Sales is the ultimate soft skill. That’s what makes it such a valuable thing to pursue! No matter where you go in your career, or what company you join, you’ll be able to use sales skills somewhere.
So you are interested in sales. Great! Let’s get started diving into what your career launch could look like.
The Biggest Fear About a Sales Career
When starting their careers, many young people shy away from sales because the pay doesn’t look “safe.”
Why? It’s scary to think about the fact that the results you create are clear, measurable, and directly tied to the pay you receive. Salary-based jobs look more secure.
The truth is, there’s no such thing as job security. A salary is no more secure than contract or commission work. Don’t let the myth of job security hold you back from starting in sales.
So what are you waiting for?
If you’re serious about sales, you have two steps ahead of you:
- Build the skills you need
- Showcase the skills you have so people want to work with you.
1. Just sell something.
Seriously, sell anything. Go to a community fundraiser and volunteer. Find a small business you appreciate in your community and spend a week doing some free sales work for them. Start a podcast and sell it!
2. Build your personal brand
A strong personal brand isn’t the only thing that will land you a great sales career. But a bad brand could ruin it. Think about it this way: even if you don’t have a sales career, you’ll always be selling yourself. So get good at that first!
3. Start documenting what you’re learning
The best way to do this is to set up a personal website (firstnamelastname.com or something similar.) Then anytime you complete a new project, write up some documentation of it, complete with screenshots and helpful tips for others wanting to complete similar projects. On your website, you can also embed videos you’ve created, links to other platforms you use, and much more!
If you don’t want the work of building a personal website, here are other options for documentation that you can focus on:
- Blog on Medium.
- Start a Youtube channel where you create tutorials based on what you’re learning
- Use LinkedIn to host articles, videos, and projects you complete
4. Start networking!
Many professionals are thrilled to have a young person be interested in their work. Reach out to sales professionals you look up to and offer to buy them lunch or coffee in exchange for the time to pick their brain. Learning from these people directly will accelerate your growth process in ways that nothing else can.
5. Spend time studying.
You’ll have to be specific about learning constantly, especially if you’re totally new to sales. The world of sales is always in motion. And with the technology we have today, sales innovation has never been faster or more exciting!
- To Sell is Human by Daniel H. Pink
- How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
- Go for No by Richard Fenton and Andrea Waltz
- Spin Selling by Neil Rackham
- Mastering Sales on the Tony Robbins Show
- Office Hours Podcast
- Forward Tilt Podcast
- The Ultimate Sales Hustle Podcast
Keep in mind that simply reading things that interest you and focusing on growth outside your career will do just as much for your sales skills as consuming sales-specific content!
Regardless of where you’re planning to go in your sales career, build the base sales skills that will give you a good foundation for any other niches you’ll pursue.
1. Cold Calling
From working with a script to learning just how to ask the right questions, cold calling is an art you’ll be perfecting all your life!
Make sure you have the basics of phone etiquette down first. Learn how to leave a solid voicemail.
Just getting started? Check out Hubspot’s guide to cold calling.
2. Cold Emailing
“Write emails that could make sense to a 3rd grader” is my favorite emailing tip, and one that applies well to cold emails. It’s not about being wordy. It’s not about cramming all the information about what you’re selling into one email. Simplicity is key!
It’s important to look at each stage of the sales process as the step that gets you to the next one. You use 5 seconds (your subject line) to win 30 seconds (your initial email) to win 2 minutes (a reply or a scheduled call) to win 10 (the call)… you get it. Point is, those first steps are important- master them!
Check out this breakdown of 26 cold email templates to continue your research.
You’ll be persuading people through writing just as much as you will be through speaking. Copywriting is fun to learn, and it will be hugely useful to your email game!
My favorite copywriting resource is Copyblogger. Subscribe to the email list and you’ll get great content on copywriting regularly in your inbox!
Yes, lots of your sales career will involve research. People are flattered when you care about them. Additionally, it’s easier to have a conversation when you’re discussing things that interest the person you’re talking to! Being a good researcher means you can do
Before you call a lead, do this:
- Check out the company website and any news articles that have been written about it.
- Google the person you’ll be speaking to. If they don’t have a personal website, you should at least be able to find out about them on LinkedIn!
- Spend some time learning about the industry, so you at least know some good questions to ask.
Want to dive into this idea more? Check out these 18 places to research a prospect before a cold call.
Tools You Should Master
There are hundreds of sales tools out there, and each company uses different ones. However, learning some basic foundational tools will give you the ability to quickly adapt to any new tools your future employers may use!
Salesforce is top-rated CRM, and even if it’s not used by a sales team, they’ll at least recognize the name.
It’s a great idea to become Salesforce certified. It’s an all-around way to dive deep into the basics of sales funnels, and you’ll come out a much stronger salesperson after doing the work it takes to become certified.
Here’s the Salesforce Administrator Course that will help you learn what you need to know before taking the certification exam!
You’ll use this social media platform constantly if you’re working in sales. Beyond building your network of professionals, LinkedIn is also one of the best places to run ads to possible prospects, establish yourself as an expert in your field, and quickly identifying the decision makers at companies you want to impact!
Spreadsheets are essential to keeping track of many avenues of sales. Learn to master Excel and Google Sheets, so you don’t have that learning curve when you start your first sales job.
To get started with Excel basics, check out Excellennial, a Youtube channel featuring Excel tips!
Video calls are going to be a huge part of your job. Learn the ins and outs of common video platforms so you’re confident in your ability to use video as a sales tool. And remember that it’s not just one-on-one calls that are video options! While you’re learning, take some time to study how to run a great webinar as well.
Sometimes your customer won’t be accustomed to the video software you’re using, and you’ll need to be confident helping them work through tech issues they have. So make your game strong by learning these video tools today!
Managing your email workflow is one of the best ways to stay on top of your sales work. Even if you’re not required to use a tool like Hubspot at your company, knowing how to manage your email in the best way possible will help to accelerate your productivity and career growth! (Hubspot has many other capabilities as well, but email management is one of its top features.)
Thankfully, Hubspot has an academy where you can learn everything about the tool!
Some things can’t be classified as skills or tools, but every good sales professional will tell you these tips are important to master!
1. Learn the art of storytelling.
2. Learn how to ask and then shut up.
3. Focus on the individual, not on what you’re selling.
4. Ask good questions and be genuinely interested!
5. Get good at time management.
6. Never stop learning!
Praxis Resources on Sales:
Since one of our apprenticeship roles is sales, and we believe it’s an essential skill even for those who don’t want to pursue it as a career, we have a host of articles, podcast episodes, and videos about the subject. So
- Praxis Alum Luke Ruffing on How to Kick Ass in a Sales Role
- How to Improve When You’re Starting in Sales
- Making Sales and Should You Quit Your Job to Pursue a New Career- Office Hours Podcast
- What Job Seekers Can Learn from Top Sales Teams
- How I Automated my Sales Email Workflow
- VIDEO: 3 Misconceptions About Sales
- Forward Tilt: The Power of Silence