You might be wondering why I’m telling you how to land a sales job when I left my only sales experience after just a few months — but that’s exactly why I’m sharing this story. My first internship in sales was a bust, but I still managed my snag my dream job at Influence & Co. as a sales rep and VP despite a lack of real-world sales experience on my resume.
It’s not exactly a walk in the park, but it is possible if you follow the right steps. Let’s explore what those steps look like and how you can make your way into your first sales role.
1. Set realistic expectations
Two things many people automatically think of when they think about sales are a flexible work schedule and unlimited commission. While these impressions are technically accurate, new sales reps often get overexcited about setting their own schedule and end up spiraling into an unproductive state — therefore making zero commission.
Having a flexible schedule can be more difficult than a traditional 9-to-5 day if you don’t have the self-discipline to stay productive. Unlimited commission sounds great, but if you don’t put in the work, you will likely make little to no commission.
The other big misconception about the sales life is that all we do is take people to lunch and happy hours. Sure, events like these are on my calendar, but they’re not always relaxing and fun like a happy hour with a friend or co-worker. Meetings over food and drinks are just like any other sales meeting, except you have food and drinks in front of you. You always have to be on your game, especially in settings with more potential variables.
2. Be true to yourself
In my experience, the most important sales skills aren’t necessarily the ones I imagined when I started. Being an extrovert certainly helps in sales. However, as an introvert, I can tell you that it takes understanding yourself and knowing when you need to turn it on and off.
Good sales reps are helpful, detail-oriented, self-motivated, goal-oriented, and authentic. These qualities are the foundation of success and for selling yourself without real-world sales experience.
If you think about it, a lot of future sales reps are in your shoes, coming straight out of school or switching industries altogether. Not having concrete work experience is fine and often expected. It’s all about how you prove you have those important qualities and how you’d use them to become a high-performing sales rep.
If all you have to talk about is your sales class in college or a group project, then use that. Remember how I said being authentic is important in sales? Don’t make up some elaborate sales experience story if you don’t have one. Stay true to yourself.
3. Avoid the mistakes that will ruin a sales interview
To further set you up for success, let’s talk about what you should avoid when interviewing for a sales role. While there’s a laundry list of things to avoid in any interview, two stand out to me for a sales role specifically.
First, do not be late. This sounds obvious, but as a recruiter at a previous job, I saw this way too often. Regardless of how the interview went, what would it say if you were late to a sales meeting with a prospect? Would you make the sale? Or would you look unreliable, uninterested, disrespectful?
Second, don’t show up unprepared. Think of the interview like a sales meeting, only instead of selling a product or service, you are selling yourself for the role. Not coming prepared to a sales meeting with knowledge of the company and the person you’re talking to would immediately cause a prospect to shut down. This is the same for an interview.
Now that I’ve given you all the tools you need to sell yourself for a sales job — as well as some things to avoid — get out there! Go apply, interview, and keep these tips top of mind.