Thursday, June 13, 2024

Sales: A pathway for horticulturists

By Daniel Fuller

The word “salesperson” can conjure up images of the greasy snake oil salesperson who aims to trick you into buying shoddy products, but should we re-think our perceptions of sales roles?

I’ve spent ten years as a maintenance gardener, and it’s not an easy gig. In fact, it can be downright hard on your body. Especially when we lift heavy objects which we know we shouldn’t, we sleep less each night than we know we should and fail to stretch as often as we know we need to. Over time, gardening takes a toll on your body. At least, the way I do it does!

So, we need a few pathways to get us off the tools. Traditionally, those pathways can lead us into management roles or tendering, but not everybody wants that lifestyle, and therefore we are back where we started, stuck on the tools. At best, we get more aches and pains every year, and at worst, we are literally shortening our lifespan.

At this stage of our career, we’ve learnt so much about our industry and made meaningful connections, it’d be a shame to throw it all away and start at the bottom of a new industry that is easier on the body.

Transitioning into a sales role, you can become successful through your existing connections and your understanding of what your clients are going through on a daily basis.

Think about it, if you were a business manager with a “pain point” that needed solving, would you rather speak with a salesperson from a sales background or a salesperson from a horticultural background?

Recently, I interviewed nursery industry salesperson Zak Iqbal for an “Intro to sales & selling” episode for the Plants Grow Here podcast (episode 123), where we covered the four basic steps in the sales process and how to be a good salesperson vs a bad salesperson.

Basically, a salesperson’s job is to convince people to do things your way. After all, you’re the one that’s done the market research, you know all of the options out there, and you often understand your client’s needs better than they do.

A salesperson grows relationships like a gardener grows plants. You plant seeds (make cold calls), and then you water those seeds and fertilise them regularly, and those plants will provide abundant fruit. Just like in gardening, we need to ensure we’ve chosen the right clients to provide a harvest.

You already sell every day without realising it, e.g., whenever you negotiate a restaurant choice with your spouse, one of you is “closing” and one of you is “buying.” The difference is, we aren’t afraid of rejection from our spouse. Well, hopefully, anyway.

But a sales job is filled with rejection. You get used to people cutting you off mid-sentence with a blunt “not interested,” especially when you’re new in the job. You likely won’t be confident or know your product very well at the start, nor will you have many ongoing relationships with buyers. Buyers can smell an insecure seller, and it turns them off.

A salesperson’s confidence comes from their trust in their offering, not from an inflated ego. Depending on what you’re selling, you seek out clients that prefer the cheapest, fastest or highest quality product or service on the market. It can be two of those, but it probably won’t be all three.

Without salespeople, hardly anybody would be using the right products. We’d sign contracts for whatever phone plan came up in Google first, and we’d use whatever fertiliser had the best graphic design on the packaging.

A good salesperson will listen to their client’s needs and ask the right questions to steer them to the correct decision. Sometimes they won’t be able to match the perfect solution, and the buyer walks away. As long as you’re selling an excellent product or service, there will always be somebody else that needs it.

It doesn’t have to be sleazy, and if it is, you’re doing it wrong. It’s all about human connections, building trust, and serving others generously. It’s good, honest work, and you can make good coin without bashing your body into the ground.

If you’d like a career in sales, upload your resume for free in the “sales” category on

Daniel Fuller

M: 042 6169 708




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