When you’ve decided that you’re ready to take on a position in the highly competitive field of sales, it’s important to first think about your most important strengths in order to narrow your options. If you’re looking for an entry-level sales job, you need to ask yourself one critical question: Am I a hunter or a farmer?
That’s not a trick question, and there’s no wrong answer. But how you answer it will dictate the type of job that’s best for you and how you attack whatever job you land.
“A hunter type of salesperson is great at building a client base from the ground up and excels at identifying targets, prospecting, and closing new business,” said Tom Kelly, a Chicago-based professional sales coach and founder of Potential in Motion. “A farmer type of salesperson enjoys working with existing accounts, growing existing relationships, and cross-selling and upselling the existing client base.”
If you’re a hunter at heart, you probably won’t like a sales job that requires the cultivating temperament of the farmer. Conversely, if you’re a farmer, you’ll likely prefer to leave the hunting to someone who thrives on the thrill of the chase.
“The skill sets are really different, and that’s why this is the number one thing to consider when looking at the type of sales job you’re a good fit for,” Kelly said.
But it’s not the only key variable you’ll need to take into account. Be sure you ask yourself three additional critical questions and understand these key terms:
Inside Sales or Outside Sales?
Hunters are frequently outside sales professionals who call on potential clients in the prospects’ own workplaces. Farmers, on the other hand, are more likely inside sales professionals whose clients come to them.
But these correlations don’t always apply. So the inside-versus-outside question is still essential for you to think about on its own, according to Joshua Crumbaugh, director of sales and marketing for the Huntsville, Ala., office of Platinum Mortgage.
“Let’s face it: We’re all different,” Crumbaugh said. “While some people have an amazing ability to stand out from the crowd, others simply blend in and have difficulty thinking up new, creative ways to stand out, get noticed and keep their audience’s attention.”
So if you don’t necessarily see yourself dazzling people with your actions or personality, “then inside sales is most likely your answer to the question of inside or outside [sales],” Crumbaugh said.
Straight Commission or Salary Plus Commission?
So then there’s salary, and in the sales world, commission. A straight-commission sales job offers no guaranteed salary; you only make money if you sell something. A salary-plus-commission arrangement offers a modest salary plus a percentage of everything you sell.
Why would anyone take a straight-commission sales job? For starters, the commissions are much larger than those found with a salary-plus-commission job, usually 30 percent compared to 5 percent, respectively.
The potential beauty of a straight-commission sales job is that with high risk comes the possibility of high financial rewards, according to Jon Quade, president of Auto Motivators in Lake Mills, Wisconsin.
“A straight-commission plan typically has no ceiling,” Quade said. “In addition, when you reach certain sales levels on commission plans, there will often be bonuses over and above your actual commissions to encourage top performers.”
Use an Established System or Sell Your Own Way?
Many companies and organizations have pre-established sales systems that anyone can learn and follow, said sales trainer Dan Page, president of Boulder-based Innovative Sales Techniques. “There is absolutely nothing wrong with this type of selling. It can be very comfortable, and it puts food on the table for many families in America.”
But, Page said, if you want to draw more actively upon your own creativity and curiosity, you’ll probably want to pursue a sales job that allows you to dig for the underlying story behind what you’re selling — and then independently figure out how to position the product/service so that people will want to buy it.