If you’re reading this there’s a chance that you’re fairly new to sales. Maybe it’s your first job out of college or maybe you’ve been selling for a year and you’re just not as motivated as you used to be. The good news is, regardless of your situation you haven’t made any mistakes with your initial career choice.
Sales is hard. Even the guys/gals that make it look easy struggle with certain types of prospects. Unlike with other jobs though, any sales experience you can get under your belt will prove to be invaluable at some point in your career. That’s because almost any job you’ll have will contain elements of sales (selling your ideas to coworkers, selling your existing clients on reasons why they shouldn’t switch to a competitor, selling to investors, selling your CEO on the product roadmap, etc.)
Still – committing to a career in sales is an important decision. How do you know if you’re the right person for the job?
Know What Motivates You
Sales people are competitive by nature. The concept of a quota works because it creates a metric they can strive towards and facilitates a competitive environment in the workplace between peers. This is why they tend to come from an athletic background. At one point sports were simply the best way for them to channel their competitive nature until they discovered that they can make money channeling it elsewhere.
How well you handle rejection can also be a good indicator of potential success in this field. No one likes being told no, but if a single rejection completely deflates you and makes you unproductive for the rest of the day you need to be in a role with a higher volume of daily wins. Good sales professionals see a ‘no’ as a step closer to the ‘yes’ they’re looking for. They intrinsically understand that the product/service they’re selling can’t be a great fit for everyone and never give up looking for the right customer.
Know Your Options
Your first job in sales will almost always involve some level of cold calling and/or setting appointments for higher level reps. You should know that this is only a stepping stone that will open up opportunities to a wide variety of sales jobs.
In some companies sales are transactional with short sales cycles and usually a less complicated sell (and product) with fewer decision makers.
Other products take a year to close (see enterprise) with multiple stakeholders and several internal teams involved at some point in the sales process (ie: sales engineers, solutions architects, legal, etc.). This tends to involve a solution sales approach where the seller is more of a consultant that collects data and asks questions to uncover a massive business problem. Ask yourself if you prefer the idea of long term strategic relationship building or quick closes that let you move on to the next deal.
Yet another type of company may have a very strong marketing department (usually coupled with an exceptional product) that feeds warm leads to their entire sales force.
Sales can have many applications in the market, so before you ask yourself “is sales the right career for me?” take a look at any major job board and read through a handful of job descriptions for sales people – you’ll be surprised with the differences you’ll find.
Identify Your Strongest Core Skills
In practice this is not an easy thing to do. Humans tend to overestimate their abilities and skills. This is why it’s so hard to come up with an answer to the question “what’s your biggest weakness?”
Try to be introspective. Would you describe yourself as very analytical? Do you like working on teams or individual projects? Would you rather talk to another human or interact with a machine? Are you good at taking complicated concepts and translating them into digestible insights?
These questions can help you identify the type of career that will make you happiest. Once you figure out your core skills, work hard to improve on them. The number of new opportunities and new markets is growing exponentially every year. Your expertise will be transferable and sought after, but before you become an expert you need to know that you’re in the right role.