In the last couple of years we have witnessed the economy crash, and the job market dry up.
New graduates are coming out of university and considering career paths they may not have considered at all when starting their courses.
Some are even considering going into the black arts, the most heinous profession of all. No, not bank robbery, or looting… sales.
I didn’t dream of being a salesman when I was growing up. I think my ambition was more along the lines of becoming an Astronaut Pirate (which is still the long-term aim). But, you know what? In the adult world, joining a sales team is not just a good fit for me as a career path – it’s an exciting and dynamic role which I’d never give up.
A far cry from the stereotype
I graduated in 2009 when the job market for 16-25 year olds was at a 15-year low, and I thought my future looked pretty bleak. Many of the jobs advertised were looking for people with five or more years’ experience, and larger organisations seemed to have shut their doors on graduates entirely. After six months of searching and working a part-time job in retail stacking shelves, I somehow managed to find Postcode Anywhere.
I landed a job on the sales team. And, contrary to what many of my fellow university graduate friends seemed to think, it was a far cry from the stereotype of the used car salesman (think Boycie from Only Fools and Horses).
A fantastically rewarding career
This brings me to the main point of this post: if anyone is considering a career in sales, be it as a graduate or someone considering a new career, then I would wholeheartedly encourage them to do so. If you can find the right company it can be a fantastically rewarding career (not just financially but personally), and if you are the type of person that likes to challenge themselves it’s perfect.
My top five tips
My main tips for someone looking for a career in sales are personal to me, and the experience I’ve had. But if I had to list them they would be:
- Find a high-growth company: Ideally a small business rather than a start-up. If you can find a company that has been around for five or more years and may even be just hitting their stride in the global market there can be great opportunities to really make a difference. You might find an established multi-national to be more attractive, but personally I wouldn’t find it exciting being an intern at a large corporation and making coffee for six months.
- Grow a thick skin: You may think you have “the gift of the gab” but in my experience university does nothing to prepare you for the business world. Don’t take criticism personally, and remember: you may have a fantastic degree but when it comes to a career you are still very much learning.
- Be flexible: Reasonably obvious, but going that extra mile can really make a massive difference – not just in how your boss sees you, but by really helping the business your work for by impressing and caring for your customers.
- Be confident: The sales world is full of procurement people. You might get the impression they want nothing more than to belittle your product and pay rock bottom. Sure, they’re looking for the bargain of the century, but they’re also looking for the best product – so you don’t need to make a loss to make a sale. If you believe in yourself and your company you will win more match-ups than you lose. Showing the right amount of confidence in your CV and in interviews can be tricky without spilling over into arrogance, but get the balance of humility and confidence right and you’ll go far.
- DON’T LIE: This is a biggie. The old stereotype of the salesperson is someone who will do anything and say anything to get the sale. This may have been true in the past. It may even still be true in some companies. But there has been a shift in terms of what businesses expect from salespeople and honesty really is the best policy. Again this carries over to your CV and interview technique: getting caught out on a lie will destroy your chance of closing a sale, or more importantly getting a job. (Plus it’s illegal.)
So. To wrap up, if a career in sales has crossed your mind, give it serious consideration. Forget any preconceptions you might have and go for it. In sales you very much get out what you put in, and by applying yourself and really dedicating yourself to your career you can go a long way.