This is a guest post by Alex Dripchak
“The pay is high and jobs are plentiful, but few want to go into sales,” revealed a recent report in The Wall Street Journal.
A recent Wall Street Journal article (“Sales Can Be a Hard Sell to Young Job Seekers”) reported on a new struggle for recruiters: convincing young workers to make sales a career.
Moreover, the problem predates the pandemic, ostensibly having more to do with the types of roles young professionals are comfortable taking than it does with a shortage of workers.
“People don’t go to school and think, ‘I’m going to be in sales,’” said Howard Brown, CEO and founder of ringDNA, a software provider for sales workers. “It’s the lifeblood of every organization, but talent is limited.”
So what’s at the core of this current struggle?
As a young millennial (I’m less than 10 years out of college) that initially went into sales haphazardly, I’ve got some personal experience with the subject. And while there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, I suggest starting with five misguided myths about what it means to be a sales professional today. So let’s discuss — and debunk — them.
1. Sales is a second-rate profession.
Lots of people view sales as demoralizing work rooted in cold-calling and constant rejection. And while sales can be a grind at times, it also offers two invaluable, potentially life-changing benefits that too often get overlooked.
First, if autonomy and work-life balance are important to you, sales is hard to beat. For instance, as the pandemic continues to upend countless workplaces, my day-to-day as a salesperson has effectively gone unchanged. In other words, in sales you can work wherever and whenever you want. As long as you’re performing, you have a great deal of flexibility and freedom.
Second, a sales career has remarkably high earning potential. On the top line, you may see lower salaries than you do in other jobs, but don’t overlook the power of additional compensation, which commonly is 50 percent of your total earnings. Not to mention that having a true “pay-for-performance” position is especially empowering.
2. Selling is mechanical work that doesn’t build important career skills.
Truth is, no other profession builds more skills faster than sales. Why? Because unlike most fields, in sales you’re literally client facing from day one. As a result, you can develop and grow at an astounding pace, including in crucial, career-making skill sets: prioritizing, strategizing, persuading, influencing, negotiating, relationship building, and more.
3. Sales can’t be taught. Otherwise, colleges would offer a sales major.
Just as poker isn’t a game of luck, neither is sales. What you see from the outside looking in is merely the tip of the iceberg. Equal parts art and science, sales is a skill that can be taught — and learned. That’s why, according to U.S. News & World Report, 57 U.S. colleges and universities, from Baylor to Bowling Green, are now offering a sales major.
4. Even the word “sales” is a pejorative.
No one likes to be sold, which is probably why words like “sales” and “salesman” seem to put people on edge. But unlike the salespeople of yesteryear, sales roles today have become much more consultative, with a focus on helping clients strategize on systems and solutions, as well as making a material impact on their company’s mission. So rather than concentrate on semantics, why not focus on a salesperson’s critical role and purpose?
5. There’s no job security in sales.
While many folks assume that salespeople are expendable — as in one missed goal and you’re out — that’s far from the truth. Unlike numerous other corporate roles, where performance-based terminations often happen on the spot, salespeople usually get the benefit of time with a performance improvement plan, or PIP. This means they’ve got a predetermined period (typically around 90 days) to hit certain metrics before they risk being let go. Such foresight can be a game changer when it comes to job security, as well as professional growth overall.
So rather than shun a career in sales, why not seriously consider it? Start by saying goodbye to these five misguided myths — and hello to the many rich rewards.
About the Guest Post Author:
Alex Dripchak is a sales and career-readiness adviser based in New York City. His experience includes being a relationship manager at Mercer, a global HR consulting leader, and a regional sales manager and outside producer in HR software at the tech giant Oracle. He is the co-founder of Commence, a breakthrough college-to-career skills development program, and the author of “100 Skills of the Successful Sales Professional” (Business Expert Press, 2021).