Is this too good to be true?
December 8, 2012 7:44 AM   Subscribe

You've seen sales companies that bring you in, train you to sell for them, and after a certain amount of time train you to manage a team. Is this a viable pursuit or is there a catch?

There's a few opportunities like this in my area and I'm debating on whether or not it's for me. I want to be a manager but most companies don't want to hire a manager without a management degree or any prior experience managing. I want to know how the above opportunities work and if it's true that they really will train you to manage in a short amount of time.

Thank you.
posted by Autumn to Work & Money (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You specifically want to be a sales manager? Do you have any prior sales experience? Is there a particular industry these companies are in and that you want to be in? Hard to answer without knowing more details.
posted by Dansaman at 8:03 AM on December 8, 2012

This is not a viable pursuit. This is multilevel marketing. You will be trained to "sell" the training that you're receiving, and then your "sales" will be recruiting others to be on your "team" who can then "sell" the training to someone else down the line. Anyone that is advertising what should be a normal career progression (start off entry level, opportunity to move up) as a special opportunity is out to exploit you.

Look up whatever companies are advertising these positions, with the word "scam" attached.
posted by Benjy at 8:07 AM on December 8, 2012 [10 favorites]

There are two ways to get into sales management.

1. Succeed at selling for a long time, then get promoted. There is a 75% you will fail at sales management because very few successful sales people are actually good at managing other sales people.

2. Suck at sales and get promoted up to get you out of the field. Again, you have a 75% change of failing.

I've been in tech sales for 15+ years, and I've had exactly 1 sales manager that added any value at all to my attempts to close business.

Without knowing what companies you are talking about it's kind of hard to pass judgement , however 100% of those "Move into Management in 90 days" things you see on Craigslists are bad ideas at best, scams at worst. There are no shortcuts. There are plenty of companies that will teach you to sell a legitimate product or service and eventually give you a shot at managing if you are successful, but it ain't happening in 90 days.
posted by COD at 8:32 AM on December 8, 2012 [3 favorites]

I don't know that multilevel marketing is what the OP is asking about. Many legitimate companies train their sales team; however, most legitimate companies that do train sales teams do so on a commission-only basis, meaning that trainees earn nothing, or a very small income, until they are able to generate commissions.
posted by dfriedman at 8:32 AM on December 8, 2012

I disagree with dfriedman. No legitimate company expects you to live in a cardboard box while you are learning the job. If you are selling for a company and are stuck with their products and services they need to be paying you a base or at least a draw against commission because there are countless ways they can screw up your deals via late shipments, crappy products or whatever and you have no recourse because it's your job to sell only their stuff. Why would you absorb 100% of the risk when without getting 100% of the upside?

There are industries where commission only is standard, such as printing, but they usually provide a draw to smooth out the occasional bad month.

Also, for any technical or corporate type sales job, triple what they claim the sales cycle is, and reduce the claimed average deal size by 50%.
posted by COD at 8:43 AM on December 8, 2012

I'm not specifically interested in sales management, no. My experience is in a different area but this area doesn't like to hire people as managers who don't have previous management experience. I was hoping that if this is a legitimate thing I could get the training and diversify myself. I'm not industry-specific right now because I just need to make money to support myself.

The two opportunities went something like this: 1) base + commission. You start out selling and once you're consistently making a certain number of sales per week you can drive the van and have your team. Then you move into office management, then area management, then regional management.

The second one is all commission and you don't have the sales goals in order to advance. It was something like six weeks and they train you to be a manager during that time.
posted by Autumn at 9:49 AM on December 8, 2012

The question is still what are they selling? Is it a viable product, or do they want you to sell the idea of sales to more people such as yourself? If it's the latter, it's a pyramid scheme.
posted by Devils Rancher at 10:05 AM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Again, without knowing even more details, it's hard to comment, but the goal of "training you to manage a team" does make one suspicious about it being some kind of multilevel marketing or similarly scammy situation (scammy in the sense that the income opportunities are overhyped or even misrepresented and are in reality almost unobtainable). Of course reaching upper management levels through a sales management path is certainly a possibility in many companies and industries, but that takes a lot of time in terms of learning to be a good salesperson yourself and then learning to manage other sales people. And if you don't have salesmanship characteristics as part of your personality, then probably not doable. I have a lot of sales experience and acumen so feel free to MeMail me if you have any specific questions.
posted by Dansaman at 11:44 AM on December 8, 2012

You start out selling and once you're consistently making a certain number of sales per week you can drive the van and have your team.

Is this a door-to-door sales organization? If so, run far far away.
posted by shiny blue object at 2:08 PM on December 8, 2012 [3 favorites]

I think what you really want (make more money, not industry specific, opportunity to move into management) is to be an account executive in a business to business sales organization.

You could try office supply companies (officemax, office depot, staples, medical supply companies (mckesson), industrial supply companies (airgas) basically anything where you are selling products or services to another business. For tech they usually want some sort of related degree and sometimes for medical supplies, but mostly it's not too important to have a degree related to what your selling. You want to become good at maintaining account and bringing on new business. Then you can move into management. A lot of people are intimidated by sales, but its really not rocket science. My dad financed our family doing B2B sales and hes no partystarter, but he's honest, knows his shit, and is good at following up on leads and requests and keeping appointments and communication brief and to the point.

You do NOT want to sell to the general population if you want to make more money.
posted by WeekendJen at 2:37 PM on December 8, 2012

I would run away from job "opportunities" that sell you on the upward mobility potential. It's one thing if you are interviewing for HP or McDonald's Corporation and they say that they promote from within. It's another thing for a company to hire you for a job with the express pitch that you'll be able to escape that job soon. It means that by definition, there is a lot of turnover. A job with a lot of turnover sucks for most people.

Honestly, the phrase "drive the van" should scare you away.
posted by gjc at 2:48 PM on December 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm a sales manager, among other hats I wear at work. Legit opportunities are rarely straight commission except in a few industries where there's specialized training, like real estate.

And yeah, I'll join the chorus that anything where you drive a van and work with a crew that gets put out on the street and goes door to door is 100% bona-fide scam.

Areas that still exist where you can sell and make a decent living are mostly B2B, and generally scientific/technical on top of that. Anything where you sell to the public (apart from cars and real estate [in a better market than this]) is likely to be a tough road.

While I think COD is a bit pessimistic on the odds on sales managers not being useless, I generally agree with the timeline. :-)

The good news, as has been mentioned above, is that you don't have to be some highly social outgoing person to make a good salesperson. You just have to know your product and be a problem solver.
posted by randomkeystrike at 6:32 PM on December 8, 2012

I worked for a large private company for three years that wasn't MLM and was very employee-focused. After giving its newbies actual real-world sales positions and the skills to make those sales, I was thrown into the shark tank, so to speak, and the opportunities to make money were excellent (and this was for selling very legitimate products to consumers).

Because the company spent a lot of good time and effort training at the start, they only promoted from within for management. Some people were fast-tracked - a friend of mine went from a new hire in sales to a team leader in operations in about four years.

So the opportunities do exist.
posted by st starseed at 7:53 AM on December 9, 2012

Find out how much you will have to pay for this "opportunity" -- notice they don't call it a job. You may very well get trained to manage your own team so long as you are willing to pay for the privilege, or hire them yourself.
posted by yohko at 5:11 PM on December 9, 2012

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