As an Accounting Major at the University of Florida, math, numbers, and sitting behind a computer screen for hours on end is what feels comfortable to me. I have completed two internships with a Big Four Accounting Firm and before starting them, I was under the naive, stereotypical assumption that most accountants were “nerdy” bookworms who lacked certain social skills deemed crucial to selling.
Upon completion of both summer internships, I can confidently say that sales are a vital part of a successful career in the accounting field. My dad always told me that no matter what career you end up pursuing, I will ALWAYS have to sell myself. Whether it’s going through the interview process, proposing a new strategy to the superiors, or leading a new project, selling myself, my brand, and unique ideas will always be essential skills to possess. With all of this in mind, I was determined to find an internship related to sales services before graduating and becoming a full-time employee with an accounting firm that doesn’t prioritize teaching sales strategies.
I found an internship with a sales outsourcing company that equips its outsourced sales teams with cold calling, lead generation strategies, inside sales, and appointment settings. This company fit all the criteria for what I was looking for in an internship designed for college students. After interning as a sales development representative (SDR) for seven months, two of the most important lessons I have learned that will translate to the accounting profession and guide me moving forward are 1. Being okay with rejection, and 2. Listening to people as they love to talk about themselves.
How to Face Rejection
Something that I definitely struggled with before the internship was dealing with rejection. Whether or not pursuing a career in sales, rejection is something everyone deals with throughout life. I now understand that people say no much more frequently than they say yes.
When I first joined the outsourced sales team, being rejected was a huge blow to my ego. I thought I was doing something wrong and wasn’t understanding why I kept hearing no’s and rarely heard yes’s. What I finally started to realize was that when someone told me no, they weren’t actually saying no to me. They’re saying no to the idea, the proposal, what my company has to offer. Although this rejection will never feel “good”, understanding that it is nothing personal is a major step in accepting and learning from rejection.
Experiencing rejection has also been a teaching lesson on how to let things go. Once an individual learns how to handle rejection by letting it go and moving forward, he or she is in the right mentality to persevere through both failure and success. Another small but crucial detail I learned along the way is that we are human, and human beings have bad days. Being able to move past rude and unnecessary hostility with responses will aid oneself in staying focused on the overall end goal. I was once told that the best way to improve is to fail.
In SDR sales, improving means being able to take the no’s and learn from them in order to turn them into yes’s. This translates to accounting in the same way. As an accounting intern, I dealt with countless superiors and oftentimes, my ideas and work would get rejected. It was extremely disheartening and prevented me from sharing my thoughts in the future. However, because of TSF, I will now use this rejection to my advantage and work harder to earn the acceptance of those around me.
How to Listen More than Talk
Another lesson in successful selling that I find essential to thriving in the accounting profession is to get the potential buyer or client to talk more than I do. Listening is a skill that many people lack, despite it being one of the best ways to build trust. One can learn a lot about someone’s wants and needs by listening to them, which can aid in the direction of making sales opportunities.
From the outside, people often forget that there is much more to accounting than just computing numbers. Accounting requires sales strategies in order to convince clients to work with you, build relationships with them, and maintain these relationships from year to year. It all starts with the first conversation with a potential client, so make sure to listen rather than to talk. The goal is to make their lives easier and provide a solution to the problem they are facing.
By listening more than talking, one will learn how to ask the right questions at the right time. This allows the prospect to open up and feel comfortable doing business with the sales development representative, while simultaneously proving to the client of the SDR’s ability to fix their problem. Although it will probably be a while before I am given the responsibility of selling my accounting team to a potential new client, I learned how to use lead generation tactics to win over clients and bring new business into the firm.
Whatever career one chooses to pursue, I can guarantee that working in sales services will contribute to his or her success. After interning for two accounting firms, I knew that although it seems like a career requiring little social interaction, accounting is very reliant upon keen sales strategies. From working as a sales development representative, I have gained fundamental skills that will no doubt stay with me forever. Understanding how to accept rejection and listening more than talking has been so critical and will continue to guide me moving forward.