A participant in one of my sales training workshops once asked me what industry I thought he could earn the most money. It was evident from his behavior during the program that he thought he could make a quick income if he just found the right product or service to sell.

Unfortunately, his thought process was somewhat misguided.

The industry in which you work certainly plays a factor. After all, you’re not going to make a six or seven figure income selling ice cream at a kiosk—although you might if you own that kiosk and open a dozen of them across the city or state.

But beyond the industry, you also need to consider other factors.

To become a top performer and earn big bucks you have work for it; very few, if any, sales people become rich within a couple of years. The top sales people I know have worked hard for many years to achieve to earn a high income.

For example, a good friend of mine has been a financial planner for about 14 years. When he first started, he barely made enough to make ends meet. However, last year, he generated a high-six-figure income before expenses and he is on track to achieve similar results this year.

One of the most important factors is the amount of effort you put into your work. I’m not talking solely about the hours you work in a day or week—although top performers tend to work longer than their colleagues.

Effort includes the amount of time you invest learning your products. It means constantly adapting and changing your approach to reflect the changes in your market place. And it includes the investment you make in yourself improving your selling skills, your ability to negotiate, and increasing your product knowledge. Effort is also seeking ways to keep in touch with prospects and customers to keep your name in their mind.

I recently spoke to a top performing sales rep who keeps in touch with high-value prospects by researching and sending them information, articles, white papers, etc. He stated that he invests approximately five to six hours a week on this task. However, he went on to say that he does this research during non-selling time.

Many sales people will claim, “Yeah, but research is part of selling.” That may be true but if you want to earn a high income you need to increase your face-to-face selling time and research does not fall into that category.
It sounds simple but many people are reluctant to put forth that energy.

A sales rep I once coached needed to make more calls. Her prospects often arrived at the office by seven AM. However, she adamantly stated that she was not going to get up early to make those calls. Needless to say, she never achieved the results she was capable of.

However, if you increase your face-to-face selling time—which also includes telephone work—your results will naturally follow.

I once worked in the consumer electronics industry and had the opportunity to watch dozens of sales people on the sales floor. The top performers were always busy. They didn’t wait for people to come into the store; they actively looked for business.

A successful sales person I know diligently works his database every single day. He calls to tell people about new offerings that might appeal to them, informs them of promotions, and asks for referrals. As a result, only a small part of his business is generated from “walk-in” customers. Compare that to the typical sales rep that stands around the water cooler sharing war stories with his colleagues waiting for that next person to walk through the front door, email, or call.

Selling is one of the few careers where you can directly influence your income. However, to become rich in sales you need to be prepared to work.