Why a sales career?
You are almost certain to make more money in sales than in technical or administrative jobs. Companies need to make sales to survive, and usually reward successful sales people highly, to ensure that they stay in the job. And it’s fair: the better the sales person, the more he or she will earn. For many, this is often the main reason why a sales career is chosen initially.
Route into management
Most chief executives and senior managers either started their career or at least have spent some time in their career in sales. It gives you an appreciation of what happens ‘at the sharp end’ – at the customer interface. Very few purely technical people get to the top rank. No matter what job you hold in business, you spend a lot of your time selling: selling ideas to your bosses, your colleagues, your juniors, your suppliers and your customers. To have spent some time in sales trains and prepares you to communicate effectively, and to ‘win friends and influence people’ (Dale Carnegie).
Generally, you can control your own time. You make your own appointments, and run your own day the way you think fit. As long as you’re producing the results your boss requires, you can more or less do what you want.
In a commission-related job, the more you sell, the more money you earn.
The harder you work, the more you sell.
The longer you work, the more you sell.
The smarter you work, the more you sell.
The more you learn, the more you sell.
Companies are unlikely to make successful sales people redundant. At least not before most other types of staff.
If you do lose your job, or choose to leave it, it’s relatively easy to get a new job if you can demonstrate a ‘track record’ of success in sales.
A successful sales person should always be able to get a job and make a living.
Finger on the pulse
As a sales person, you’ll mix with a wide variety of other people in your industry. You’ll be better informed about changes and opportunities occurring within your market. Being better informed will enable you to be better prepared to face sudden changes which could affect you, positively or negatively.
Sales is mainly about the relationships between business people. It’s about helping other people achieve their goals, and solve their problems by introducing your company’s products/services. It’s not about forcing other people to buy things they don’t want to. It’s about working hard to discover places where your company’s products/services will be useful (and valued), understanding clearly what the other party needs and wants, and then working hard to provide it.
Done properly, solving peoples’ problems in this way will earn their undying gratitude (and their payments!). You get a genuine feeling of being useful to people. In the end, this is why a sales career often lands up being a long term option for many people.
What are the downsides?
There’s always a place for a keen and enthusiastic sales person, and given the correct training and support, most bright people who are willing to work hard, and learn, will succeed in sales, and make a better than average living.
However, as in all things, every silver lining has a cloud or two.
No one would pretend that sales is easy. If it were, more people would be doing it. It’s commonly said that for every one person who says ‘Yes!’, there are nine who say ‘No!’. If you need to find five people a day to say ‘Yes!’, you will have to talk to fifty people a day. This is worth remembering when you’re asking yourself “why a sales career”? There can be huge benefits to a career in sales, but you really will have to be prepared to put in a huge amount of effort.
You need energy and stamina, and you need to be able to be as bright and cheerful at six o’ clock at night, as you are at eight o’ clock the following morning. If you can’t rise above the trials and tribulations that afflict us all, both in private and in work life, don’t consider a career in sales.
Sales is a profession where you are judged almost exclusively by your results. Being a ‘nice guy’ doesn’t cut it, on its own. You’ll be expected to achieve certain levels of performance, and if you don’t do this, you’ll be as visible as a sore thumb. And you’ll probably lose your job. Being an unsuccessful sales person isn’t much fun.
As mentioned above, a lot of people will say ‘No!’ and unaccountably will not be interested in the wonderful products/services you are offering them. If you are the sort of person who will take these disappointments to heart, then don’t consider a career in sales.
In many cases, as The Sales Person, you’ll be the smiling face of the company you represent. In fact, apart from the driver who delivers the products you’ve sold, you may be the only person from your company the customer knows in person. So when things go wrong (as they inevitably do), it’ll be you the customer calls, demanding satisfaction. And it can be at eleven o’ clock at night!
How to prepare for a career in sales
There are a number of practical things you can do before attending interviews for sales jobs. Most sales recruiters (interviewers) will be looking for evidence that you are committed to embarking on a career in sales, and you’ll be marked down if you cannot show any of the following.
In conducting these preparations, you will give yourself valuable insights into sales as a career (you might decide it’s not for you after all!), and you’ll be better able to acquit yourself well at interview and win a good job offer.
Read books about the subject! There are countless books available in your local library and bookshops, and if you want a recommendation, visit our bookshelf where in conjunction with our partners Amazon Ltd you will be able to view and buy books online.
Shadow a representative. We at Seltek might be able to put you in touch with someone, or you might know someone yourself, whom you could ask to spend a day or two with. Alternatively, you could call one or two of the large drug companies and explain your situation, and ask for the name of their representative in your area. Write to them in person, asking if you can shadow them for a day, and offering to buy them lunch. Most reps will be pleased to have company and will be delighted with a free lunch. Many drug companies offer a ‘bounty’ to their employees who introduce candidates for sales jobs, so this could represent both an opportunity for the rep to earn some money, and for you to get a job quicker than you thought!
Do some sales work. In most areas, you can get sales work in shops and pubs. It’s also possible to obtain part-time work with direct sales companies (home improvements, finance, holiday companies, selling over the telephone directly to homeowners). The work is usually commission-only, but it’s easy to get in (don’t say you only want the job for a short while!), the training is often excellent, and although the work can be somewhat routine, you can actually earn quite a lot of money. This really will help you to answer that “why a sales career” question!
Prepare a ‘brag file’ to show people at interviews. This is a compilation about all your successes in life, including all your exam certificates, and any evidence of your success in life, in any field whatsoever. It could include letters of commendation, or thanks from grateful customers or other people, or cuttings from newspapers showing how you saved a dog from drowning, for example.
As a principle, you should maintain this throughout your working life, and add to it constantly. Whenever you do well or obtain someone’s approval, ask them to put something in writing, so you can include it in your file.
Talk to people you know who are involved in sales, in any way. Especially if you are related to people who work in this field, interviewers like to hear that you have a reasonable understanding of what to expect and if you have a close relative involved in sales, that you have regarded that person as a rôle model.
Be prepared to answer the questions:
What do you know about sales? and
What have you done to prepare for a career in sales?
What made you decide why a sales career is for you?
What is the relationship between sales and marketing?
Marketing describes the entire process by which a company brings its products/services to its customers. It is complex and broadly involves:
Either starting with a product or a service, and looking for a market to sell them into, or:
Discovering a need in the market, and producing a product or service to satisfy that need.
Researching the details of the need: what exactly do people want/what problem do they have that needs solving/how do they cope at the moment/who else supplies them/what are the competitive prices?
Conveying the information discovered above to the people in your company who are researching, designing, manufacturing and testing the products/services you hope to supply
Deciding the most effective method of conveying information about your product/service to the target market
Effectively an extension of advertising – a personal method of conveying information to potential customers.
Marketing people define their method as involving Product, Positioning, Pricing and Promotion (deciding what to sell, where to sell it, how much for and how to do it).
Sales is the physical part of the last section i.e. it is a part of the whole marketing picture.
So, you’ve asked yourself “why a sales career?” and now you’ve read this article. If it still sounds like an interesting option it’s time to do something about it. Your best bet is to start by talking to a recruiter as they’ll be able to guide as you make those first steps into a sales career. If you have a scientific education/background then we can help. Seltek specialises in recruiting for commercial positions in the life science and medical industries. You can register with Seltek here or take a look at our current vacancies here. If you don’t have a background in science, you’ll find many specialist sales recruiters on Google.