It’s definitely been a long day when I’m quoting the patriarch of Duck Dynasty but I have to tell you the man leaves behind little gems of wisdom that can’t be ignored. In this case he was referencing the danger of marrying a woman who can’t cook so I’ll ignore the old school nature of his conversation and focus on why it caught my attention.
A recent article noted sales as one of the top global careers for 2013. While many would be surprised at this, I’m not. Sales is consistently in the short list of growing career fields for a number of reasons but rarely noted as the career of choice for new professionals and college grads. Instead, it’s often a career of last resort. The reputation of being a salesperson combined with the inherent (and perceived) financial risk of selling is a deterrent for many. Seasoned professionals with all of the skills and talent to transition to sales don’t want to take the risk because they have experienced the stability of a “guaranteed” paycheck while new job seekers often don’t view it as a career and have been trained to concentrate their search on a “stable” position with solid income, or even more interesting, SOMETHING THEY LOVE.
I’m a proponent of following your passions (seriously, I write three blogs on subjects that I enjoy) but you can’t always start out living off love. If you’re in the small percentage of people with an immediate means to your endgame whether it’s creative, scientific or otherwise, cheers to you! What about the larger portion of the population that is experiencing the effects of a struggling economy and the resulting stagnant hiring market? Are you sitting around waiting impatiently as you search for the career of your dreams or are you weighing your options and keeping an open mind? If you don’t want to starve to death, I’ll tell you how to identify a path to your vision through sales.
In a December Forbes article the top 18 professions were listed (I know, why not make it an even 20?). Number 7 on the list was Sales Representatives for wholesale, manufacturing, technical and scientific roles. An interesting note, the subcategories represented 3 of the top 7 categories. Basically, sales was number 7 but “top jobs” 1, 4 and 6 were all Technical or Scientific positions. I know there are a lot of facts and figures and the logic of someone with a greater degree of book education than me BUT in my mind that actually moved sales to a reasonable 4 on the list–don’t try to figure out my math, just go with me here or use the number you’d like!
That’s my Forbes argument for why I believe Sales makes sense as a career, but I have a few other reasons why it’s more than just a “respectable” option. I believe that EVERYONE with the right personality can go into sales and stave off starvation but even more do something you love, here’s why:
1) Sales fits into any field of interest. One of the most successful headhunters that I had the opportunity to interact with was a science geek first and foremost. He had a chemistry background and all of the stereotypical traits of a scientist. His cutting wit allowed him to be more people oriented than the standard “nose in a book” research scientist but he had all of the knowledge necessary to do so. Most scientists at entry levels don’t make the kind of money that he needed for the lifestyle that he wanted but sales reps can! Enter the sexy world of BioPharmaceuticals in the late 90’s/early 2000’s and he could talk science all day with candidates and flex his educational muscle with Chief Scientific Officers. Industry Exclusion: ZERO Sales: ONE
2)Personality Can Often (safely) Override Experience. Personality is important when you visit a physician but bedside can’t compensate for education. You can’t hire a physician based on personality and no technical training but you the necessary character traits can translate into a rock star sales candidate–that might be you. This absolutely doesn’t mean that intelligence isn’t a requirement, it definitely is, however lack of educational and practical experience aren’t disqualifiers in the sales world. While great sales managers are proud and unwilling to accept “any old slacker” they usually have the flexibility to see worthy hiring potential without checking off every tick mark for the HR perfect candidate. Experience: ZERO Sales: TWO
3)If you have a hobby you can sell. When you love something enough you can talk about it for hours. Men, particularly, do a great job of getting together over their hobbies and in turn translating it to business opportunities. Rather than just making it fun, monetize it, make it employment not just enjoyment. I realized that I had interest in the stock market during my high school economics courses and dabbled via personal trading sites–you know you love that little baby. This hobby helped me when I was approached regarding a stint selling Investor Relations tools and products. I knew enough about the financial market that combined with on the job training made me comfortable targeting CEO and CFO’s of publicly traded companies. What do you enjoy? Which companies should you be targeting in that specific world? Transition Inhibition: Zero Sales: Three
4) Do you have an extensive verbal repertoire? My son is a cellist. He’s got the skill set to play ANYTHING and that’s just what I encourage him to do. Why should Bach be the only composer you know well when there are modern composers that offer you an opportunity to expand your book of knowledge? I love to walk in the house and hear him playing Coldplay as much Chopin. That’s the kind of person that can make a home in sales. If you answer jeopardy questions, read a variety of books, and have natural curiosity that should translate well into knowing a little about a lot, a key component to becoming a successful salesperson. You always want to have knowledge about the product you’re selling but your client will be more interested in speaking to you if YOU’RE ACTUALLY INTERESTING! There is nothing I won’t talk about (within professional reason) and if I’m not experienced on the topic I can work Google search results into my conversation seamlessly. Master of Trade over Jack of All Trades: Zero Sales: Four
When it’s all said and done the skill, will and thrill sales environment isn’t for everyone but there are many people who miss out on great opportunities because they haven’t considered the career potential in sales. Exploring the option could lead to your happy, happy, happy career moments (sorry another Duck Commander reference).