How Do You Go From Minimum Wage to $80K In A Year? Part 2

In case you didn’t catch Mr. PoP’s first post, this is the second post in a series on how he went from a minimum wage job to making $80K in a year through commission sales positions.  Here’s how the series is shaping up:


Getting Rescued

I’ll be the first to admit-working retail cellphone sales at a mall location on the weekend is a complete bummer. I had been at this store for three months, and I was already scouring the help wanted ads for something that was out of retail sales, but still involved commission. Again, this was during the “Great Recession”, but one Saturday night, right before closing a guy walked in and asked me if I had any Blackberrys. We started talking, and after a few minutes he said he was a recruiter for a large company with a local corporate sales office.

Milk is for Closers

Get ’em Business Cat!

One thing lead to another, and he asked if I would be interested in applying for a position at the comapany. I asked him about the work environment, the pay structure, and the product. He was a little apologetic when he said that most reps made “only” 60K, that I might have to answer e-mails in the evening for west-coast clients, and that the product was complicated enough that they would train me for eight weeks before letting me get started. “But don’t worry,” he said “we’ll pay you a salary all the way through training!”


Holy Shit! I put on my best poker face and told him that I would talk it over with my wife. I went through the (rigorous!) hiring process and then the training program.


A Professional Sales Environment

After two months of intense training, I finally got out onto the sales floor and a big realization finally truly hit home.  In addition to being higher pay, lower stress, and better lifestyle than my last gig, the sales process itself was different as well:

Corporate IT sales:

  • Long sales cycle – Multiple conversations with stakeholders over a 6-18 month timeline
  • Complex product – Requires the person who sold it to help implement it as well
  • High value, high investment – Contracts are an average of $40K and offer a high-value service
  • Quality of peer – Very high! I work with some of the smartest people in the world
  • Humane hours – I work the same hours my clients do

Retail phone sales:

  • Short sales cycle – Maybe 30 minutes, max!
  • Simple product – Face it, if I have to train you how to use your phone, you shouldn’t have it
  • Low value, low investment – I think the largest phone sale I ever made was $600
  • Quality of peer – Abysmal…
  • Brutal weekend hours

These differences allow me to build awesome relationships with really smart people who look at me a trusted advisor, instead of somebody who is trying to churn ‘n burn them to hit that next bonus. This type of work also appeals to my analytical nature because it involves so much problem solving, and I still get rewarded on how happy my clients are with me (as measured by how much they spend!).

Its not always rainbows and kittens. As the saying in the office goes, “Sales isn’t always fair, but its usually pretty good.” Stress can still be a problem, but the type of stress is “Aw, crap, I’m going to miss out on that $10K bonus if I can’t show this guy what an awesome job we can do for him,” instead of “Aw, crap, my co-worker is stealing money from the cash drawer again and I might get blamed if management calls the cops.”


Mrs. PoP here – from the wife’s perspective, Mr. PoP definitely has a high stress job sometimes, but the upside potential is big enough that we both work together to manage it.  Sometimes he needs a little sanctuary time alone in his home office after a long day, and I do my best to make little stuff like that easier.


We’ll wrap this series up on Friday with some closing thoughts from our readers and myself about the ups and downs of sales as a way to improve your mindset and personal finances. For now, dear reader, does this post change your pre-conceived notions about sales careers?


Continue reading Mr PoP’s story in Part 3: Is Sales Right For You?


21 comments to How Do You Go From Minimum Wage to $80K In A Year? Part 2

  • It’s amazing the connections you can make when you least expect it. My hubby was in a job he didn’t love, but was good at, and while on a job site out of town a few years ago he ended up getting drunk with a guy at the hotel bar one night who is his current ”boss” (hubby is really 2nd in command of their business)…crazy world.

    • I know! Mr PoP got a fair number of connections working in retail sales, and the company that he ended up moving to was the best of several offers he had gotten in a several week period. Just from selling cell phones.

  • Very interesting but I still think I’m probably not cut out for it! =) I had my real estate license once and failed miserably at it.

    • I think real estate can be a tough business because often you need to have a list of clients who will use you before you even start… And that’s hard to develop. Mr. PoP gets given good solid sales leads and does little prospecting the way that RE agents do because so many clients come directly to the company due to its strong product offerings and reputation.

  • I wish I could have gotten into sales. I thrive off interaction and could sell a freezer to an eskimo, but never knew how to get “in.” Sounds like the right place at the right time, and has worked out very well for your strengths!

    IT and software sales seem lucrative, but also very competitive!

    • Never say never! It definitely worked out well – though in hindsight, we knew friends of friends who worked there and just never put together that Mr. PoP’s skill set would be a match until the recruiter said, “You would be good at this at my company.”

  • Very interesing. I’ve had several sales jobs in the past and learned quickly that I am not cut out for sales. It’s just not genuine for me and as a result am usually not successful. I think it takes a specific personality to be able to do well in sales, in addition to being outgoing and I don’t have either.

    • Mr. PoP is far from outgoing. Trust me on that. He does have to put himself out there and be a little more extroverted with clients, but when he comes home he recharges by spending time with his headphones on by himself.
      As for being genuine, we both agree that we don’t think Mr. PoP could be quite as good at his job if he weren’t selling such a good product. So being genuine is still very positive. There aren’t many clients that will show NO benefit from a buying something from his company, it’s mostly Mr. PoP’s job to figure out how to get them the most bang for their buck in terms of benefit.

  • What an interesting circumstance! I got “rescued” too by a customer who hired me. I guess you always have to be your best, at any job, you never know who you may deal with!

    • Totally – and I’ve been offered positions with partner companies that I’ve done projects with, too! It’s good to know doing a consistently good job does get recognized by others as well, though =)

  • An interesting read. Are you going to go into details about your daily sales process? I’m curious how much time you actually spend trying to pitch clients? Is there cold calling? This seems like a great gig!

    • Mr. PoP is sick in bed at the moment. Poor guy =( So I’ll try and answer this one for him even though it’s kindof specific.
      I don’t think he’s planning on getting too much into the exact sales process on the last post – but one of his main sales priorities is client retention. While he does some prospecting and cold calling, that’s not really what he likes the best – he’s more into the part of his job where he helps existing clients maximize their use of his company’s products – and see what other things could be of use to the clients as he gets to know their needs better. That way when their contracts are up, they are eager to renew and often buy more than what they did the last time. That’s where Mr. PoP excels.

  • A career in sales can definitely bring a high salary to those who excel in it, but I am not sure I would do well in a sales position. The only exception would be if it was a product or service I was truly passionate about.

    • Jenn C

      Agreed, I’d be a terrible retail sales person, mostly due to my frugal nature. I’m always thinking, “that person probably doesn’t need to spend money on that crap…”

      • Don’t group all sales with retail sales – there are some very different beasts out there. And though Mr. PoP got his start in sales hustling at the retail level, he wasn’t there for long, and his current gig is NOTHING like retail sales.

  • Great story. You always have to be on your A game because you just never know who will walk through the door.

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  • I love how one, serendipitous meeting changed Mr. PoP’s life. Imagine if Mr. PoP wasn’t on the schedule that night?

    I believe smart, hard working people typically rise up. If this hadn’t happened, some opportunity would have presented itself eventually. However, this meeting certainly didn’t hurt.
    Mr. 1500 recently posted..Sex, Limes and Financial EducationMy Profile

    • Definitely – but what Mr. PoP didn’t mention was this was probably the 4th time someone had come in as a customer and suggested he apply for a job with them. Others included wealth advisors and an insurance agency – neither of which we were too nuts about given how much they encourage making family and friends your first clients. But this one was a perfect fit for him!