A career in sales can be extremely lucrative and give you freedom that you don’t get in other roles. With many sales roles offering uncapped commissions, you’ll have the opportunity to write your own pay cheque and often be able to work from home and travel Inter-State or even overseas.
If you don’t have any previous sales experience, where do you start? It’s not as if there’s a Government Apprenticeship ready to step into for sales professionals; but this is also the beauty of starting a sales career. It can be a great adventure and take you on a journey with rapid career advancement and maybe even a springboard to open up your own business and become the face of your own brand.
Whether you are a recent graduate or someone looking to make a move into sales from another vertical, your first year will be the most important in defining your career and will make all the difference to the levels of success you have in the future. This initial period will form your habits, set your personal expectations around work ethic and develop the techniques and style that you will build on throughout your career.
So, here are some tips on the pitfalls and common mistakes that I’ve seen made by people starting out in sales. I’ve focused more on Business-to-Business sales (B2B) but this can also apply to Business-to-Consumer sales roles (B2C);
1 – Don’t make your decision based on the highest base salary that you are offered. Yes, you have to pay the bills, but if you are in sales you should be in it for the dynamic career path it can give you and the high commission that you can make; not just the base salary. A higher base will come in the future, but first you have to prove yourself and learn the trade so don’t base your decision on an extra $5K – $10K per year; think long term.
2 – Don’t chase easy “inbound” sales roles where leads are given to you on a plate. Don’t get me wrong, if client services and account management is your strength and focus, then this isn’t really relevant advice for you. If, however, you see yourself as a hunter and are looking for higher earning potential, the first role in sales shouldn’t be an easy one. Try to find a role that will teach you a holistic approach that includes opening and closing sales where you will learn to think on your feet and adapt to each situation; a role where you will have to “challenge” clients if you think that it’s in the best interest of that business.
3 – Don’t give up. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it. A career in sales has its challenges and you will have your bad days. It’s important to keep at it and keep learning from your mistakes. Often, the first B2B sales role is phone based so bear in mind it’s a number game still and every “no” will get you closer to a “yes”.
4 – Keep asking questions and keep learning. You can always improve and the best way to learn is from a mentor, preferably your manager. Be pro-active about learning and also listen and learn from the top performer in your team. If that person is you; then you’re definitely on the right track!
5 – Sell something that you believe in. If you end up in a role selling something that is not benefiting your customer or something that you just have absolutely no interest in, it will be an uphill battle from day one. This comes back to looking at the base salary as your main driver. If you’re offered a better base for a Company with a high staff turnover, lack of training and / or a product or service that you don’t believe in, it’s probably not the role for you. Sometimes, the base salary is higher for a reason.
6 – Get out of your comfort zone as much as possible. As in life in general; doing thinks that you don’t necessarily want to do, and challenging yourself, is the best way to learn and develop. If you find that you are great pitching the smaller clients but feel less confident pitching larger accounts; make sure you ask for the larger clients to call. If you hate calling Legal firms, make sure you target them more. The moment that you crack through your fear and discomfort is a really rewarding experience and one you’ll be thankful for in the future.
If you can treat your first sales role as a learning experience where you are there to test yourself, develop a skill set and challenge yourself then you will go a long way to lucrative, fulfilling career. Good luck!