A Career In Sales- Everything You Need to Know

A Career In Sales- Everything You Need to Know

Very few people talk about corporate sales as a career option in high school or college.

Everyone learns about the various career paths in Finance, Accounting, Science, Engineering, etc because those topics can be studied specifically. Because schools cannot (or do not) teach sales techniques, you’re not usually introduced to this option.

It’s a pretty well-kept secret but the reality is that sales people make a ton of money with just a Bachelor’s degree (or sometimes without one!). And forget the stereotypes about how a career in sales requires an outgoing or extroverted personality because it’s simply not true.

Working in Sales isn’t what you think it is:

Here are the top 3 skills that I think are important to be being a great salesperson. Tell me if you think these sound like an outgoing/loud person:

  • Great listener
  • Intuitive and able to read people’s reactions
  • Not afraid to address tough issues as they come up, or dig deeper to find someone’s true feelings about a subject

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.

So now that you’re hopefully convinced that you’re capable of this, let’s talk about the benefits.

How much money can you make?

Benefit #1: MONEY. 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-100K. 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.

“What type of sales should I do?”

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 dollar 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.

What industry or company should I look for?

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:

  • Commercial real estate
  • Business Software
  • Financial Services
  • Insurance
  • Telecommunications
  • Any service with a recurring subscription or ongoing fees (just make sure the commission structure continues to pay you for this!)

Other benefits:

High pay isn’t the only benefit to a job in sales…

  1. Many people in inside sales work remotely or at least have some flexibility to work from home. All you need is a phone and computer!
  2. You’re pretty essential to the company, so you’re a lot less likely to be laid off during company struggles.
  3. Sales is a very transferrable skill so you can change industries or companies relatively easily, although you’d have to build a new network of course.

Things to watch out for:

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.


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