Not enough new talent wants to pursue a career in sales — and not enough sales leaders are sharing their experiences to convince these dream-seekers otherwise.
If you are a sales-uncertain student or a quiet B2B sales leader, I hope to change your mind by the end of this article to push aside the status quo and embrace sales with pride.
In this article, I’ll bust misconceptions and share the realities people can expect from working in sales. And, if I’ve done well enough to convince you by the end, you’ll find my best tips for getting started.
SALES HAS BEEN A MISUNDERSTOOD ROLE FOR FAR TOO LONG
When I tell students a career exists that allows them to travel often, meet and engage with many different people, and share their ideas to influence decisions — most imagine I’m talking about a CEO. Then if I tell them they can also make six-figures quickly out of college, their minds go to doctor or lawyer. Hardly any realize I’m talking about sales.
The problem is, most people encounter a salesperson at some point in their early life. In these B2C situations, salespeople can come off as pushy, frustrating or greedy. B2C, while more visible, also offers fewer benefits. Hardly anyone gains exposure to the B2B salesperson — because most B2B salespeople lead their careers quietly, working with corporate buyers out of sight of youth.
FORGET DOCTOR AND LAWYER — FIND YOUR DREAM CAREER IN SALES
What can a life as a B2B salesperson do for you then? I’m glad you asked. The benefits myself and others have enjoyed as a B2B salesperson span far and wide:
- Financial Potential — You should never make a career choice based solely on money, but the financial benefits do hold weight as part of a well-thought decision. While compensation plans vary for selling organizations — and different personalities excel in different models — the earning potential for B2B salespeople is high. In fact, many salespeople are out-earning doctors and lawyers on an annual basis.
- Lower Investment to Get Started — Most higher-level careers demand an advanced degree. Doctors, for example, might stay in school for eight, 10 or more years. These professionals do not only invest their time in education, they also invest their dollars for tuition — and lost potential earnings from all the years they could have been working. As a salesperson, you can get started right out of undergrad. In fact, you could probably even get started without undergrad, though the people who succeed as such are far and few between.
- Skill Development — As a salesperson, you become the expert on your buyers and their businesses. This means you often get an inside and in-depth look at a number of industries and skillsets. As you support more businesses and clients, you will see your expertise growing in new and interesting ways. You’ll also become more business-savvy in the long run.
- Quality of Life — What can life look like outside of your job? There is a trade-off for the high-level doctors and lawyers. They often are short on time and high on stress. High-earning salespeople can and do achieve a balance between work and life.
Being a B2B salesperson isn’t about product-pushing or making a quick buck. Great sales isn’t actually about selling even — it’s about serving your buyers and making a difference with your solution. The folks at Mereo talk about this well with Seek to Serve, Not to Sell™.
LEAD A LIFE OF HIGH REWARDS AND DEEP PURPOSE
Are you starting to see sales differently now? Good. Let’s talk about how to make strides toward this career.
A number of universities are now offering programs specific to sales. The Baylor University Center for Professional Selling, for example, offers vital selling foundations and experiential coursework that allows for skill-building in real-world scenarios. You can get vital experience and make important industry connections. The students coming out of programs like this have a high sales maturity and are performing at advanced levels just as they enter their careers.
I also would not discount B2C selling as a pathway for getting a foot in the door for a B2B role. These B2C roles are often more accessible as you’re starting. Some also have growth opportunities within the organization that can put you on a track toward B2B selling.
Lastly, focus on networking and meeting professionals in B2B sales. The more role models you have, the easier it will be for you to understand the paths for getting to where they are. Networking can also open up doors to new opportunities.
LET’S TALK SALES — LOUD AND PROUD
And if you’re a B2B salesperson reading this, I urge you to speak up about your sales role as if you were a doctor or lawyer. The next generation of sales professionals depends on it.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jerome Rose leads the Microsoft retail and consumer goods vertical as General Manager for the Central and Western United States. His experience at Microsoft and other sophisticated selling organizations in the past make him a proven sales leader and executive who drives key outcomes and impactful results for the companies he supports. As a Baylor Bear and graduate of the Baylor Hankamer School of Business, Jerome is passionate about engaging and supporting the next generation of sales professionals. He serves as a sponsor and board member of the Baylor ProSales program.