5 reasons to consider a job in sales
I never considered a job in sales. My very first job was in retail. Specifically, I worked in the “wall coverings” department of a hardware store. Effectively, what it meant was I mixed paint for a living. It was an alright first job. There wasn’t a huge learning curve and I was paid fairly.
But eventually, the work became quite rote and I became disengaged.
Around that time a friend of mine got a job selling cell phones. He offered to put in a good word to get me hired, and that’s how I landed my first sales job.
I didn’t really plan for it to happen, partly because my notion of sales was that it’d be an environment where people were hyper-competitive, or dishonest, just looking to make a quick commission. That’s what I’d been shown in movies and TV, so I figured it was accurate.
In fact, it seems most things about working in sales are to basically persuade you not to work in sales. They depict all the worst bits, but hardly ever talk about the good things. I mean, think about it, how many people have told you they want to get into sales?
Those of us who have been there know it’s a great opportunity to learn new skills and challenge yourself. To this day, I still use skills I learned working in sales even though I’m no longer a salesperson. That realization is actually what inspired me to write this article.
So, in this article I offer five reasons everyone should consider a job in sales.
I remember at one of my first sales jobs our district manager stopped in the store. I was the newest team member, so she was interested to chat with me. She posed a simple question, “What’s your job as a salesperson?” I didn’t quite know how to answer and stumbled through an answer that was basically “persuading people to buy stuff.”
To this day, I remember her response. She said, “No, your job is to create a buying atmosphere.” Now, you could argue that’s simply semantics, but I think the key takeaway is that you’re not trying to push something on someone, you’re trying to create a space where the only logical option is for that person to buy what you’re selling.
In order to do that, you need to be able to do a number of things: You need to be able to articulate thoughts and ideas clearly. You need to be able to listen to someone’s needs. You need to be able to ask questions to uncover those needs. And, you need to be resilient enough to keep trying if something doesn’t work.
There’s almost no job where communication, listening skills, curiosity, and resilience won’t be valuable assets to have. Not to mention, basically every position requires selling. Even a job interview is you essentially selling your skills and expertise to that company.
To further illustrate the point, I’m no longer in sales. I write words for a living. But, when I’m pitching an idea for an article, I’m selling. When I’m interviewing someone for a customer story, I’m using the skills I learned about asking questions and actively listening.
Finally, when I’m writing, I’m using the communication skills I learned to (hopefully) effectively tell the story I want to.
As I mentioned above, I worked a few different sales jobs during college. Since they were retail sales jobs, I was able to work part-time which was nice for accommodating my class schedule. But, fewer hours was a worry because as most know, college isn’t cheap.
However, I quickly found out that even working part-time, I was outearning basically all my friends working full time retail jobs. My hourly rate was the same as theirs, or a little more, and I also earned commission on top of my hourly pay, which was significant.
According to labor statistics, the average salesperson makes around $58k per year, which isn’t a bad wage. But, remember, that’s just the average pay. There are plenty of salespeople making well over $58k per year, some even in six figures.
Now, I do understand having pay tied to performance in a much more significant way seems a little unnerving for some, but that’s just one way to look at. Another way to look at it is that your pay is equal to your performance. Which means you, in some ways, have more agency over your pay than most.
Every company is different, but a lot of sales professionals have the ability to set their daily working hours. There may be certain meetings that are mandatory, or even certain office hours, but there oftentimes is some level of flexibility.
There are a few reasons for that. First, the primary measure of performance is goal attainment, or quota attainment. Basically, if you’re hitting numbers most managers won’t be particularly concerned about the hours you keep.
Second, depending on the base you’re selling to, you may have meetings that span across the day pretty heavily. For example, if you’re working in New York and have a client in Los Angeles, chances are you might have to schedule a meeting outside of “standard working hours.” In order to accommodate for that, it’s best to have flexible hours so you can come in later or start earlier if needed.
Flexibility is one of the highest ranking wants for job seekers, and it’s no surprise. Think about little things like being able to pick up a friend from the airport if need be, or making a dentist appointment. There are so many ways having flexibility adds up to a better overall quality of life and better work/life balance.
As I mentioned in the intro of this piece, what really led me to want a new position was how routine my days had become. Though some thrive in that environment, for me it caused disengagement.
Once I started selling, basically no two days were alike. The main reason is when you work directly with people, each person has their own sets of needs, concerns, and their own personalities. Which makes your interactions unique, and by extension, your days unique.
There also tends to be quite a regular amount of change in products and services you offer, which means you have to keep updating your knowledge and learning new things. That’s another aspect of variety that sales offers.
It’s not to say that there won’t be similarities in days. There absolutely will be. However, as a salesperson, success requires you being present. In order to do that, you need to be engaged and your mind active.
To me, that’s the true benefit of variety. It keeps you on your toes and makes things feel fresh and exciting. A career in sales is a place you can find that.
Since sales is a core function of all business, there will always need to be salespeople. In fact, about 5.7 million people work in sales just in the US.
It makes sense. Selling is something that very directly affects the bottom line for companies. So, if you’re someone who’s shown you’re a reliable salesperson, and consistently meet and exceed goals, there will always be opportunities for work.
Also, sales positions aren’t really something that can be automated. Most of selling comes down to soft skills, which is hard to automate. There’s no telling exactly what the future holds, but it’s fair to predict that people will always value interacting with another person when making a purchasing decision.
Sales gets a bad rap. Though there are segments of sales, and certain salespeople, that do fit the standard depiction of the less-than-reputable salesperson, that shouldn’t be a reason to ignore the career path altogether.
Even if you’re not looking to stay in sales long-term, there are many skills sales teaches you, and benefits it offers, that make it a worthwhile endeavor for most anyone. I understand a job in sales won’t be a perfect fit for everyone, but you’ll never know unless you’re open to the possibility.
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