Thinking About Giving Sales a Try?

Salesman working late at computer, using hands-free headphones talking on telephone
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Welcome to the wonderful world of sales! Where your end-of-the-day reward for hours of cold calling is to be hung up on.

Get ready for meeting after meeting with clients who may never sign a contract, all while attempting to memorize sales forecasts, pipeline updates, product trainings, and stress-management techniques for dealing with the demands of a 24-hour sales cycle. Jargon, demanding customers, low-priced competitors, and travel await you.

If you're curious as to why people would actually choose a career in sales, it begins with the opportunity to earn a lot of money and feeds on the allure of hard-won prestige within a given industry. In most cases, the salespeople who can endure these challenges of the job (and earn the most) are those who are entirely possessed by the satisfaction of closing deals.

Below are a few observations about why sales may or may not be the career choice for you.

Let's Talk About Money

While successful sales professionals can and do earn substantial income, sales has also been called the easiest, lowest-paying job in America.

In most sales organizations, 80% of commissions are earned by 20% of the team, and those who work harder than the rest (i.e., those who show up early, stay late, and are committed to improving their sales skills) tend to earn the majority of the cash. The sales team exists in an active, competitive state at all times, broken up by seasonal moments of sheer panic, eerie calm, and rigorous customer service.

Start Low, Aim High

Candidates with no sales experience should hope for an entry-level position in which to cut their teeth and learn about their team. Starting at the bottom is nothing to be afraid of or embarrassed about; rather, it's a predictable and necessary component to understanding and improving the organization. You must also anticipate the workload you're likely to be handed as an entry-level salesperson, which will commonly consist of undesirable accounts, devoid of trust for you and your brand.

While this is not always the case, entry-level positions naturally require hard work without the immediate gratification of sales, compensation, or encouragement. Most sales teams have a high turn-over rate and are logically cautious about giving large accounts to new, untested sales representatives.

Make a habit of reasonable promises to any account, large or small, and they will come to trust you. Meanwhile, don't get discouraged by the process of repairing undervalued accounts on behalf of your team. Smart sales organizations know that they must actively develop new reps in order for them to become top performers. If they don't provide enough opportunity to new hires, executives know that the company will lose its junior salespeople long before they close large, profitable deals.

With this in mind, target your job search at companies that provide training programs and reward effort with greater commissions.

The Truth About Freedom

If you're considering an outside sales position, you should anticipate spending the majority of your time visiting with customers, while owning the project management and scheduling elements of each workday. You will almost certainly be assigned a sales quota but will retain the initiative for where you spend most of your time.

Inside sales requires a slightly different, more sedentary skillset, dedicated to growth and expectation management rather than travel, fast-talking, and cold calls.

If you want to go golfing or see a movie as an outside sales rep, you'll be able to do so; if you choose to take two-hour lunches or run home to take a quick nap on the couch, that's your prerogative. But always remind yourself that sales can be the easiest, lowest-paying job in America, and expect to draw the attention of your sales manager every month.

Successful sales require unrelenting movement and persistence by the salesperson. Don't get into sales if you tire easily or intend to spend the majority of your time on relaxing or introverted endeavors. To earn the sense of freedom enjoyed by those at the top of many sales teams, prepare yourself for hard work and the enduring pressure to hit your goals while in view of the entire organization.