About a week ago I was interviewed for a podcast (not published yet). One of the questions that the host asked me towards the end interview went something like this:
If you could go back in time and give yourself some advice right at the start of your career, what advice would you give yourself?
I had two answers to that question. Today I’ll talk about the first, and tomorrow I’ll talk about the second.
Don’t Be Scared of Sales
That’s the first piece of advice I’d give my younger self. Don’t be scared of sales.
Sales gets a bad rap. I’m not sure why that is. If I could talk to my younger self I’d tell myself not to listen to stereotypes. Doing sales for a good company can be a great job.
And that is the one caveat I do have to mention. Sales can be a great job if you’re working for a good company. In order for sales to be a great job, you have to be working for a company you’re proud to work for and selling a product or service you’re proud to sell.
With that caveat in mind, let’s move on to why I think sales is great for a young professional.
Why Sales is Great for a Young Professional
I can think of least six reasons why sales is a fantastic field for a young professional to get into (listed in no particular order):
- Sales is a skillset that transfers well between employers. That’s not true of many other skillsets you might master. However, if you get good at sales, you’ll always have someone interested in hiring you.
- Sales pays well. In most businesses, your best sales people are also some of the best-compensated folks in the company. This is true across industries.
- Sales in interesting. In the end, sales is about talking to people and solving problems. That’s it, really. And doing it as quickly and as many times as possible. Talking to people and helping solve problems is interesting!
- Sales will help you learn how business works. Sales is exposed to the nuts-and-bolts of a company. If they stick around long enough, sales people will understand the cost structures that make the business work. They’ll understand direct costs, indirect costs, overhead, and profit. They’ll then understand, fundamentally, how the business is able to stay in business. That’s a skillset that is highly valuable and useful in a variety of sales, management, and operations roles.
- Salespeople make connections. Folks in sales are constantly talking to customers, suppliers, and partners. Making connections and building relationships is a core part of the job! Those connections then come in very handy when it’s time to find your next gig.
- Salespeople learn how to work with people. When you’re in sales you’re dealing with folks constantly. So you’re learning how to manage the expectations of others, how to help others process disappointment, how to negotiate, and how to get your point across. These are incredibly valuable skills no matter what you end up doing in the long term.
So, young professionals who are flocking to this blog (anyone?): if you want to know what advice I wish I’d received several years earlier in my career, here it is. First, I’d want someone to tell me to try my hand at sales. Second, well, you’ll have to come back tomorrow to find out.