I Am a Summer Salesman: Inside The Job That Made Me $96,000 In My First Summer

I am a summer salesman. Every year, I pick up my life and family and move to a new city to knock doors. I work 60+ hours a week for four months every summer. I have lived in multiple states and personally walked through hundreds of neighborhoods. I have had people yell at me, curse at me, spit at me, stalk me, and threaten me simply because I knocked on their door. I have pushed my body through 110 degree days and my mind through countless curbside mental breakdowns. 

Through all of this, I have gained the ability to control contention, suffice frustration, and redirect enthusiasm. I’ve learned to understand paraverbal, verbal, and nonverbal communication and put it to work hundreds of times in a single day of knocking. I have mastered the first impression and have become passionate about making connections.

I have loved the highs of the job, grown through the lows and truly believe that there’s no other job on earth that offers the same opportunity for so much personal growth in such a short period of time.

Summer sales has provided me and countless others with life changing opportunities and experiences. With that being said, there is a stigma that surrounds this job that needs to be corrected. 

Many view summer sales as disreputable and amateurish. For some, it has been minimized as something no more than just a backup summer job. For those who have achieved great things with summer sales, they are often robbed of deserved accomplishment and recognition because their success was acquired knocking doors. As it goes with anything, there are also a lot of critics that make harsh assumptions, but have no reliable backing for their opinion.

Because of the many negative connotations associated with summer sales, I felt it was necessary to clear the air on some common misconceptions of the industry.  

1. You Have to be Pushy, Selfish, Dishonest, and Rude 

This outlook on salesmen is the reality quite often because, to be frank, there are a lot of terrible salesmen out there. These subpar salesmen react to hostility with aggression and never persuade anyone. This approach is always met with failure in some degree. Some of these salesmen may still close enough sales to survive, but only because they have approached enough prospects that are desperate for their product. This is not sales, this is just statistics. 

If enough people see a product, someone will always buy. Even if the product is peddled by a pushy, lying, cheating bum. These anti-salesmen live by the mantra that it’s a cut-throat numbers game and they usually end up hating their job even more than their customers hate them. Sadly enough, all other negative connotations in association with this job are caused by this anti-salesman mindset. The attrition rate for jobs in sales is worse than almost any other job. 

According to Bridge Group Research, there is a minimum of 20% annual turnover rate in all sales jobs in the U.S.

For years, I have watched new salesmen give up because they feel success can’t be achieved if they are not pushy or dishonest. Instead of learning proven sales techniques, they fall back on improper practices and blame their failure on sales. These individuals then become negative, lazy, and pushy themselves and are left to statistics.

Sales is hard enough when done correctly, but when people try to survive in a commission-based job on statistics and immoral tactics, it is unbearable.     

Subpar and inexperienced salesmen have given sales a bad name when, in all reality, it is one of the most beautiful arts on earth. Sales is not about conflict, it is about deflating confrontation. Sales is not founded on dishonesty, it thrives on helping solve problems and provide solutions. 

People never correlate a good salesman with sales because they don’t feel sold. It is easy to recognize a good salesman because he leaves people better than he found them and they have fewer problems than they did before.

2. You have to have a certain personality to be good at sales

This misconception is true to some degree. Sales requires hard work, persistence, and positivity. However, most would agree that these qualities are key to success in any job. The biggest reason that people use this excuse in a sales job is because they’ve held a minimum-wage/hourly job in the past. Now, there are many people who work hourly jobs that exhibit all of the qualities I mentioned previously and, consequently, are quite successful in their field. On the other hand, 

There are a lot of hourly workers that put in half as much effort as their co-workers because they know they will still receive the same pay in the long run. 

They can be as negative or as lazy as they want and still get the same financial reward as their counterparts as long as they avoid getting fired. 

In sales, mediocrity and laziness are never rewarded. The hardest working, most positive and persistent people are always the ones that end up being successful. Struggling salesmen blame their failure on sales, but failure is always a result of laziness, pessimism, and apathy.

3. It’s a multilevel marketing scheme

NO. If summer-sales was a multilevel marketing scheme, then I would be attempting to sell my cousins, parents, and grandparents on spending money to buy a product that I had to buy to be able to sell. Also, summer salesmen sell things like pest control, security, solar, cable, and other products/services that people actually need. 

The best way to tell the difference between a legitimate sales opportunity and a scheme is to just ask, “Do people buy this because they want to make money off of it or because they want or need the product/service?”             

I am fully aware that summer salesmen can be intense recruiters, but this is very different. They don’t recruit to get others to spend money. Rather, they offer an opportunity for others to acquire the same skillset, success, and financial freedom that they have gained. Recruiting is rewarded with pay, so the better a recruit performs in the summer, the better the recruiter does financially. In contrast to a multilevel marketing scheme, summer salesmen are only incentivized by the success of their recruits rather than being incentivized by their recruits spending money. Keep in mind, summer salesman that don’t want to recruit can still be extremely successful.

4. Summer salesmen get taken advantage of and go home in debt 

This perspective comes about in two ways.

First, this can and will happen if someone works for an illegitimate or historically sketchy company. 

A few examples of this would be:

  • The company says they have been around forever but choose to “stay small” in order to have a personal relationship with the salesmen that work for them.
  • The company refuses to show a prospective employee a database with accurate numbers to back their claims.
  • The company offers a potential sales rep that has never worked in the industry before a “leadership” position because they “really see potential”.

There are countless other checks and balances to go through before making a decision. The best way to find a good company is to research it with the same intent as buying a home. 

Get the real numbers, do a full inspection, and recognize and understand all the risk involved in working for any given company. 

There are plenty of terrible door-to-door companies, but there are also a lot of great ones. Do the research!        

Second, this perspective is created through disgruntled sales reps that do go home in debt even with doing their research and working with a great company. 

The key here is that these reps, regardless of their environment, didn’t actually “work” for a good company. These are the reps that showed up on the first day with a sub-par work ethic and a lack-luster attitude. These are the reps that have thousands of excuses and are always justifying failure by pointing the finger at someone or something other than themselves. They will always argue that their failure was out of their control, but at the end of the day, they went home in debt because of their own choices.

5. If you choose to do summer sales, you’ll become a “tool”

I will not argue the fact that there are quite a few “tools” in the summer sales world. To be fair, a lot of these “tools” have worked their brains out for four months and now have more money in their bank accounts than most of their peers. In a four-month period, some of these salesmen have gone from being in the bottom 10% of America’s income earners to the top 10%. On top of earning such a large sum of money, they have learned incredible communication skills that have filled them with new confidence. This new reality would go to anyone’s head as it does for most other successful professionals like doctors, dentists, lawyers, etc.

The difference, however, is that most of these professionals had to attend 8-15 years of schooling and accrue hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt to reach these same financial achievements. For whatever reason, the allure of these jobs makes society much less judgmental towards their boastful attitude compared to that of a successful summer salesman.                            

Now, don’t misinterpret what I am saying. I don’t in any way condone or justify “tool”-like behavior for any profession. Unfortunately, this behavior has and always will be a struggle that comes with wealth and success. 

All in all, if someone is a college student buried in debt and living in their parent’s basement, I think it’s unreasonable that their biggest concern about sales is that they might become too confident or “toolish”. 

The risk of acquiring “too much” confidence is well worth the potential upside of finally being able to survive without a parent’s constant financial support.

Many people have and always will have negative things to say about summer sales. I, however, have seen the blessings that come with it. Anyone that takes advantage of this job can propel themselves to their future goals.

 I’ve seen salesmen get through all of their upper-level education debt free. I’ve watched kids in their twenties travel the world, start their own business’, and purchase millions in real estate. I’ve also seen salesmen make door-to-door sales a career and, as a result, make millions recruiting, training, and motivating other salesmen.

For those that are not happy with their current job, situation, or environment, I offer the challenge to change it. Summer sales gives me eight months out of the year to make my own schedule, travel, fish, invest, spend unlimited time with my family, and do everything else I’m passionate about. I can now have the cars, house, and lifestyle that I want for my family and myself. I am grateful for the financial freedom I now have, the skillset I have acquired, and the happiness that I have obtained simply by knocking doors. I am proud to be a summer salesman. 

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