How to Start a Career in Sales (When You Never Planned on It)

During school I never considered working in sales. In fact, I thought I’d be the worst salesperson ever. Like many others, I never considered working in sales until I stumbled into a sales gig.

After getting my degree in electronic media, I was offered a sales job at the company I interned with. A full time job right out of the gate seemed like a really good deal—since I was broke! Thanks to a B.S. degree that cost me 50K, I promptly took a job not at all related to what I studied!

In college, I didn’t take a single class on sales. (Only a handful of universities teach or provide degrees in professional selling. My only experience was from my lemonade stand at age seven.) I had no mentors or role models. My only direction was being told, “you have a job here as long as you sell.” That was good enough motivation, and off I went.

It turns out there’s a difference between learning how to manage units sold and actually selling between two parties. So, I embarked on a journey of discovery.

I first began collecting books about selling, and signing up for local workshops from Chamber of Commerces and local SBA events. (Since I was broke, anything that cost under $100 was great.) I got some good tips and tricks, read about the basics, and since you learn more by doing than by reading, I started making cold calls. I was horrible at it. It took me two months to get my first sale—through a referral.

I slowly built up my skills and reputation, and started making more sales. One thing became painfully obvious: in sales, you must continue learning.

As the lifeblood of every company, learning to sell should be mandatory for everyone. However, it’s far more common for salespeople to learn haphazardly—from live experiences, both good and bad. It’s risky business. In hindsight, there were three things I wish I had done earlier in my career. I would advise all sales newbies to do them at the beginning of their journeys:

  1. Start with Chris Lytle’s The Accidental Salesperson. This book does a great job at removing the stigma of sales—and sharing how to use systems and a process to help your clients solve problems.
  2. Join a credible online sales training platform. (Obviously I recommend using Viddler!) The best way to self learn and reinforce skills is by leveraging sales enablement tools and using them consistently. Viddler is a platform that focuses on interactive video training which is a great, engaging way to learn specific skills through the best-in-class trainers in those specific areas.
  3. The key to achieve mastery is through regular sales role play with a coach. Too many salespeople never use a coach, and companies seldom provide one. This stunts growth. I didn’t use a coach mostly because I thought I couldn’t afford it. That’s why Viddler’s online sales coaching platform is so important. It connects salespeople to accredited sales coaches at a fraction of the typical cost.

A career in sales can be fun and rewarding if you develop mastery on a continual and regular basis. So get great books, get great training, and get great coaching so you can get to your best self fast! Please use the comments section below to continue the conversation about ways to become a better [accidental] salesperson.

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