Job Hunting
March 1, 2005 9:46 AM   Subscribe

If you were going to start looking into getting a job in sales where would you start? More specifically how would you determain what type of sales you would do?

I am going to be looking for a different job in the near future and almost all my life I have been told I would be good at sales. In fact, when I worked retail I was. I love dealing with people and I love the energy of it all. I also like the fact that most sales jobs that require a degree of some sort have a dress code. Something about looking one's best and selling is just appealing to me. Problem is, other than the year of retail, my other jobs have been computer oriented (tech support, project management, programming...) and I know that it would be hard to sell something I didn't believe in. Any advice?
posted by thebwit to Work & Money (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Yes. Yes. Yes.

If you like the company you work for, then I would strongly advise asking the sales manager about a position. Tell him you want to learn sales. It is a skill with techniques to be learned like any other. Professional sales people, by and large, are big on mentoring rookie salesmen because they get to start fresh and teach you their way. If that isn't applicable, then I would identify something you might enjoy selling, and start out with an Inside Sales job. That will teach you the ropes, get you going and on your way to learning Outside Sales.

If you like the idea of selling because of the dress code, you need to reconsider. Here's the downside:

Sales is hard, hard work. Of every job I've ever held, it's the most difficult. It is often painful, disappointing and demoralizing. Most people think sales people are slime. Get used to the idea of everyone putting you in the same mental niche as used car salesmen. When you're prospecting clients, realize that they don't want to talk to you, no matter how good your "solution" is. There are exceptions, of course, but soliciting new business is....rough.

Have thick skin. You'll need it. In telcom and IT, sales people are the ones whom everyone in the company hates, because sales people tend to push the envelope and then Operations has to make it happen. It's stressful.

You need to be motivated by money and the desire to win. I know it sounds corny, but it's true. Sales people, in most organizations, make the most money, more than the CEO in some cases.

Finally, the most successful salesmen have one common trait: They work their asses off. They are well-compensated, but it's tremendous loads of research, phone calls, emails, presentations and other crap before you actually get to make the pitch. And more often than not, the answer is no. You have to be willing to take that punch and keep working on the next one.

It's also a lot of fun. Because when you do get that win, and that fat commission check, you know that the work paid off. You will forge relationships that will last a lifetime. You will make more friends (and enemies) than you ever knew what to do with. You will learn more ancillary bits about various businesses than you ever thought possible. And ultimately, you develop a skill set that you can take to a wide variety of industries.

I've ranted enough here. Email me (in my profile) if you want to talk more about it. And good luck to you.
posted by TeamBilly at 10:51 AM on March 1, 2005 [1 favorite]

I wouldn't do it; after a while it erodes your soul. Go into something where you can make a difference. Sales is always going to be cut throat and lots of work for little return. You only reap the true benefits if your at the top the pile.
posted by Livewire Confusion at 10:56 AM on March 1, 2005

Here's my 2 cents:

I had a sales gig for a telecom firm down in Atlanta (CBeyond.) The product was great, but as you may or may not know about telecom, binding contracts have caused many a sale to fall through; People will come back and say, "hey, I'd love to sign up, but our T1 contract extends for the next 3 years." Same goes with copier / office equipment sales.

It's important to look at the big picture of sales, how many competitors there are, is your product >truly< unique, what is the life cycle of your product, etc. you may have tickler filled with solid prospects, in 6 months, but your sales manager is going to drill you during the last week of the month, no matter what is in the funnel. br>

Additionally, before you sign on to a sales gig, make sure you fully understand the commission structure and compare it to other firms, it is reasonable, can I live off the minimum quotas if you don't have a dynamite month? Also, how territory management is addressed is also important. In my case, before I was hired, reps weren't assigned territories and ran rampant OTP and ITP, and it was hard when the 6th place you cold-called says, "Geez, this is the 5th rep we've seen this week (from the same company), if I didn't want it the 4rth time, why the fifth time?"

The end of the month can be nightmare in the sales department; Maybe my situation was unique, but it made for a frustrating "go" at a sales career. It wasn't quite as bad as boiler room, but I'll tell you this: All those guys quoted Glen Gary Glen Ross with a hard-on and a gleam in their eyes. YMMV
posted by AllesKlar at 11:06 AM on March 1, 2005

Don't sell crap, sell something you believe in. You'll last much longer that way.

Before you choose a firm, determine where the leads are coming from, how often they come in and how qualified they are. I'd talk to someone in marketing for that since the sales manager will likely not give you the correct answer. If the leads marketing is generating aren't qualified, then you'll be doing a whole lot of cold calling which is the most expensive way making sales for the company and the salesperson.

Oh, and Glen Gary Glenross is a movie about people who straddle the line between sales and a con. The movie is to sales what John Wayne is to America, that is, a caricature.

But the best advice I can give you is sell something you believe in and something that knocks the socks off your customers. Don't worry if you don't find it at the first go around... sometimes these things take years to figure out.
posted by Tacodog at 12:52 PM on March 1, 2005

my other jobs have been computer oriented (tech support, project management, programming

So (probably obviously) you should be looking for a job where you're selling computer-oriented products or services (as opposed, say, to automobiles).

Perhaps more useful advice:

* Don't necessarily take the first job that you're offered. Companies have trouble finding good sales staff, particularly those who have a good technical background. You can be a bit choosy, particularly if you have a job at the time when you're looking for a job.

* There are a lot of different aspects to selling - do you (or will you) have existing accounts, for example, where you provide support (keeping the customer happy, which may or may not mean selling more goods/services)? Is there a lot of travel (30% 80%) required? What is the pay structure (mentioned above)? Do you have to do cold calling (which just about everyone hates) or do the marketing folks generate leads which you follow up on?

* The advice to try to stay within your company is good, if it's possible. Even better, if your company does have sales positions, is to talk to people who do the selling. Find out what they think (of what they have to sell, of various other aspects of their current job, of selling in general). And try to talk to other people (outside the company) who do selling for a living. For example, you'll find them at trade shows. Or if you know someone in your purchasing department, or IS department who deals with sales folks, ask them (without jeopardizing your current position) for a couple of names and phone numbers. [People love to talk about their work, even if only to complain. And if you pay for lunch, you're golden.]

Good luck! (You may even find that a support position that involves a lot of people-interaction may in fact be more to your liking.)
posted by WestCoaster at 3:04 PM on March 1, 2005

If your past experience was computer oriented, would sales engineer/technical sales rep. be the way to go? It's something I've done on an ad hoc basis for a few exmployers. You get to rely on your existing skill set while working with both the sales team and the customer, allowing you to build on your selling skills. You can always continue into a "full" sales position down the road; I know of a couple sales engineers that made the transition.
posted by bachelor#3 at 4:32 PM on March 1, 2005

hello world.

I hope you enjoy my two bits because I just paid 5 bucks for a metafilter login to share my experience.

Once upon a time, I too was a techie. More particularly I was a Java developer for a F100 company. I took that job right out of college and after two years, I decided the cubicle world wasn't for me and went looking for a new adventure. The company happened to have a top-notch sales training program so I jumped on board. I've been in a business-to-business sales position for just shy of another 2 years.

Sales is an interesting animal. The biggest thing I notice is it is a very very lonely career. Particularly if you have a home office. The monotony of the cubicle world begins to look appealing when you have no "co-workers" persay.

That said, it can also be a rewarding position but it all depends on what you sell. Not all sales positions give you big fat commission checks but all sales positions require you to work ALL the time. Being on the road from 8-5 means you are doing emails and preparing for the next day on your "own time". Add that to the pressure of making your numbers and it's one big recipe for stress.

I'm nearly burnt out, but I've definitely learned more about business in this position than I ever could have imagined. Good luck to you.
posted by pencroft at 6:43 PM on March 1, 2005

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