Stumbling into sales

For the more seasoned salespeople out there:

By a show of hands, when first starting off, how many people picked sales as their first choice for a career?

Not many, I think.

How many people stumbled into sales as a fallback plan?

More, I think.

For those who stuck with it, how many learned to love it?

Plenty, I know.

For college graduates and other young people considering sales as a career, here is a newsflash: most people still stumble into sales. Even bigger newsflash: this presents an amazing opportunity for you stand out from the rest.

With this in mind, ask some key questions:

What do you actually know about sales?

What is your hypothesis on why you would project well as a salesperson?

We all know sales is competitive, but don’t tell an employer you will make a great salesperson simply because you played sports. And stay away from claiming to be a people person. This makes you sound like someone who is stumbling into sales.

Instead, when answering these questions, give answers that are specific and suggest you have done your research and know what to expect from a career in sales. Signal to potential employers that you have your feet planted firmly in reality. The biggest worry for an employer is that you are not prepared and have the wrong expectations. That there exists a cognitive dissonance the size of the Pacific ocean, separating what you expect and what you will confront in your first week, month and year on the job.


Rather than I played sports in college, try this: I know that in sales you deal in nos more than you deal in yeses. When I was in high school I was the best player on the team. When I went to play baseball at school, I was middle of the pack and saw very little playing time during my 4 years. But I stuck with it. Yes, I don’t have sales experience yet, but I am humble and have experience with rejection. I know you have to deal with that in sales.

Rather than I am a people person, try this: Sales is about moving others — to take action and to buy your product or solution. I have not sold products or services, but I have definitely sold people on ideas and taking action. When I organized this fundraiser, I didn’t send out a faceless email and hope for the best. I actually walked through our dining hall and spoke to people one on one every other day in the weeks leading up to the event. I gained their commitment, on paper, to show up and take action. As a result, the fundraiser was a success.

You get the picture.

More than anything, prove to an employer that you are walking clear-headed into sales, that you understand what to expect. Because, for most other job applicants (your competition), they are stumbling.

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