There’s a good chance you never told your kindergarten class you wanted to be a salesperson when you grew up. It’s not often a job people spend their lives aspiring to—but if you’re contemplating a new career path, it might be time to reconsider.
“Unfortunately, I think people stay away from sales because they think of the ‘pushy car salesperson,”’ shares Sarah Ionescu, VP of Sales at eMarketer. “This is a huge misconception.”
On the contrary, sales is a rewarding career that’s great for all kinds of people, from entry-level employees not quite sure of their long-term direction to people looking for a career change later in life. Not only can you thrive in sales with any background, it’s a fantastic launching pad for the rest of your career. You’ll learn highly transferrable skills, experience the thrill of helping people, and get the opportunity to act like your own boss. Plus, it’s one of the “Hottest Predicted Fields of 2016”—meaning there are plenty of job openings waiting for people like you to fill them.
“Sales is an integral part of every business on this planet,” explains Ionescu of why eMarketer, like so many other companies‚ is hiring for tons of sales roles. “Salespeople are the revenue generators of a company—we bring the money in that funds every other part of the business. It’s a very important role, and if you can be successful in sales, then you have valuable and coveted skills that you can bring to any company in any industry.”
Still not sure if it would be a fit for you? We talked to six salespeople—from account executives all the way to a vice president of sales—to get their take on what the job is really like, and why you might want to start browsing sales jobs today.
You Don’t Need a Sales Background—or to Be an Extrovert
Whether you’re looking for your first job out of college or your fifth, not having a background in sales won’t hold you back. In fact, it might help—you’ll be able to bring a diverse perspective and skill set to the role.
“Our best salespeople often don't come from sales,” shares Mark Wasmund, Sales Manager for Western North America at The Muse. “For example, one of our top sellers used to work in consulting. We’ve worked with her to develop a few sales tactics, but she already excelled at listening, giving thoughtful recommendations, and thinking intelligently.”
Coming into sales from a different background isn’t an uncommon story: Jeffry Harrison, an Account Executive at The Muse, got into sales after being in the military, while eMarketer’s Ionescu majored in journalism and planned on working in PR before finding her place in sales. “As I was applying for jobs, a mentor suggested that I explore a career in sales, and my gut reaction was ‘no way,’” she shares. “Luckily, that mentor challenged me to think outside of my comfort zone...I decided to give sales a shot and found out that I was actually really good at sales and, more importantly, I enjoyed it.”
So what sort of background will be helpful if you’re stepping into a sales role? “The people who thrive in a sales environment—regardless of whether they thought they would be good at sales or not—are intelligent, curious, coachable, resilient, and solution-oriented,” says Ionescu.
Steph Gilmore, Senior Director of Sales for eMarketer, adds that you don’t have to be extroverted either, another common misconception about the role. “You don’t need to be an aggressive, swaggering person—you just want to be interested in conversing with people and trying to understand their business.”
You’ll Learn So Much More Than Persuasion
Sales gives you many transferrable skills and insights into the business world, making it a fantastic job if you’re still not sure what you want to do with the rest of your life.
“Working in sales teaches you a lot—how businesses operate, how they make money, how decisions are made, how to communicate, how to negotiate, how to get things done,” Ionescu explains. “Getting exposure to so many different aspects of business will be useful no matter what you end up doing.” Plus, she adds, the job gives you a lot of access: “Being a successful salesperson will expose you to the leaders within your company, and it can open a lot of doors.”
Beyond getting an inside knowledge of businesses, you’ll become a better professional yourself.
eMarketer Sales Executive Taylor Conley touts communication as one of the top transferrable skills she’s gained: “You have to think of ways to explain a product or service that makes it as simple and appealing as possible, in a way that will make the most sense to whoever you’re speaking with.” Kathryn Fries, Senior Director of Sales at eMarketer, adds problem solving and perseverance to the list: “More often than not, you get pushback from people on why they’re unable to or don’t want to purchase your product. This is a ‘problem,’ and a big part of the sales process is thinking of creative ways to solve this problem. This trains you to think strategically in all facets of your life and to remain persistent.”
Learn more about what it’s like to work in sales at eMarketer—and find a sales job of your own!
The other salespeople we talked to listed positivity, adaptability, emotional intelligence, confidence, resilience, and time-management among the transferrable skills they’d picked up from sales. “Plus,” Conley adds, “it will also help you market yourself for any job that you’re interested in in the future.”
With all those proven skills, you’re well set up to be a desirable candidate for many positions moving forward. “I haven't figured out what I want to be when I ‘grow up’, but no matter what it is, I know sales is a crucial skill,” says Harrison. “Whether you're a writer selling a story or an engineer selling a new idea, everyone can benefit from sales skills.” And if you decide you never want to leave the field, there is plenty of opportunity to move up. “I think what really solidified my decision to go into sales was the opportunity for growth,” says Conley. “If you work hard, you’ll see tangible results, which is really exciting for someone who is fairly young in his or her career.”
It’s Highly Rewarding
Sales is obviously rewarding in a very traditional, tangible sense—commission structures give you the opportunity to make more money the harder you work.
But most of the salespeople we talked to shared how rewarding the career is to them in deeper ways. “It’s about helping people,” shares Harrison. “Salespeople need to find companies with a problem their solution can fix.”
Conley agrees, saying it’s exciting to sell a product “knowing it’ll help people do their job better and their company grow faster.”
Plus, salespeople love how self-directed the job is—while you have the support of a team, you control your own agenda and also directly control your results, meaning when you do well, you can feel proud knowing it’s because of your hard work. “You are responsible for your own success, and the sky is the limit with how successful you can be,” says Harrison.