Even if you have no experience, you can land a selling job that is lucrative and rewarding. As you’ll see, the steps you take before the interview are far more important than the interview itself. So don’t skip those steps. Be methodical and thorough when it comes to laying the foundation.
Remember, you should approach this endeavor systematically as you would anything else that’s important to you. Here are the 7 steps you can use to get your first selling job:
1. Target your Time
I don’t believe in sending out resumes. It’s a complete waste of time and it will needlessly add to your anxiety and frustration. Instead, target who you want to work for. And if you are serious about making sales your career, forget about retail stores unless you are really just starting out and don’t plan to stay at the job for too long. While I have a great deal of respect for people who are able to serve the public in retail establishments, I don’t encourage anyone to go that route long-term because the pay is lousy and you have to put up with a bunch of crazies. Yuk. Who needs it? Not you.
Think about some special skill or knowledge that you have. What do you love talking about? What do you get inspired by? If you like photography, why net get into high-end equipment sales? Are you nuts for health food? Why not work for a natural health food distributor? You need to think about high dollar sales if you want to rake in big commission checks. Get clear on who you want to work for as a first step.
One caveat. You may have to work for little or no pay and earn commissions only to get a great sales job. Think of sales jobs as being in business for yourself. You may make very little to start. This describes the best sales jobs in my experience and if you can afford to do this, I suggest you do so. If you don’t have enough money saved, consider taking on part-time jobs or weekend work to make ends meet until your big fat commission checks start rolling in.
Do as much snooping around as you can. Find out what the state of the industry is at the moment. Is it contracting? Expanding? Where, who and how? You need to become an expert in the industry. You must identify what the challenges and opportunities are. And you must know who the major players are right now and why.
No, you’re not ready for your job interview just yet. I want you to interview other people. This is the key step people miss when they want find a new job in a new industry. Start with sales professionals in the industry to learn more about what you are getting into. Before contacting any of these people, write up a list of 20 questions you want clarity on. (By taking step 2 above, it should be pretty easy to come up with that list.)
The goal of interviewing sales professionals in the industry is to become an expert in the industry and to make yourself known to them. Whatever you do, don’t ask them for a job lead. Instead ask them who else you should interview for more information. Keep interviewing as many people as you can. You’ll learn invaluable information and you make priceless contacts. Also, sooner or later, you’ll connect with someone who is looking for someone just like you.
All your work up until now has been leading up to a job interview and you are pretty close at this point. But before you go in, think about your employer’s problems, challenges and opportunities. Don’t think about your needs – your employer doesn’t care about that. Consider carefully what your employer is facing and how you can help her have a brighter future.
5. Ask & Listen
When you wrangle up your sales job interviews go in with a list of smart questions that demonstrate your understanding of the industry and company in particular. Don’t go in telling your interviewer how great you are. Answer his/her questions honestly. Don’t embellish needlessly. Have fun. Smile. But above all else, demonstrate your ability to add to the company’s success.
6. Point to the Elephant in the Room
Address the fact that this is your first sales job. But at the same time, identify those situations in your past when you have used sales skills to advance your career or a cause. Were you a teacher? Didn’t you have to “sell” your students on the need to do homework? What were your results? Were they better than the school average? How did you do it? Your employer wants to hear things like this.
Were you a manager of a facilities crew? How did you get them to work harder/longer than other crews? Find your “sales experience” – you do have some.
Everyone is a sales person. If you think you are new to the profession you are mistaken. Think about all the ways you’ve motivated others and discuss your successes during your interview.
7. Follow Up
By far, the most important success ingredient is follow up. That goes for everything and it is certainly the case when it comes to landing a good job. Follow up with your interviewer and make sure she has everything she needs to make the right (positive) decision.
If you are itching to break into a great sales career, you are going to have to get out of your comfort zone. You may have to work on commission only. You may have to network with others in order to get the right opportunity. This will require work and dedication. Nobody is going to throw opportunity in your lap. But if you are willing to put in the work, you absolutely can have a great career in sales even if it’s your first time “at bat”.