So if you’re interested in starting out in sales, or you did what I recommended in my last episode and figured out what kind of first job you want, and it happens to be in sales… this one’s for you: I’m gonna sell to you the upsides and downsides of being in sales early on in your career, and hopefully get you interested in that kind of job.
Bolded parts are Timestamps for the podcast. Below are my notes for the episode. Follow me at @mkwernicke / @solutionsoriented on Instagram for more content.
Today I’m going to talk about sales and why I believe that many of you should get your first job in sales.
When I was in my early college days, my main motivators in picking a career path were related to money and opportunity – I come from an expat family, so a lot of my youth was spent traveling the world. I wanted to have the same kind of job that my dad had… So the first thing I did was look for careers that paid a lot. The careers with the highest average salaries were all things that didn’t appeal to me: sports, medicine, piloting, engineering… except for being an executive somewhere. I didn’t even think about entrepreneurship at this point, but we’ll talk about that topic in a future episode.
My dad’s quite high up in the corporate hierarchy nowadays, so when I asked for his insight, he told me that the one job that has the ability to out-scale executive salary was – you guessed it – in sales. My next step was to research sales – really research it – and this is largely what led me to double down on developing my leadership and speaking skills while in college.
Why? Because I think sales gets a bad reputation, when in reality it can be a really fun, engaging and high-paying job.
I feel the need to talk about this because there are a lot of misconceptions about what kind of work “sales people” do. First and foremost – everyone is in some way, shape or form, in sales. Marketing people sell. HR people sell. Finance people sell. Ops people sell. Entrepreneurs live to sell. In my experience, when people talk about sales casually in the Philippines, their mind goes to that “financial advisor” trying to sell you the most expensive insurance plan on LinkedIn, that dude sweating his dick off in an ill-fitting suit trying to sell you a condo in a mall or that telco agent calling you in the middle of a busy day, trying to get you to sign up for a more expensive post-paid plan.
Those are all types of sales people, but not the kind of sales people I’m talking about – they’re largely B2C sales people who work on 1% or lower conversion rates. The kind of sales people I want to talk about are the ones that are selling to a more specific audiences – so generally more B2B sales. Business to business, because that’s where I have the most experience. My B2C sales experience is more in the context of leadership – selling ideas to receptive audiences and developing them through those ideas.
The obvious benefit: Income proportional to effort (developing discipline)
- The thing I love the most about sales is that you can take the advice you see on the internet, try it out, and see results immediately.
- Whether it’s a pitching tactic, whether it’s a networking idea, whether it’s something to improve your relationships with people – you’re have the opportunity to try those immediately and see possible results in your next commission check.
- In a lot of other jobs, you can apply concepts such as “working harder and working smarter” all day, and yes, those will have a significant impact down the line. They’ll make you a better, more effective employee and therefore raise your value and likelihood of getting promoted… but that could take years of time until you see an impact. In sales, you get that immediately.
- You’ll develop discipline. Sales people tend to have a fairly average base salary, but the commission is where it’s at.
Teaches people skills and strong communication
- Sales is all about communication. When I have to really boil down my job, it’s “I talk to people until they buy something or until they have no other questions”
- You’ll master all forms of communication: on the phone, via email and in person – the basic business items that range from a proper handshake all the way to making those follow-up emails to move a lead along your pipeline, you’ll learn to read people.
- Public speaking and presenting information – you’ll frequently find yourself making proposals, pitch decks, powerpoint presentations to illustrate the values of whatever you’re selling… after spending a few long nights making slides, you’ll quickly master the ways of presenting information.
- Negotiation is something that all sales people learn over time – you’ll be able to tell when a potential client is low-balling you, how to do your research into who you’re dealing, understanding what exactly the customer wants for you to be able to justify your pricing – those are all key skills that few people outside of sales develop.
Develops a network rapidly, which provides opportunity
- The best jobs you’ll land in your career likely won’t come from job ads. They’ll come from your network – people you’ve met at events, clients you’ve sold something to, relationships you’ve established with other people.
- My LinkedIn network and stack of calling cards grows by like 25-40 people per month, depending on how actively I’m attending events and how many potential clients I meet. All of those are potential referrers for my next job, or potential clients for when I build my own company in a few years’ time.
Allows you to get hands-on with all business functions – from marketing to sales to ops to finance
- A common misconception among people that aren’t in sales is that sales is just about convincing people to buy – WRONG.
- Sales is about building relationships and bringing value to your customers. You’re not just selling them a product, you’re also selling them the experience they get with your company, which includes you making sure that the operations teams are delivering properly and that your client is getting a high quality experience.
- You’re even going to be involved in the invoicing and payment process – because you’re going to want to make sure that your client pays on time so you can get your well-deserved commission.
- You’ll understand the challenges of marketing, because they’re one of your primary sources of leads, so you want to push them to give you the best leads they can, and feed them with insights from customers to enhance their strategies.
- Hell, you’ll even touch on HR at some point. Recruitment is always going to be a thing, and vetting new sales people should be done by existing sales people, to see if they’re a good culture fit, understand the product and have the right mindset to represent the company.
This all leads to personal/professional development and opens up more career paths down the line
- In sales, product knowledge is key, and you’ll rapidly learn about the industry you’re in and associated with, very quickly
- This is a great way for you to determine your career path – perhaps you noticed you liked working with marketing more than anything, so you can shift to a marketing role. Perhaps you realized this industry isn’t for you – great, you now have a skillset you can bring to almost any industry.
Welcome to sales. If you have any questions or insights, I’d love to hear them. Feel free to drop me a line to suggest topics or to ask questions!