The burden is on job candidates to do their homework and thoroughly prepare for entry-level sales jobs, said DJ Holder, partner and northeast regional manager at search firm Orion International’s Virginia Beach, Va., office. Orion specializes in placing military veterans.
Just as salespeople make their living persuading prospects to buy their products and services, companies expect candidates to apply that same energy and enthusiasm when selling themselves on job interviews.
Companies are looking for high-potential candidates who are quick studies and have essential attributes of successful salespeople. “They’re also looking for candidates who are committed to sales and can explain why they want to work in a particular sales niche,” Holder said.
To make a strong case for yourself — and to gain real world insight into what selling entails — Holder advises candidates to find a mentor, an experienced and successful salesperson. “It’s not what you know, but who you know,” Holder said. There is no better way to get the inside skinny about the subtleties and psychology of selling.
The first sales job is an important one, because it can set the tone and momentum for your career. Rather than take a plumb job, take tough, challenging positions where you have the chance to stand out, said Steve Gibson, principal recruiting partner at Atlanta-based search firm TalentServed LLC., which specializes in the hospitality industry.
“It’s a great foundation and platform for moving on to bigger jobs,” Gibson said. Once you’ve proven that you’ve got what it takes and are not going to let objections or rejections stand in your way, you’re on your way to breaking into sales.
In preparing for a sales career, Dave Mattson, CEO of Sandler Training in Owings Mills, Md., said that entry-level candidates ought to concentrate on attitudes, behaviors and techniques.
· Attitudes.Salespeople must exude confidence. It requires a mindset that accepts rejection as part of the selling process. You’re also going to be doing difficult things initially, such as talking to strangers.
· Behaviors.Do not focus on revenue goals, because they can’t be managed. Instead, manage what has to be done to be successful. Break down your day into behaviors that you can control. Set daily goals, such as number of sales calls, and emails and letters to prospects.
· Techniques. Entry-level salespeople must develop phone and face-to-face techniques. Practice 30-second sales or elevator pitches and opening calls, and be able to integrate product knowledge into a sales call. Customers want to know how products fit.
Summing up, there’s more to selling than most people realize. If you’re determined to build a successful and gratifying sales career, you’ll embrace the intangible, tackle impossible odds and do everything possible to master the selling process.