The traditional salesperson stereotype is enough to put anyone off such a career path. Typical traits include being masculine (not male, women can be, or pretend to be, masculine too), loud, sneaky, greedy. The propensity to do anything for an extra bit of commission.
I can’t comment on how accurate this might have been in the past, but having worked in sales for a few years, the face and practices of successful sales people has evolved significantly and for the better.
Sales is an accidental career choice for many - I certainly had never expected to find myself in this role. Having worked with some of the brightest teams, I’ve come to realise there is a wealth of talented people who would be well suited to a role in sales but they are completely oblivious to it or actively avoiding it (my guess would be the latter).
If you can spot yourself in any of the traits below, it may be time to consider kickstarting a career in sales.
1. You Like People
Sales is all about building relationships. We all know the phrase ‘people buy from other people’ and that is becoming more and more the case.
Transactional consumer purchases such as cars, holidays and clothing are moving steadily away from salespeople to online but this is quite different for those selling in the B2B space.
With large, complex purchases, and a wealth of solutions to any one business problem, consultative salespeople are necessary to help cut through the noise.
With so many products available, it is essential for salespeople to act as ‘trusted advisors’ - business owners will work with people who understand their vision, and present solutions that will help them to achieve their business goals.
It’s as much about your ability to build a relationship with the decision maker as it is about the suitability of your product.
2. You Have All the Answers
This doesn’t mean you’re a know-it-all but that people turn to you when they have questions. Friends, family and colleagues come to you when they need to know what restaurant to go to, how to improve their CV or which blogs to read.
People come to you because you’re good at listening to their queries, and finding the right solution for them. Not only that, they trust your opinion. You may not think of it in this way, but in these situations you are essentially selling to them...just without the commission!
3. You Like Winning
This seems fairly obvious but the traditional caricature of a salesperson depicts someone who would happily spend every evening rolling around in a pool of money made from swindling customers left, right and centre, but winning doesn’t have to be monetary.
If you want to win by being the best in your team, by progressing quickly in your career, by being looked up to, by winning big clients, by being able to see the results of your hard work - then you should work in sales.
4. You’re Creative
This one is not often associated with sales. In fact, many creatives would be deeply offended if you recommended a career in sales to them. I used to work in marketing, and deemed myself ‘too creative’ to work in sales.
In the age of the internet, you have to be creative if you want anyone to take notice of you. Sure, you can send your potential clients an email, or a LinkedIn message but you will be fighting to get their attention in a sea of emails by other brands vying for their business.
If you want to stand out over others, you need to get creative in both the content you send out, and the methods you use to communicate with prospects. Many modern sales roles provide lots of opportunities to do more ‘traditionally’ creative tasks such as organising events and writing articles (like me!) - you just have to find the right company.
5. You’re a Woman
Sales is renowned for being a largely male dominated industry which often discourages a lot of women from considering it as a career option. As the requirements of salespeople have changed over time, women are finding even more opportunities to showcase their valuable skills.
Where sales is now focused more on client retention and less about rushing to close a single killer deal, building long-lasting relationships is at the forefront of any sales strategy and this is where women are now often stronger sales people.
Being a good problem solver is more important than shouting the loudest and being the best negotiator at that moment. Women are naturally better listeners and value how people perceive them more than men so as long as you are commercially aware and have the drive to win, you’re set for a great career in sales.
If you have these traits but have never considered a career in sales, maybe now is the time to explore it! The days of closing deals in the pub, over a quick game of golf are long gone (hopefully) and in the modern day, being a salesperson (or business development professional if you want to be fancy about it) is a profession to be proud of, and one that can get you to the top faster than many others.