Sales careers have definitely gotten a bad rap over the years. All too often, when we think about sales roles, we picture the used-car or door-to-door, sample-wielding sales person. Add to that the highly visible companies heavily recruiting college students and recent graduates for commission-only, “kiosk-attendant” sales roles that tarnish the idea of sales as a career option.
Yet, the vast majority of entry-level sales positions have healthy base salaries, attractive incentive programs, and self-directed growth. Further, sales is one of the largest occupational job categories, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, and will “remain critical in building and maintaining customer bases for businesses.” Like any occupation, sales is not for everyone. But for college graduates with the right mix of skills and competencies – which may be different than you think (more on this later) – a sales career can be rewarding, lucrative, and (yes) fun.
Attractive Earning Potential
Following a training period, sales associates – even at the entry-level – can earn a generous base salary as well as significant incentives and bonuses. Successful entry-level sales professionals have the potential to earn more money than their college classmates pursuing more traditional professional positions. Bottom line: the more you sell, the more you earn. This ability to capitalize off one’s own initiative and entrepreneurial drive draws more high-performing, ambitious students.
Highly Transferable Skills
Positions in sales are more robust than you might have thought, involving problem solving, account management, operations, marketing, and much more. Knowledge of customers and their needs, as well as a keen understanding of how they make purchases, is at the heart of nearly every business pursuit. For those who may want to pursue other career tracks over time, sales experience can set you up for success; in fact, a 2017 study of the largest public companies showed that almost 20 percent of CEOs had their “formative experience,” or five years of experience after college, in sales and marketing.
A sales background is even better for entry-level job seekers who think they may want to start a business. The old maxim that “nothing happens in business until somebody sells something” is absolutely true – a solid foundation of sales experience builds confidence, teaches patience, and applies to every aspect of business strategy. Once you understand how to sell, you also grow more adept at communicating product value, differentiating your brand from the competition, and positioning your product or service for success; all key skills that an independent business owner uses every day.
The “Sales Personality” Myth
The stereotypical, “old school” salesperson who has limited knowledge or substance is dead. In a predominantly service-based economy, strong salespeople understand customers’ unique issues and offer solutions. This more thoughtful sales approach draws a diverse set of individual profiles. While all salespeople need to be comfortable engaging their prospective customers, they don’t all need to be highly extroverted individuals that can tell good jokes.
Sales shouldn’t be a dirty word for entry-level job seekers but instead something to aspire to, especially if you’re intrigued by the possibility of a high degree of autonomy and self-directed growth and earning potential. But it doesn’t just happen over night. Research the career; talk to salespeople to get a better understanding of the responsibilities, and, if possible, find opportunities to job shadow a couple of different types of salespeople to get a better look at the daily routines and work activities.
Training is also a big key to success. Find companies who will invest in their employees with training opportunities or seek them out yourself to help make you a stronger more marketable candidate. The Avenica Sales Bootcamp and Training Program is a great place to start. We’ll even help find you your first sales position to kickoff your career.