started Working in Business for the Lunches

I often think about how I got my start in sales. I’ll never forget my first job when I was a landscaper. OK, I was a lawnmower, but you always exaggerate your job titles a little, right? I was a kid, going around the neighborhood, asking my neighbors to pay me to mow their lawns.

This experience taught me a valuable lesson—it takes gumption to leverage yourself as a commodity.

No matter what the age is, that takes guts. To say to the world, “I have this skill set I can offer you, and it’s worth this price” is a tremendous act of courage. And it can humble you, too. Because you may believe your skill set is worth a lot. However, others may not agree it’s as valuable. Granted, at the time my skills didn’t go much beyond being adorable. If only I still were cute!

I still didn’t know that the ability to market yourself appropriately was something that would serve me later in life. However, I learned a valuable lesson as a landscaper. I loved the freedom. It was up to me to go find my next job. It was my choice to work a job—or not. That’s something that’s so prevalent in my current role.

But, the thing I recently realized was why I got a job in business in the first place.

When I was a teenager, my pops used to pick me up from school and take me to lunch. In the South, a big tradition was restaurants offered you meat-and-three’s specials. This means you got one serving of a protein, and your choice of three vegetables.

Whenever Pops would take me out for these lunches, it was always special, even beyond just bonding with him—and the meat-and-three’s. We’d look around the restaurants that were crowded with business people on lunch breaks. They’d all be sitting around, talking, and laughing as if they were in their own private world. I knew that I wanted to be a part of it.

So, yeah, I started working in business for the lunches.

Obviously, the food was just a small part of the allure. Truly, what appealed to me was the obvious relationships that all these professionals had with each other. I knew then that I wanted to have a career where connections were more than just a transaction. I swore that my being would be devoted to helping others get the services that they need—and not just the ones that I offer them. It’s how I got my start in sales.

I’ve been in sales now for more than a decade, and my current job as a sales consultant actually came about because of something I experienced throughout my career. For so long, sales reps were told, “Go sell—you either know how to do it, or you don’t.” While this sink-or-swim mentality may work for some people, I always felt that it was lacking. I knew there had to be a better way.

And there is. Because, let’s face it—everyone needs to sharpen their tools, or else they become dull. There is always an area you can improve.

A mentor of mine once said, “You should have a trajectory toward perfection, but perfection is a false place of arrival.” In other words, you should strive to be perfect, but realize the reason you embark on that journey is to never reach the destination. You can’t. No one is perfect. But, you can become a master along the way.

Too often, hitting or missing quotas is the only evaluation of sales teams. There’s no holistic development or training. Yes, your sales team will go through training for your latest product offerings. But, are they being taught new methods that can help them get more wins? Does your company have processes and best practices in place that your sales team lives and dies by?

The point is, if you’re not training your sales team regularly, you’re not building relationships. You’re not taking a vested interest in your company’s greatest asset—your (sales) staff. And you’re missing the mark.

Don’t worry, though. There’s a simple solution to creating relationships that will empower your sales team and allow them to foster connections with potential and current clients: It starts with lunch. It’s really how I got my start in sales. And you know I’m always down for lunch.