16 Reasons Why You Should Work in Sales Right After College
For one, experience is life’s greatest teacher
I believe experience is life’s greatest teacher. For me, that belief manifested in form of a sales job.
Most people don’t realize how many soft skills working in sales can give you. Sales teaches you about people, about communicating value, helping others visualize what you’re saying, and it can even teach you about yourself — your own fears, hesitancies, and bad habits.
In the past three months working in business development at a high-growth startup, I’ve learned more about the way the world truly operates than I did in my entire four years at a nationally ranked university. And from both a personal and professional standpoint, I’ve seen exponential growth in my ability to hold a conversation, practice patience, be a better communicator, and overcome adversity from holding a position in sales.
If you’re at the start of your career, here are 16 reasons why you should look to work in sales:
1. You learn how to talk to people.
You might think you’re a good conversationalist.
Odds are, though, you’re not — or at least not as good as you think you are.
I always saw myself as someone who could walk into a room and strike up a conversation with anyone I please — and was proven dead wrong in my first day as a salesman. The second I hopped on the line with my first prospect, my mouth went dry and my mind went blank. I awkwardly inched my way through a brutal conversation that sounded more scripted than a bad reality TV show.
Three months and hundreds of conversations later, I feel like I’m talking to a family member every time someone answers the line.
The best way to learn how to talk to people is practice — and a sales job guarantees that.
2. It builds confidence.
I used to get nervous hopping on the line with experienced industry moguls.
Now, I talk to each founder and CEO I reach out to and can immediately chat with them like they’re an old friend.
Having to practice talking to people on a regular basis — especially people who are much older and more experienced than you — is an inherent confidence booster. At the beginning, you’re anxious, running through your script or outline furiously and praying you don’t mess up when the other party hops on the line.
But over time, you start to realize that each person you talk to is simply that: a person.
The nerves you used to get slowly fade as you start to recognize how plain silly it is to be intimidated by another human being.
3. It forces you to brave awkward situations.
One of my favorite things I’ve learned working in sales is how to work around awkward situations.
Once your confidence is up, you no longer feel overwhelmed by a long pause in the conversation or embarrassed that you misspoke. You simply shrug it off and move forward.
Awkwardness is natural when talking to strangers — some people you hop on the phone with might even be nervous to talk to you. But after you experience it a few times, you figure out your own unique way around it.
4. It teaches you how to listen.
Active listening is a lot harder than people realize.
Most salespeople hop on the line and look to get through their script as quickly as possible. But the key to making a sale and really connecting with the person on the other end of the line is by listening.
For the most part, prospects are pretty transparent on the phone. The fact they’ve taken the call shows they have a possible need to fill — and they usually reveal that need at the beginning of the conversation.
Being able gather and apply that intel later in conversation is when you know you’ve reached mastery as an active listener. Not to mention, becoming a better listener will inherently make you a better conversationalist outside of work.
5. It challenges your persuasive skills.
It’s never a bad thing to be persuasive.
As a salesperson, your entire job revolves around convincing people your product or service will fill their needs. Sometimes, it’s convincing people they have a need to fill in the first place.
Persuasiveness is a skill you’ll learn to use in every facet of life, from romantic relationships to job opportunities. And a sales position is the quickest (and most effective) way to learn that skill.
6. You become a better problem solver.
Since working in sales, I’ve learned to become an expert problem solver.
By learning how to listen and upping my persuasion game, I’m able to identify a problem a prospect has and quickly figure out how our product will not only offer a solution to their problem — but position our product as the only logical solution.
And being someone who can fix problems is never a bad thing.
7. It teaches you to overcome adversity.
I’ve been told “no” more times than I can count.
Especially when you’re first starting out, this can be extremely discouraging. You feel useless not being able to close a sale and start to doubt why you ever wanted to work in sales.
But soon enough — after consistent practice — that self-doubt goes away. You realize that adversity happens, and it’s actually a great opportunity to learn. Suddenly, “Why am I so bad at sales?” turns to “What can I do better next time?”
Over time, you realize that adversity is a part of life, and instead of allowing defeat, you take it as an opportunity to learn and grow.
8. It teaches the power of persistence.
A sales job teaches you to be persistent in your your efforts to identify that problem (without overstepping boundaries, of course).
On some occasions, prospects purposely are not transparent — they’re skeptical of you. It’s nothing you did — maybe they’ve been burned before and have a low trust propensity. If this is the case, they likely won’t share pain points they’re having.
But remember: They took the call for a reason. You might have to do a little digging, but there is a problem your product can solve for them — find it.
Persistence is another useful life skill that will help you achieve whatever you set your mind to.
9. You learn patience.
Considering society’s obsession with immediacy and convenience, everyone could learn to be a bit more patient.
And a sales position is the best way to learn that patience.
You might have a prospect you’ve been playing phone tag with for weeks. You might get someone on the line who needs constant explaining and re-explaining about what it is you’re selling. Maybe you hop on the line with someone who likes to talk a lot.
Whatever the case, patience is key to moving that person down the pipeline.
And it’s another skill you will absolutely use for the rest of your life.
10. You learn how to stand your ground.
In a sales role, a lot of prospects will expect to control the conversation.
They’ll try to bully you and rattle you and challenge every word you say, assuming that eventually, you’ll cave and give up on the sale.
What they’re really doing is testing you. No one wants work with someone who is incompetent.
11. It forces a different level of understanding.
If you’ve ever sold a product or service, you know how important it is to understand whatever you’re selling, inside and out.
In fact, you really can’t sell anything until you fully understand it — as in, knowing everything from your product’s various applications to any implications of its use. The more you learn about your product, the better you are at selling the product, as it’s easier to speak to any challenging questions brought up.
Having a deep understanding of what you’re selling is vital to moving prospects down the pipeline. And once you learn how to do this for the first product or service you’re selling, it becomes easier and easier to replicate this way of thinking for anything you sell in the future.
12. It forces you to think on your feet.
Almost once a week, I hop on the phone with a prospect who brings up a scenario I haven’t yet encountered.
At the beginning, walking into one of these situations was dreadful. I felt underqualified and unprepared to speak to such personal pain points, and deferred to a conversation with one of my higher-ups. Frankly put, it was embarrassing.
But after a few months of constant conversation, I’ve found a way around those scenarios. I have a better understanding of what I’m selling and am a better active listener.
Even if they’ve brought up a challenging point, I’m able to identify the root of their issue, and provide an answer for that instead — which is enough to get a follow-up call at the very least.
13. You learn how to sell yourself as an expert.
Selling yourself as an expert on anything is a great skill to have.
This comes with having a deep understanding of what you’re selling. Once you’ve practiced the art of the sale on a regular basis, you walk into challenging conversations with the confidence that, when it comes to your product, you know it far better than the prospect you’re on the phone with.
Even if they’ve been in the same industry for a longer period of time, you have the upper hand considering the uniqueness of your product. Use that to your advantage.
The goal should be to establish yourself as an authority on what you’re selling — letting prospects know through your conviction that you’re the right person to be on the phone with.
14. You become a better negotiator.
Everyone should strive to become a better negotiator.
Whether you’re bargaining for a cheaper price on tickets for the big game or trying to convince your potential employer for a better salary, being able to negotiate comes in handy.
A sales job is the best place to learn that.
Even if a prospect says “No,” you learn to work around that and position yourself as someone who is doing them a favor, instead of someone trying to take their money.
And if you position yourself in that light, they’ll be more willing to trust you to follow through on promises made.
15. It forces you to think ahead.
Working in sales teaches you to think of potential problems prospects might face down the road — and how your product can nip those problems in the bud.
This habit will inherently translate into other areas of your life, allowing you to foresee possible outcomes of your decision-making, before actually making a decision.
Being able to solve not-yet-existent problems — regardless of what they are or how big they are — will make your life easier down the road.
16. You become a better communicator.
This goes beyond just learning how to hold a conversation.
Being a great communicator means listening to tonal inflections, verbal and nonverbal cues, and understanding the power of silence, among a list of others.
Working in a sales role will teach you not only how to talk and listen, but how to build relationships and connect with total strangers on an emotional level.