Unfortunately, most graduates leave university with a substantial amount of debt and a career in sales in one of the best jobs to repay that debt quickly and make some serious money. Leading Sales Trainer Andy Preston explains how a good sales job will provide the best opportunities, rewards and lifestyle that many ex-graduates are enjoying now.
When thinking about entering sales, it is important to consider what to expect from the role. New sales graduate’s experiences will vary greatly depending on the company and the sector they are working in. Some have ‘work hard, play hard’ cultures with short sales cycles, lots of cold calling and very hectic schedules. Others, particularly those with longer sales cycles, focus more on strategic selling and corporate thinking.
Sales is one of the very few roles where your income can be solely determined by your own efforts. It is a great equaliser as ultimately the job isn’t about how intellectual you are; it’s about doing the basics well, and consistently.
And of course there are often extensive and exciting travel opportunities, along with the potential to make a lot of money along the way!
The key challenges in this industry are being able to maintain motivation, desire and confidence. I’ve seen many people leave the industry because they didn’t focus on these three key areas and didn’t succeed as a result. Sales is not about intellectual ability or intelligence, it is about doing simple things on a consistent basis.
The biggest reward is undoubtedly the income, with the ability in some cases to be earning a six figure sum within a very short period of time. There are many opportunities to travel and the benefits available through commission and incentive schemes (including cars, luxury holidays and cash bonuses) cannot be matched by any other industry.
How do graduates go about getting a job in sales?
There are many routes into sales but the most popular are graduate recruitment schemes, signing up to a specialist recruitment company or attending Graduate Recruitment fairs where you can get a real feel for which company’s you’d like to work for and which positions you would be most suited to.
Many graduates simply send off CV’s to numerous companies and then sit back and hope for a call back, but if you really want to make an impression, what better way to get the attention of a Sales Director than to get on the phone and sell yourself to them! When I was a Sales Director, if a budding young graduate had demonstrated enough tenacity, confidence and motivation to actually call me and pitch themselves to me I would have probably hired them on the spot! Sadly, very few new graduates have the confidence and courage to try this approach!
What sort of qualifications do graduates need for sales?
To be a good salesperson?...None whatsoever! I know many successful salespeople who weren’t very good at school which goes to prove that it’s not down to intelligence or academic ability but the practical application of basic skills in a consistent manner.
A degree is of course extremely valuable and earns graduates the right to get into the particular job they want at the level they want, but once in that position it will be down to the individual to prove themselves in that role – and this is down to the individuals attributes and desire to succeed.
What sort of work experience is best?
Where possible, any kind of corporate work experience whilst at university is a big advantage, whether it is through a gap year, work placement or part time work. Call centre and sales related positions are beneficial as they demonstrate that the graduate can handle the pressures associated with a sales role and have the rights skills to do well. Employers cannot afford to invest time and money in a graduate only to have them walk out a few months into the programme because they don’t like it, so in this context, previous work experience is often a good indicator.
But students shouldn’t worry if they can’t get any corporate experience prior to applying. I often hear new graduates complain that they can’t get a job because they don’t have any experience, but this is just a classic case of not being able to handle objections – ironically a key skill required in sales!
Experience in sales doesn’t guarantee that the person is any good at it, so inexperienced graduates need to focus on why they are good for the job and what they can bring to the organisation, rather than dwelling on the negatives.
Attributes of a good salesperson include confidence, resilience, tenacity, determination, desire, passion and enthusiasm. Essentially someone who can demonstrate these human qualities in a way which doesn’t come across as being arrogant but shows the resilience required to handle the knocks that come with the job.
How can graduates increase their chances of getting a good job in sales?
As well as the attributes mentioned above, it is crucial for new graduates to make a good impression at every step. Graduates need to find out what the recruiters are looking for and position themselves as the solution they need, delivering a strong, proactive response which makes it hard for the recruiter not to hire them!
Tips for dos and don’ts in interviews with sales recruiters.
Don’t forget that recruiters are in business to place the right candidates in a role, that’s how they make their money. Don’t treat them as friends, or give them any reason to doubt your ability in the role. Be confident and don’t be talked into applying for a position which you don’t feel is right. There are a variety of jobs out there so don’t be pressured into taking the first one that is offered.
As the UK’s leading sales trainer, I’m obviously biased but if you want a career that’s dynamic, exciting, varied and rewarding, then nothing can beat a career in sales. There is a real shortage of good sales people in the UK and graduates who can learn to sell early on in their career will set themselves up for success in the future, regardless of what career they eventually settle into. For example, if you have skills in generating your own business (as salespeople do) this will stand you in good stead should you decide to set up your own business further down the track.
Andy Preston is a leading expert on Sales and selling for small businesses. You can see more about Andy at www.andy-preston.com