DiversityJobs network is now part of Circa. Learn More.
find jobs
job title, keywords or company
city, state or zip code
Sometimes being in a leadership role isn't all it is cracked up to be according to this past vice president of sales for a technology company. He tells about his experiences working for a president who used unscrupulous business practices that eventually pushed him to leave a career he had previously enjoyed.

Q: What is your job title and what industry do you work in? How many years of experience do you have in this field? How would you describe yourself using only three adjectives?

A: I worked my way up to the title of vice president of sales for a computer hardware, software and peripherals sales organization. I have approximately 15 years of experience in the field of technology sales. If I had to describe myself in only three adjectives I would have to say that they are; reliable, determined and thorough

Q: What’s your ethnicity and gender? How has it hurt or helped you? If you ever experienced discrimination, how have you responded and what worked best?

A: I am a white male and it really has nothing to do with computer sales. When it comes to computer sales, customers just want someone that knows what he is talking about and can answer questions. If you can display a proficiency in understanding the technology, then you are going to gain the customer’s trust and business.

Q: How would you describe what you do? What does your work entail? Are there any common misunderstandings you want to correct about what you do?

A: A computer sales job is a consultative sales position. You are not just selling parts, pieces and software. The customers want to be sure that they are purchasing the right equipment and software for their situation and they are going to ask a lot of questions. One of the common misunderstandings about computer sales people is the notion that we are always trying to confuse the customer to get him to buy a more expensive solution that he really does not need. Nothing could be further from the truth. To keep repeat customers and bring in referrals, you need to be an honest sales professional that is looking to help the client.

Q: On a scale of 1 to 10 how would you rate your job satisfaction? What might need to change about your job to unleash your full enthusiasm?

A: I loved selling computer technology to businesses and would have to give it at least an 8 on a scale of 1 to 10. The one thing about computer sales I did not like was spending a significant amount of time creating a quality solution for a client only to have that client take my information and go buy a cheaper solution that was not going to be adequate. The cheaper solution would usually not do the job and the customer would wind up buying a solution from me anyways, but then the customer would be bitter because she had to spend the money twice.

Q: If this job moves your heart – how so? Ever feel like you found your calling or sweet spot in life? If not, what might do it for you?

A: Selling technology to businesses was the one profession that I felt truly comfortable with. I would look forward to getting up for work each day in anticipation of the new experiences I would have the new people I would meet. It made me feel significant and allowed me to be part of a lifestyle that I had always dreamed of.

Q: Is there anything unique about your situation that readers should know when considering your experiences or accomplishments?

A: I really earned the position as a vice president of sales for a small company based out of the west coast. The company wanted to expand its operations to the east coast, so I offered to start their east coast division out of my home. The company had been focusing primarily on printer supplies to that point, so selling computer hardware and software was new to them. I started with no advertising and only a few customers. Within three years I had built the company to over $500,000 a year in sales and moved into an office complex near my home.

Q: How did you get started in this line of work? If you could go back and do it differently, what would you change?

A: I was always a salesman, and I had always loved technology. Out of college, I was lucky enough to get a job with a small computer shop that was willing to train sales people. I just took it from there. The only thing I would have done differently is paid more attention to the technology and not worried as much about the sales process. Understanding the technology is the sales process in high-tech sales. I should have spent more time getting hardware and software certifications than trying to win regional and national sales awards.

Q: What did you learn the hard way in this job and what happened specifically that led up to this lesson?

A: I learned that some people will do anything to try and make profit, even if it means cheating a customer. When I was a vice president of sales, the president of the company did not understand a software license sale I had made. Rather than trusting me, the president canceled the order with our supplier without telling the customer. The customer was on 30 day credit terms and paid the full bill before 30 days was up. When the bill was paid, I was allowed to re-order the licenses and send the customer a new confirmation letter without an explanation. I felt that was unethical and learned a lot about how not to run a business from that experience.

Q: What is the single most important thing you have learned outside of school about the working world?

A: Trust only yourself and always keep paperwork to back up everything you do.

Q: What’s the strangest thing that ever happened to you in this job?

A: As I was moving up the corporate ladder, I had taken a job with a nationally recognized computer sales organization that had handed me quite an impressive list of clients. On my first visit with one of the largest customers to introduce myself, the customer placed a $300,000 order.

Q: Why do you get up and go to work each day? Can you give an example of something that really made you feel good or proud?

A: The fact that my customers trusted and relied on my expertise was a huge area of pride for me. I used to look forward to taking a large array of computer products each day and solving customer problems. It was the one thing about my job that never got boring. I also enjoy that tingle a good salesperson gets when the sale is closed. There is nothing like watching your client sign on the dotted line to close a major sale.

Q: What kind of challenges do you handle and what makes you want to just quit?

A: I got pretty good at handling customers that did not know what they were talking about but would insist that they were right. Customers would read about something in a magazine and insist that they knew the proper way to use the product in the article when they did not. But that was part of the job. Unethical behavior by my company president was the thing that made me want to quit.

Q: How stressful is your job? Are you able to maintain a comfortable or healthy work-life balance? How?

A: I guess that business to business technology sales is stressful to some people, but I loved it so I never considered it stressful. I was always learning about new technology and talking to people about sales angles so you could say that I was always working. But it never interfered with my personal life.

Q: What’s a rough salary range for the position you hold? Are you paid enough and/or happy living within your means?

A: When I was doing this regularly, the earning potential was between $65,000 and $100,000 per year, depending on how good your year was. That always seemed like enough pay to me.

Q: How much vacation do you take? Is it enough?

A: One of the things that my sales mentors told me was to take all of my vacation time each year and never feel guilty about it. So I would take two weeks worth of vacations each year and make a couple of long weekends with my personal days and it always seemed to help me stay focused.

Q: What education and skills do you need to get hired and succeed in this field?

A: You need more than a basic understanding of computer hardware, software, networking, repair and anything that has to do with the products you are selling. An MBA is not necessary, but college business classes can help you understand how your customers are figuring their budgets and how you can fit your product into the client’s upcoming fiscal year.

Q: What would you tell a friend considering your line of work?

A: I would absolutely recommend it. The work is hard, but it is well worth it.

Q: If you could write your own ticket, what would you like to be doing in five years?

A: If I had stayed in computer sales my goal was to be running a national sales and support organization that catered only to larger corporate clients.