Sales is one of the most polarizing career options for new graduates. Some seem destined to go into sales from a young age. We all know the type. They have boundless confidence, the gift of the gab and the ability to strike up a relationship with everyone they meet. However, most people probably hate the idea of getting on the phone and reaching out to someone they have next to no relationship with. It can be daunting to think about persuading them to part ways with their or their employers hard earned cash in exchange for your product or service.
For whatever reason, the perception of sales from those on the outside can be wildly inaccurate. Gone are the days of an intimidating Head of Sales sitting with their feet up on their desk and striking fear into their team to achieve ever expanding targets. When I first started in sales, I was struck by how much quieter the sales floor was than I had anticipated. Sales requires so much more than being outgoing and persuasive (although those skills are absolutely key to succeeding in sales). In B2B sales, people make buying decisions based on logic, data, trust and very often will deliberate over a long period of time. It is only those who can combine confidence with being measured, analytical, understanding their client and their needs, and then clearly relay their own companies products, features, advantages, and benefits in a way that makes sense for each individual prospective client who truly succeeds in sales.
Whether you already know you want to build your career in sales, or have just graduated and are unsure which direction you want your career to go in at the moment, throwing yourself into a sales/business development role can teach invaluable skills that will serve you well in both your professional career and personal life.
You’ll learn to close
Closing is essentially asking the buyer to make a decision on whether or not they will be buying your product/service. This is often the most exciting part of the sales cycle and the time when you see your potential commission check looming before you and the dollar signs rising in your eyes. There are many ways you can close a deal. You can be assumptive, provide options, go for a summary or a questioning close, but all have the aim to get your client to sign on the dotted line. Whether you’re working on a big deal with a client at work, searching for a new job with a sales recruiter like us here at 80Twenty, or simply asking someone to do something on your behalf in any other area of your life, having the skill to close is an incredibly useful tool to have and will serve you well in everything you do.
However, it doesn’t always go to plan. Which leads me on to point no. 2…
You’ll experience rejection
It doesn’t sound much like a perk, but if this were not a huge part of a sales role everyone would be doing it. How great would it be if every time you picked up the phone and pitched your product to a client they signed off on the deal, no questions asked, leaving you with a fat commission check to take home?
Sadly, it doesn’t work this way. The majority of your outreach will most likely lead to dead ends. Some prospective clients will appear interested, and then either ghost you or something happens out the blue that wipes the deal off the table. But you will learn to have the tenacity to keep going, keep hearing the word no and understand that is simply one step in the process of getting your deal signed off.
You’ll very quickly understand how your business operates
Sales is unique in that it is one of the only departments that works with every other department within a company. Every department will have some relationship with sales, whether that be in marketing, finance, product or human resources. As a salesperson, you will very quickly build up a broad understanding of how your business operates. For example, in my first sales role, I worked for a publishing company selling advertising space. We worked very closely with the editorial team to see what content they were putting out and who we should target, as well as the production team to make sure all of the advertising space we sold was appearing according to client specs and requirements. Any new products that we launched were communicated to us straight away via the product/marketing team, and then any issues with payment or invoicing would be communicated via finance. Some of those teams would engage with each other, but sales was the only department which engaged with all of them on a daily basis.
As a result, you very quickly build up an understanding of how each department functions and ultimately gain an understanding of how the company as a whole works. With this in mind, it’s no surprise to see the number of former salespeople who go on to become successful entrepreneurs launching their own companies.
You’ll learn to communicate effectively
This is one of the absolute most important skills to being a successful salesperson. Both verbally and in writing, you will need the ability to communicate with your audience in an engaging and persuasive tone. Salespeople have seconds to capture the attention of their audience, be it with their opening intro on a call or the subject line of their email. Having the ability to quickly get to the point in a way that provides detail and intrigues your client is a skill that will serve you well in your professional and personal life.
You’ll have amazing career advancement opportunities
Whether you choose to pursue a career in sales as an individual contributor, move up within your company into a management role, or go down another path altogether, the skills you learn as a salesperson will stand you in good stead for a successful career. You’ll learn how to communicate effectively and concisely, as well as closing and having the confidence to ask for what you want. You’ll be able to handle and overcome rejection and negotiate a solution that works for all parties. You’ll understand businesses as a whole, how they function and get an overview of what every department needs to operate successfully. With a salesperson quickly amassing such a broad range of skills, it’s no surprise that a LinkedIn member study this year found that of 12,000 CEO’s in their network at companies with 50 or more employees, the overwhelming majority had started their career in a business development or sales role.
This isn’t to say the typical salesperson will work their way up to become a CEO, but the incredible range of skills you will gain early in your career will allow you to go in many different directions. Not to mention it will allow you to be in charge of how big your paycheck is and allow you to wave goodbye to the Top Ramen and Cap’n Crunch diet (or beans on toast, for any fellow Brits reading this) you’ve been on for the past four years!