The experience that stopped me from becoming a sleazy salesperson

The experience that stopped me from becoming a sleazy salesperson

Most people in sales that have done really well for themselves are those that truly create value for others.

Those salespeople all have one thing in common.

They’ve all had one experience that pointed their life in a different direction. A moment so powerful it made them realize what kind of salesperson they wanted to become.

Here’s my moment.

From simple to shady

I was 16 years old. And like any other kid my age, I needed money. My mom showed me this ad in the paper. They were looking for part-time salespeople, paying $500 base.

Sounded awesome to me.

So I went there. I was nervous as hell. I was this 16-year-old immigrant kid. I didn’t know shit about anything. They were based out of this amazing villa. A super impressive multi-million dollar estate. Blew me away.

I went through a training program. It was was pretty straightforward. We were provided with a number of leads and we called them up asking them to do a survey with us.

Ask a bunch of questions, write down the answers and get 500 bucks? Seemed simple enough. Done.

But gradually I started to realize what this business was all about.

We were cold calling people, doing a “survey” asking about their tax situation in order to figure out if they would be profitable leads for some sort of real estate scheme.

Any time we’d talk to someone that was, we had this pitch that was centered around how they could save on their taxes by buying real estate. Then we would make an appointment to send them to an expert.

Yes. It was all very, very strange.

So I quickly got the feeling that this was a shady operation. We were straight up lying to people to get them to buy.

Sure, they had this impressive villa with their Porsches parked outside. But they all seemed like selfish pricks to me.

Then again, I was just a 16-year-old cog in the machinery. All I had to do was call these people and go through the survey. So I thought, “Hey, this is not my problem, I’m just doing my job.”

Eventually, here’s what happened.

Seeing dollar signs and crossing the line

I’d been there for two weeks when they decided to add a $500 bonus if you managed to get an appointment that led to a deal.

We were all jumping up and down high fiving each other. It was like the California gold rush in there. We all had dollar signs in our eyes. An additional $500? Wow.

And of course it worked. We were a bunch of kids that needed money. The idea of an extra $500 made us hustle harder. We called more leads and made more appointments.

A week or two after the bonus announcement, an older couple showed up at the villa because they would bring people there to show them the amazing villa, the shiny cars and designer suits.

This was all a part of the pitch. To make people do what they wanted them to do. Selling them some shitty real estate, I assumed.

They were showing them around and I remembered the looks in their eyes. They were so impressed and wowed by the whole operation. You could tell that the sales guy had complete control of the situation and would take advantage of them.

For a moment I felt bad for them. They seemed like normal, decent people. Working class, just like my own family.

This was the moment when it really dawned on me. "Wow. We’re taking advantage of real people here." But I kind of shook that feeling off. I suppressed it and kept on dialing the numbers I was given.

Create value or fail

I kept making calls until one day, one of the supervisors came over to my desk and tapped me on the shoulder.

He goes, “These guys, you made an appointment with them, they’re just about to sign the contract. Which means tonight you’ll get your first $500! Isn’t that awesome?”

I could feel my heart sink.

This was the moment I realized I had a conscience. I’d never be that “whatever it takes” salesperson. The kind that takes advantage of those that don’t know any better. It’s not the way I was raised. It’s not the way I wanted to live my life.

This was when I knew this wasn’t for me. I didn’t want to be a part of selling people on bad ideas and selling people on things they shouldn’t buy. I didn’t want to take advantage of people’s weaknesses through my strengths.


This was the first time I came in real contact with taking advantage of others.

That day, I got up, took my stuff and quit that job.

During my walk home I also realized that so many things that I had talked about doing were not an option anymore. I would have to not only create something that was good for me, but also good for other people.

It was either that or failure.

Share your moment

This profoundly set the direction for my life and I’d love to hear your stories.

I think sales has a bad rep in the world because of operations like this. And I think it would make a big difference if people shared their stories about how they decided to not go down that path.

Maybe it’ll open someone’s eyes. Maybe it’ll steer them in the right direction. Hopefully they’ll find a way to use their talent to convince and influence people, in a way that brings value to other people.

It will make not just them, but all of us, more successful.

Share your “moment” in the comments and the best stories will be featured on our blog next week.

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