There are a few things you should know about a sales job before taking one. If you’re considering a sales career, don’t worry – this article will take you through EVERYTHING you need to know about working in sales.
The reality is: Most people don’t know what a sales job is like. You don’t learn much about this in school.
Most people learn about career paths like Finance, Accounting, Science, and Engineering.
Because schools cannot (or do not) teach sales techniques, you’re usually introduced to the option.
So let’s get started… here’s what you should know about sales before you take that job!
Sales jobs are a pretty well-kept secret…
I can’t name many other jobs where you can earn millions with just a bachelor’s degree, and I’ve seen multiple salespeople making 7-figures FIRST hand with “random” bachelor’s degrees like History, English, etc.
And you can also forget the stereotypes about how a career in sales requires an outgoing or extroverted personality because it’s simply not true. Being a great listener is a powerful skill to have for working in sales.
So those are some of the perks or best parts of working in sales, but there are also a lot of misconceptions…
Here are the top 5 skills that are most important to succeed in a sales job:
Forgot the movies you’ve seen like Boiler Room. Very few people cold-call anymore. Forget ‘Always Be Closing’. It should be ‘Always Be Building Relationships and Earning Credibility/Trust’. And that does NOT take an outgoing or loud personality.
It’s not uncommon for people in sales to earn more than $100,000, and sometimes many multiples of that amount in B2B (business to business) sales.
This is possible because many sales roles are paid commission in addition to base salary, which earns them a percentage of the deals they close. This creates an unlimited upside in potential earnings.
Sales is one of the best ways I’ve ever seen to make money without an advanced degree and without ‘paying your dues’ and climbing the corporate ladder for years or even decades.
Sales is one of the few jobs where you’re paid for the results you deliver, not the amount of time you spend in the office. If you’re unsure why, here’s an article I wrote specifically on this subject.
I know what you’re thinking now: ‘Being paid commission is too unreliable. I can’t have that kind of risk’. Well, plenty of good sales jobs have a base salary of $50K-60K.
That’s hardly unreliable, in fact, it’s more than a lot of people are paid in total. Add in commissions and you’re earning hundreds of thousands if you find the right company and industry. What industry? Check out the next two sections.
High pay isn’t the only benefit of a job in sales. Other perks include:
I’ve mentioned some of the benefits of working in sales above, and I’ll share even more coming up. But this wouldn’t be a good article on what you should know about sales jobs if it didn’t include the downsides, too.
So let’s talk about some of the negative aspects of sales jobs now. Here’s what to know about sales that isn’t so great…
First, it’s very high-pressure.
There are goals and quotas and you’re always chasing.
And failing to meet your goals consistently can even cost you your job. Sales is one of the few jobs where you can be fired just for not being great at it. Usually in other positions, you have to be really making mistakes to get fired, but not in sales. In sales, if you don’t close deals, you’re costing the company money and they may fire you.
This won’t happen right away, don’t worry. A good company will train you very well and be extremely patient as you learn the basics of your role.
But if it’s been six months and you’re still not closing any deals, they might have a talk with you about how sales might not be the right fit for you.
Sales jobs are also competitive. Sales teams tend to be full of Type-A personalities — people who love to compete.
It’s not unusual for many sales teams to be filled with people who played sports in school, etc.
Now, I mentioned earlier that you can be quiet and introverted and still succeed in sales, and that’s 100% true. But you need to be able to survive on a team where most people aren’t like you. That’s the key. You’re not going to be surrounded by other introverts in sales, even though you can be a huge success as one!
Those are the major cons or downsides you should know about sales jobs. Otherwise, it’s a very good career.
You should focus on corporate sales (also known as Business to Business or B2B sales). This category usually holds the best sales jobs.
The opposite would be Business to Consumer (B2C) which could include selling phones at Verizon, selling cars, etc. You don’t want to sell to individual consumers for a few reasons. The biggest reason is that individual consumers don’t have that much money. How are you going to close a $10 million deal with a single person? You’re not. A single company? No problem.
There are two main types of B2B sales jobs: Inside Sales and Outside Sales. Inside salespeople are office-based and primarily contact people via phone, email, etc. Outside sales involves travel, meeting face to face, etc. An inside salesperson will meet people face to face occasionally depending on the job, but this is usually quite rare, sometimes not even once per month.
Whichever you choose is up to you. Be sure to find out what the job involves when you apply though. The job description should specify. If you see travel mentioned, the job is outside sales.
To find the best sales jobs, look for companies with high margins and high profitability. They can afford to pay you more commission!!
Software companies are an example of a very high-margin business. They have large upfront R&D costs to develop a piece of software, but once it’s done the cost to create and package a CD with software loaded on is less than a dollar. It’s pure profit at that point, and they can afford to pay you a hefty commission because each sale you bring in is money right in their pocket (and your pocket).
Any company that’s profitable and earning a high margin is a good place to work in sales. Here are some areas to try:
If you decide to look for your first job in sales, be careful to select a company that offers a good training program and a comfortable base salary while training. Avoid the companies that pay only commission and no salary, or companies that require you to start as a temporary employee to try it out. These companies will hire many people regardless of whether they think they can do the job, and they risk relatively little if somebody fails.
You want a company that’s going to invest time and resources into making sure you succeed! A good company with a healthy sales organization will trust in their ability to train you and get you up to speed, and will have no problem paying you a fair salary during this training period and beyond.
When interviewing, ask a lot of questions and make sure you understand the compensation structure. Interviewing for a sales job is different than most interviews. You can ask questions about the compensation structure and it’s not considered ‘off-limits’ usually. Try asking what the top earners made last year. Ask what the average person earns in their first and second year. Questions like this will paint a clear picture of what you can accomplish if you put in the effort.
That concludes everything you should know about sales jobs before starting one. If you think sales might be a good career choice for you, give it a try. You won’t know if you don’t try it, and you’ll be learning very valuable skills that you can take with you in your career even if you decide a career in sales isn’t right for you.
Biron Clark is a former executive recruiter who has worked individually with hundreds of job seekers, reviewed thousands of resumes and LinkedIn profiles, and recruited for top venture-backed startups and Fortune 500 companies. He has been advising job seekers since 2012 to think differently in their job search and land high-paying, competitive positions.