Getting Started in Sales

If you’ve never worked in sales before you may have an image of an overly aggressive car salesman in your mind, or maybe you’ve had a terrible experience when you buy a phone and you have Sales is one of the most lucratvie professions that a person can go into.  Getting started in sales is not that difficult, and it can be one of the most rewarding careers out there.  Many sales positions pay six figures a year.  Top sales professionals often make more than some doctors and lawyers.

We’ve all had a coworker that we have felt doesn’t pull their weight.   Have you ever thought to yourself, “Why does that person make the same amount of money as me when I work twice as hard as they do?” In sales it doesn’t matter what background you come from, what kind of education you’ve had, or who you know, At the end of the day it all comes down to performance.  For myself, I loved the feeling of seeing a coworker not putting in the effort.  It meant that there would be more leads and more opportunity to close sales!

How are you at handling rejection?  A salesman is constantly getting rejected.  If it were easy everyone would do it.  People by nature do not enjoy getting rejected.  The question is can you take the rejection and keep going.  I have worked in advertising sales where I called a hundred businesses a day.  If I were lucky I would actually speak with about 5 of the decision makers, and of those maybe one or two would buy.  That is considered a relatively high close percentage in that office.

So, what does that mean?  That means that fourty-nine out of the fifty times I tried to get a sale, the result was not the one that I was seeing.  Every time you get off of the phone after being rejected you need to put it behind you and move along.  Dwelling on what doesn’t work is never going to help you get ahead.

Can you handle being paid primarily on commission?

It’s a tough question to answer.  It’s an important thing to consider when getting started in sales.  You need to be financially disciplined enough to not live paycheck to paycheck.  If the thought of a job where you are paid based on exactly what you put in gets you excited sales may be a fit for you.  There are several ways that a sales rep can get paid.  Here are the most common ones.


  • Most of the time a sales reprasentative will either be paid on 100% commission, which is pretty self explanatory. It means that there is no base pay.  When you just start working at a job with 100% commission you will usually be paid on something called a “draw”.  When you receive pay from drawn commission, it means that you taking money out of commission that you haven’t even made yet.  This amount is usually minimum wage, but not always.  It can be a real bummer when you go through training for a few weeks and get a sale and realize that all you have done is paid the “bank” back the money that you’d already drawn.  I don’t want to completely discourage you from pursuing a job like this.  Some of the best sales jobs DO pay on this system.  This is also sometimes referred to as Base Vs. Commission.

Example:  Mortgage Banker

  • The most common type of commission system I have seen is base plus commission. This system pays a salesperson a set wage and then pays commission and/or bonus on top of that.   What is nice about this method is that things like vacation pay are a lot more common on this pay scale.   There is a fine line for sales managers who pay on this system.  If you pay to much base pay to the reps, it can actually demotivate the sales reps.  I once saw a girl straight out of college think she was rich because we were paying her $17.00 an hour base pay.  She put in minimal effort and was walked right out a month later because she had thought her fortune was already made.


Qualifications to be a Salesperson

Most good sales jobs will either want you to have x amount of proven experience in the field of sales, or a bachelor’s degree.  There are a couple of ways to go about getting this experience for an interview.

Reach down deep and try and find some way to make some sort of job experience that you have had translate properly to the person who is interviewing you for the job.  This is not unethical.  You are a salesman (or woman) the second that you enter that interview.  It is YOUR JOB to sell your interviewer on how your past job experience translates to what they are selling.

The main qualification to being a salesperson is the type of personality that is going to be a natural fit for the sales world.  You’ll either have it or you don’t.  My first interview for a sales job I failed.  I called back a few weeks later and asked them if I could interview again.  To my surprise they said yes.  After I got the job on the second interview I asked the sales manager who hired me what was different about the second interview.  He said it was the simple fact that I asked for it.  That’s a quality that they valued.  And that is probably the number one rule of sales.  No does not mean no.  It just means you haven’t sold them.  Be pleasantly persistent.

Where to look for sales jobs

A good place to start looking for a sales position is within your network of friends and family.  When considering new applicants for sales jobs, managers often like to have someone already in the office that will vouch for their new hire.  It makes sense.  You don’t want to see your buddy or family member fail, so if they are struggling you are going to help them out.  It is a built in mentor system and it’s super helpful.

If you don’t have any friends or family in sales try looking at  You can check that against job openings on Monster, Hotjobs, or Ladders.  Glassdoor is great because it is a community of job seekers who review the postitions that they have earned and even share their salaries.  This is important because a company or hiring manager will make the pay sound to good to be true.

For example:  A company tells you that you’ll be paid 45k a year plus a certain amount of commission, and they also pay a big quarterly bonus.  It sounds fantastic.  You can read reviews of the job and find that the bonus is just not attainable.  If you have an outgoing demeanor and thick skin you should definitely consider getting started in sales.

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