Have you ever considered opera singing as good prep for sales? 

Or that salespeople have big potential for careers in management? 
In prep for next week’s inaugural SalesJam sales training event in Durham, we asked three speakers to tell us a bit more about themselves, their careers and what they love about sales. Learn more by attending next week’s event.

Robert Hartsfield, director of sales at Avalara 

EE: When did you decide on sales as a career? 

I knew in the second grade. I knew it right then. When you start doing show and tell, talking about summer trips and seashells and cool things you brought back. I knew I wanted to be in some role where I was either pitching something or selling an idea. 
That progressed into my first lemonade stand in third grade. I lived in a new community and saw a need when construction workers were going back and forth to grab soda from stores. Lemonade is cheaper and away we went. I had four different stands in four cul de sacs and rode my 10—speed bike to check on the different stands.

EE: What did that look like after college? And how did your career progress? 

My first job was as a buyer for Dayton-Hudson and Marshall Fields department stores but my first actual sales role was at Pack Expo, which was acquired by BDMetrics. What we did there was sell to trade shows—connect attendees and exhibitors via our portal and sell ad space. I was there eight years in the DC area before I was recruited to run an inside sales team at Consensus Technology. 
Then I went to Netsertive and worked with Brendan to put together the team there in a house in Cary. One sales guy was leaving to go to Bronto and said, “Come with me.” Bronto had a strong reputation and I spent four years there and eventually took over the team. 
Then Avalara gave me the chance to build my own team, to put together a process and culture and set up a framework for how the company can go. To do that with a great support system in my hometown where I grew up is once in a lifetime. 

EE: How did you separate yourself from the rest of the employees over time? 

If my quota is to sell $10k/month, I’d back it out to see how to sell $20k/month. I never took number they gave me, I always gave myself another number. 

EE: What do you like most about sales? 

Sales is the most frustrating job you can ever have, but I can’t imagine doing anything different. This is what I get up to do. I was sick all weekend but I was eager to get back. You have to have that passion. 

EE: What’s the key to being a sales leader? 

To be in a leadership position, you really have to want to help others. I love putting together folks that really want to be great in sales and saying to them, ‘Listen, you are here today, but let’s put a plan in place to get you to point B.’ I love to watch them get big. 

EE: Fun fact? 

I always get mistaken for Darius Rucker, everywhere I go. And I can’t sing a lick.

SalesJam is a half-day sales training event going down Thursday, August 25 in Durham. Buy tickets here.