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Career Planning

Sales Not for You? Don't Be So Sure

If this is what you're picturing, you may be pleasantly surprised by some of the newer sales positions.

Peter Vogt, Monstertrak Career Coach

March 19, 2009

Sales Not for You?  Don't Be So Sure

Sales -- to many a recent college grad, it's the dreadful career path of last resort. A quick look at posts on the “Career Planning for College Students” message board shows:

  • "I've been looking up jobs on Web sites and in local newspapers. I have had very little response, and the responses I do get are for sales jobs, which I am not interested in."
  • "I got a BSBA in marketing in 2001, and for some reason people think that the only thing you can do with a marketing degree is sales...not for me."
  • "I'm looking for something analytical, but instead I get a lot of sales position solicitations. At this time, should I just settle for one of these sales spots?"

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Sales: No Way or Make Way?

Of course, it's fine to decide against a job in sales. But too often, college students and recent grads rule out sales positions based on little or no real thought or investigation. They hear the word “sales,” and they immediately say to themselves, “No way!” Case closed.

If you've never pictured yourself -- or even casually considered -- making your way in sales, you may be making a mistake. Instead, think about how working in sales might benefit you and how it might be different from what you think you know about sales.

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More Than Widgets

It's easy to fall into the trap of believing that the only things being sold in the marketplace are products, and useless ones at that. As one job seeker I worked with put it, “I won't do sales. I don't want to go around talking to people and trying to sell them stuff they don't want.”

This statement is misguided on several levels, but two stand out:

  • Who's to say the job seeker would have to sell stuff -- i.e., products?
  • Why wouldn't this job seeker's prospective customers want what's being sold?

You may sell a product if you go into sales, but you might also sell a service or even a cause of some sort. If you find a product, service or cause you believe in and then take it to people who might also believe in it, you could find yourself in a gratifying career.

Sales Experience Is Applicable Everywhere

Business leaders, many of whom started out in sales, believe that if you can succeed in sales, you can succeed almost anywhere. Sales is often viewed as the training ground for the business standouts of tomorrow. Why?

Sales is all about understanding a product (or service or cause) in depth, teaching other people about it (using your written and verbal communication skills) and showing those people how they would benefit. No matter where your career may go in five, 10 or 30 years, the communication and persuasion skills developed in sales will be crucial to your success.

Evergreen Opportunities -- Even in a Slump

No job is truly recession-proof, but sales careers come close. Why? Because when organizations are struggling, they typically need to increase revenues, decrease expenses or do both to survive and, eventually, thrive again.

Sales professionals should increase an organization's revenues, so they're less likely to be laid off in times of struggle. They're more likely to get hired during the tough times, too.

Sales Can Be Lucrative

While it may not happen immediately, if you become skilled at selling you can easily earn more than $100,000 a year. The secret may be a sales job that offers not only a salary, but also a commission on the sales you make.

According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, members of the Class of 2004 who have landed entry-level positions in sales are earning base salaries of $33,779 on average, not including commissions.

Don't dismiss a sales career out of hand, without at least exploring the possibilities in some depth. If you do, you may well be selling yourself -- and a potentially rewarding profession -- short.

To learn more, visit Monster Sales.

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