It’s funny to look back at old TV shows and movies to see what a “salesperson” does. Picture a guy in a suit and fedora, with a Joker-like grin, knocking on every neighborhood door to expound on the gee-whiz capabilities of a new vacuum cleaner, or the educational value of a set of encyclopedias.
Times have changed, but the need for good salespeople remains. And for a new college graduate, that can be an exciting prospect. Here are some benefits and skills required for a career in sales:
1. New day, new challenge: As Marie Larsen notes for recruiter.com, “The reason why many people wind up burnt out when it comes to their jobs is the fact that work is always the same-old, same-old each day.” Those in sales, however, often find much more variety. The elements are often built into the position — get out of the office, pound the pavement, talk to new people, make contacts. That can make a sales role much more attractive than being stuck in a cubicle for eight hours a day.
2. Quality communicators wanted: Conversational skills are crucial in a sales career, but that doesn’t mean incessant yapping. Jacquelyn Smith, who writes for Forbes, discussed the topic with Art Sobczak, president of BusinessByPhone.com, in a November 2013 story. “A great salesperson asks questions and spends most of the time listening to the customer and understanding who they are and what they want,” Sobczak said, noting that the percentage of listening-to-talking should be about 80-20. “If you’re really talkative, a sales job may not be right for you.”
3. Job security: The economy’s rollercoaster ride over the past decade has meant layoffs and buyouts in all kinds of industries. The good news is that, in most cases, salespeople are always going to be needed. Sales coach and consultant Thomas Phelps notes that cutting salespeople translates into less revenue, which is naturally counter-productive. And in worst-case scenarios, those who do get cut likely won’t be out of work for long. “Every business that sells a product or service needs effective salespeople in order to drive their revenues,” he writes for about.com. “If you are good in sales, you have tremendous market value.”
4. A bright future: Not to get too ahead of ourselves here, but once someone in sales is established and successful, a frequent next step is a promotion to sales manager. This often includes new duties, including recruiting, training and guiding young salespeople to help meet their goals. Leading companies will offer a clear sales career track. U.S. News and World Report ranked the sales manager role in its top 20 jobs in business. It notes a report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, showing that employment for sales managers will grow by more than 8 percent by 2022. And it quotes Bob Kelly of the Sales Management Association on the kind of production that is often required in that role. “Hiring managers want to know that a sales manager is about implementation and is action-oriented,” Kelly said. “It’s not enough for a sales manager to make more sales themselves — they have to make the rest of the team more productive.”
5. Winning! Pardon the Charlie Sheen flashback, but there is something to be said for feeling victorious about your work. A career in sales could be a great way to have that on a consistent basis. “There is nothing like the feeling of closing a big deal that not only puts a substantial bonus in your wallet, but also helps secure the jobs of support and admin staff,” Phelps writes. “Knowing that your efforts beat out your competition and helped your customer solve a business issue can be more rewarding than the income earned.”