How to Get a Sales Job – The Complete Guide

Jobs in sales can be a great opportunity for people willing to work hard. It’s one of the few career choices where you can truly control your own income. Is sales right for you? Do you know what it takes to succeed in this field? This post will discuss what you need to know in detail.

What Should You Look for in a Sales Job?

If you peruse the job boards with any regularity, you’re aware that there is no shortage of sales jobs available. But how can you tell which jobs will be right for you and earn the most career and income potential?

Here are a few factors to look for. Some of these may be listed in the job posting, but if there is not enough information, don’t hesitate to ask about it in the interview.

Unlimited earnings.

Some companies will cap commissions, leaving you with little motivation to continue selling once you have maxed out your compensation. It’s not a smart business practice, but some companies still do this.

Realistic quotas.

A lot of organizations have a target you are expected to reach as part of your job. There may even be a minimum amount you are expected to sell before you are eligible for commission. Ask how quotas are determined and what percentage of the current sales team regularly reaches that milestone.

In-demand product.

You shouldn’t expect your job as a salesperson to be easy, but it shouldn’t be impossible either. Ice cubes are a lot easier to sell in Acapulco than Alaska, so have a good idea what you will be selling and to whom. Strong competitors can be a good indicator of the desirability of the product. If no one else is selling it, it could be because you are the first to market. It can also be that no one wants it.

Training and support

You should come into the job with some basic sales skills or have at least have read a sales and business book or 2. But you’ll still need training and support that is specific to the product or service you are selling in order to be a success.

At a minimum, you should expect the following training:

• Orientation to the company and culture
• Training on the internal systems such as CRM or reporting
• Industry-specific terminology and practices training
• Detailed training on the product or service you will be selling
• Ongoing sales training as the market and industry changes
• Personal Development training options

Additionally, a company that wants to see its sales people succeed rather than “churn and burn” will offer the following support.

• Technology to help you perform your job effectively.
• Sales collateral or samples to offer your prospects
• Administrative support so that you’re not bogged down in excessive paperwork.
• Sales engineers or tech support available if what you are selling is technical in nature.

What Skills Do You Need to Work in Sales?

Your success in a sales career can depend on a variety of factors, both general to the sales field and specific to the product or industry you are in. Here are a few that can indicate that sales is the right job for you or that you should spend some time working to develop.

Communication skills.

At its heart, sales is a job that’s about talking to people. You must be comfortable asking questions, developing solutions and persuading people that what you are offering is a resolution to their problems. That doesn’t mean you must be an extrovert to be a successful salesperson. When you mention sales to some, they automatically picture the gregarious, back-slapping car salesman. On the contrary, introverts can be exceptional solution-sellers. They will listen carefully to a prospect’s pain points, read between the lines and go deep to learn how they can help them most. There is a sales career option for virtually every personality type.

Industry-specific sales skills

Depending on the nature of your chosen sales field, there are different abilities and interests you must bring to the table. If you are selling computer hardware or software, you should have a degree of comfort with complex technology. If you sell pharmaceuticals or medical devices, a medical background or degree can be helpful. If you sell products into zoos or veterinary practices, you may be more successful if you are an animal lover.

This level of comfort and experience with the industry you are selling is important so that you can speak the language of the people you are selling to. Your interest in the field will also be conveyed in your enthusiasm. This can give you a leg up on the competition.

Soft skills

There are some intangibles that can go into being a successful salesperson, particularly for the long-haul. Almost anyone can succeed with low-hanging fruit, for example, if the economy is great, you have little competition, and your price is low. That’s what they call being an “order taker.” The order seems to just fall in your lap, and all you have to ask is how many do you want and where would you like it delivered.

Building a successful sales career takes a little more than that. You’ll need to be:

• Self-motivated
• Honest
• Committed to learning
• Empathetic
• Goal-oriented
• Persistent
• Resilient

What are the Different Types of Sales Jobs?

If you are considering a career in sales, it’s helpful to know what your options are, either as an entry-level applicant or a career-minded individual who wants to know the full potential of the path ahead of them. Here are a few of the positions that fall under the general category of sales.

Business Development Representative / Sales Executive / Account Executive

This sales job is commonly considered to be a “hunter” position. A business development rep is charged with going out and finding new business. You will typically be assigned an area or vertical to cover, but you may get no company-provided leads. If you have a go-getting personally and can easily bounce back from rejection, this can be a challenging but lucrative position. Successful BDRs treat their jobs almost like a sport and are driven by the thrill of the hunt. This is the position in which companies are most likely to take a chance on an inexperienced candidate who is eager to prove themselves.

Account Manager

These salespeople are likely to have more experience than the BDR and excel at relationship building. They will have a set list of accounts that they are expected to maintain and nurture. They are expected to continually grow the sales within that account list while keeping these clients happy. Account managers may or may not be permitted to prospect for additional customers to add to their account base.

Some companies will also use BDRs to develop a client base through prospecting and promote them to account managers once they have assembled a large enough customer list to manage.

Field Sales Representative

Some businesses are large enough to have a regional or national customer base. These companies will hire field or outside salespeople who will work remotely, often from an office in their home. These positions typically require a lot of travel either by air or car. You need to be truly self-motivated to succeed in this role because there is no hand-holding. Your success or failure is in your own hands. This is also considered a “hunter” role.

Regional Sales Manager

These leaders are frequently promoted from the ranks of the best salespeople. They must understand the sales process and what qualities make for the most successful sales reps. As an RSM you will be expected to keep your team motivated, set individual and team quotas, analyze data, prepare reporting, conduct training and reviews, and manage sales territories. You may also be required to meet an individual quota (A selling manager) by developing your own sales.

In addition, you may also be involved in hiring, promoting or disciplining members of the team. You may attend inter-departmental, regional and national meetings.

Sales Engineer

If you have both technical and sales skills, you may want to consider a sales engineer career. This combined skill set is rare and therefore much sought-after. You will probably work side-by-side with sales reps on challenging technical or solution sales. In addition, You may or may not have a sales quota, but this can be a lucrative sales career. You may need a technical degree to qualify, although some sales engineers are self-taught on the job.

Director of Sales

This position typically has several RSM as direct reports, and may get involved in the day-to-day. This role is a strategic one, reporting to the Vice President of Sales. This is normally a salaried position with bonuses tied to the performance of the company as a whole or their direct reports.

Vice President of Sales

This is usually the highest ranking position in the sales field. The VP of sales is involved in strategies for overall growth and profitability of the company. They should be able to anticipate market trends and be cognizant of competition. Successful VP candidates will have strong leadership skills and be comfortable interacting with individuals in executive or board-level roles.

Common Sales Compensation Plans

There are a variety of ways in which salespeople are compensated. It depends on the industry, your experience level and the nature of the product you are selling

Straight Salary

This is a rare sales compensation option. Employers don’t like it because with no ”skin in the game” there is no motivation for the salesperson to overachieve. True salespeople don’t like it because they can’t earn more by working harder which is a driving motivator for most sales professionals.

Salary Plus Commission

This is a more common plan because it offers both the security of a salary and the motivation of added commission. The tricky part about this plan is for employers to offer a salary that is high enough to be adequate, without being so high that individuals are not all that motivated to earn commissions.

Commission Only

For some sales reps, this is an ideal plan particularly if commissions are uncapped. The drawback is that some companies will over-hire and undertrain because they are not out any money. It can also create an unhealthy level of competition if clear territory lines are not drawn.

Draw against Commission

This hybrid compensation is relatively common, although some companies offer this only to new reps to give them a chance to build up their sales funnel. A certain amount of money is advanced each pay period. The sales rep does not begin receiving a commission until enough sales are booked to pay back the draw.

How to Get into Sales Without Experience or a Degree

Sales is one of the few high-paying jobs that don’t always require experience or a degree. If sales sounds like an interesting career choice to you, here are some tips that can help you make a great impression and land your first sales job.

Be persistent. The same skills that will make you a top sales person could help you get your foot in the door. Identify a few companies you would like to work with and find out who the decision makers are. Use your best skills to grab their attention, whether that means working your contacts or reaching them through social media.

Target your market. Show them you know who you are “selling” to by customizing your resume to the job posting or pain points you have identified in your research. It’s a great way to show your skills in action.

Be willing to start at the bottom. Getting your first sales job may mean taking the worst territory in a low commission organization. It can be a big risk for you, but if you prove yourself, you’ll be set for long-range success.

Interview Tips for a Sales Position

A solid interview performance is essential in earning a sales position. While an accountant, for example, can only describe their suitability for a position in an interview, your sales and presentation skills are on display for the interviewer to evaluate on the spot. Here’s how to make a great impression.

Know the company – and the role. Research the company thoroughly so that you know what they do best and what they struggle with. Examine the job post thoroughly, reading between the lines to see what they are really looking for.

Prepare answers for common questions. Once in a while, an interviewer will throw you a curve ball, but most questions can be anticipated. Expect questions like these:

• What was your toughest sale?
• What was your biggest failure and how did you overcome it?
• Describe your sales style.
• How do you get past gatekeepers?
• What was your quota at your last job? Did you achieve it every month/quarter/year?

Sometimes you’ll hear the old, “sell me this pen,” but this trick is becoming less common.

Be ready to ask (smart) questions. An interview is a two-way interaction. You want to ask questions that show you are a sharp, thoughtful individual, but you also want to uncover the information you’ll need to know to determine if it’s the right fit. Ask questions like these:

• What do your most successful sale people have in common?
• What are the biggest obstacles to closing a sale?
• Why is this position open?
• Are commissions capped or unlimited?
• Do the majority of salespeople hit quota every month?
• Is the environment more cooperative or competitive?

Ask for the job. The biggest mistake you can make in an interview for a sales job is leaving without closing the deal. If the job sounds right for you, tell them you are interested and believe you’re the guy they need. Briefly explain why and ask what the next steps are.

Where Can You Find Sales Job Opportunities?

If you keep your eyes open, you’ll find opportunities in your daily life, whether you see something on social media, or your uncle mentioning an opening at his office. Look online for postings or investigate the options at some of your favorite businesses. For a more targeted search, consider working with a firm like The Porter Group. We are a team of sales professionals who specialize in placing corporate sales professionals. We would be glad to see if there is a fit with one of our clients’ openings. Check out our job bank today.