“If you asked me six months ago if I’d become a salesman, I would’ve said absolutely not,” said 21-year-old Tom Keenan, to the Wall Street Journal, noting that he had assumed that “salespeople only sold products to take the consumers’ money—and that bothered me.”
Keenan was selectively headhunted for a sales role on his character, and will be trained to work in B2B sales for business development rep, Acquia. Unlike the majority of young college graduates in the US, he will have a well-paying, quality employment straight out of university. Only 36% manage to find jobs with a decent wage after graduating, let alone a job in a relevant sector, or one that requires a degree.
There is an odd thing about sales roles. They’re necessary, they’re everywhere, and they’re a part of nearly every aspect of business. Yet graduates and young workers shy away from the positions, either because of stereotypes about the type of work, the assumption of lofty career progressions, or fears of a lean salary.Sales is often imagined as a cut-throat environment, competitively structured where you spend a lot of time chasing after people and even more time being turned away. This is not really helped by employers often using language that is as old as time itself to describe the roles. “Tremendous variable compensation packages,” does not sound sexy to someone fresh out of university.
The stereotypes surrounding the day-to-day of someone in sales deters great graduates from potentially perfectly matched roles, and leaves employers struggling to fill great, well-paid positions. The stigma surrounding sales roles is slowly being abolished, as grads are realising how much they can learn from sales, and how much they will potentially enjoy their future career.It’s safe to say that sales roles are the ugly duckling of graduate career pathways. But not for much longer. Here are the reasons we think shine for why you want to say yes to sales. The roles have an immense potential for learning and growth, and we don’t think the market will be this open to so many applicants for much longer. As Zig Ziglar aptly put it: “nothing happens in the world without someone selling something.”
1. It’s not a solo task.
Don’t think of sales as you going door to door or continuously cold-calling old retirees from a cell-like desk. Unless you have been living underground for the past five years, you will know that business has changed – ENORMOUSLY – in its structure, its goals and its culture. And is likely to keep transforming in rapid and diverse ways in order to keep up with advancing technology, diverse consumer bodies and increasingly competitive markets. Companies must be clever in the way they connect with potential clients, and use a wealth of research to make sure their time and efforts use resources effectively.
To do this, sales has become a cohesive effort, involving all aspects of a business – not just a dude in a suit with a demo in his briefcase. As Lauren Weber in her WSJ article put it, sales departments are often segmented into teams with different parts of the sales pipeline assigned to different members. Lower-ranking employees do the groundwork, identifying prospects and any early interest in the product or service. Another branch will run through the specs or demos on highly technical products. There may also be representatives who work out in the field meeting clients, negotiating packages and closing deals.
2. Entrepreneurs are made from a sales backbone.
Peter Vogt in an excellent article for Monster, highlighted the common view held by management that sales is the training ground for the business standouts of tomorrow. The reason being that sales is about an intrinsic understanding of a product (or service or cause) and how it works. You then need to teach it to other people in a way that makes sense to them (using written and verbal communication skills) and show them how they would benefit.
These skills are essential to business practices in most areas, irrelevant of where you plan to head with your career. Therefore starting in a sales role could be a sturdy foundation into future business management.
3. You pay will be better than your peers.
In the US, sales reps for technical and science based products earn almost double the median annual wage for all workers, according to the National Labor Department. Here in the UK, the starting salary for a sales role is anywhere between £4K to £5K above the average national starting salary for graduates. This is discounting commission and bonuses from doing well at your job. If you decide you’re passionate about the industry, your average salary will be a comfortable double of the national average. Not that we think the money should do the talking, but if it does play a role on your livelihood, then if you listen you can hear what its saying loud and clear
4. Failure and success are different in the world of sales.
Successful sales reps who do their job well have a different view on failure and success. And it’s similar to the one you’ll spy on a quick scroll through Instagram or a 20-minute read of any “inspiring” blog. Rather than seeing a lost sale as an opportunity gone, “failure” as we know it is but another step in the right direction for a salesperson, and an investment in the future of the business. The logic? Perhaps you didn’t get what you wanted right now, but there’s no harm in making yourself or your business known, and showing them what you have to offer. Down the line it could pay off.
It is not all rejection though. The current shape of many sales roles means companies have advanced to make sure they send their reps in the right direction. They don’t want to pay you to pitch to someone who doesn’t care. ANd if they’re the right kind of company, they want to make a product that’s useful for other people to use. So that your role essentially means you’re alerting someone to a service that could help them work better.
“You may sell a product if you go into sales, but you might also sell a service or even a cause of some sort,” says Vogt. “If you find a product, service or cause you believe in and then take it to people who might also believe in it, you could find yourself in a gratifying career.”
5. You’ll learn the essential skills of knowing and working with a customer or client.
People skills are perhaps one of the most important attributes any worker should have. Apart from being a key indicator of success later down the line, it will also help you work better within your team. Not everyone is born with people skills, and not many jobs give you the opportunity to directly focus on cultivating these skills like a sales role.
“Being a great salesperson is all about adding value and building trust,” says Karin Hurt, CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders. “Your customers want to know you get it, meaning that you understand their challenges, dreams and goals, and have carefully considered why your solution makes sense. And, they want to be sure you have their best interests at heart. They have to be sure you care [more] about their mission and the greater good, than your numbers.”
This important piece of insight is what gives a good salesperson their edge. Not raking in the money, but a dedication to investing the right products with the right people. It’s this sense of care that will take you far, whatever part of the business you’re a part of. Empathy is your greatest attribute when it comes to all negotiation if you want to get what you want.
For the sake of your career, say yes.
The preconceptions we have of sales belong to a job that disappeared with CD walkmans and flip phones. It’s time to get yourself up to date and say yes to the opportunities that could be the most valuable to your career. Sales jobs have flown under the radar for years as the ugly duckling of graduate opportunities. But we all remember what happened to that duckling at the end of the tail, don’t we? They provide excellent opportunities to improve your skills and connect people with products they will love, and nothing can be more rewarding.