Career Tips for New Sales Reps

Career Tips for New Sales Reps

“What suggestions would I share with someone considering a career in sales?” That is the question I was asked recently by a college graduate. Reflecting on that question, my early sales career, and what I’ve learned leading a sales training company, I realized I would have done things differently. If I were just starting (or considering) a sales career today, there are a few things I would adjust that I know would accelerate my sales results. This article is the information I wish I had at the start of my sales career. 

If you are reading this article, you are likely on the fence if a career in sales is right for you. Let me point out a few benefits of starting a career in sales. A sales position on your resume signals to future employers that you understand business and the importance of revenue. Are you thinking of becoming an entrepreneur? Sales experience is critical for the success of your venture. Want to get your foot in the door with your dream company? The sales department is a great entry point.

Hopefully, if you are still reading, you see the value of starting your professional career in the sales department. Now let’s explore the top 5 career sales tips I wish I had known when I started my sales career in my twenties:

  1. Find a mentor.
  2. Don’t chase the paycheck. Focus on building skills instead.
  3. Adversity is a path to success, not the opposite of it.
  4. Not enough time is a symptom of doing the wrong things.
  5. Prioritize Professional Development.

Now let’s deep-dive into what to do first.

Find a Sales Mentor Early

Too often, we are left to figure out our sales career by ourselves–I know I did, which resulted in too much trial and error. The first piece of advice I would give someone considering a career in sales is to find a sales mentor. It sounds cliché. We’ve all been advised of the importance of mentors. I mistakenly believed I would build my sales success from the ground up on my own, and starting my sales career without a mentor delayed my sales growth.

When considering our first sales position, the amount of information we are working with is limited. The learning curve is steep. We may select a sales job based on gut feeling, the recruiter’s pitch, or other erroneous information, and six months later, we’re left thinking, “Maybe sales is not for me.” The wrong path in sales is generally a path we take for the wrong reasons—money, status, or recognition.

Having a sales mentor early in your career can prevent you from taking the wrong path. An early career sales mentor might not necessarily be a formal relationship. Instead, you need an experienced sales professional who can provide valuable insights and knowledge. The best way to accelerate your sales career right off the bat is to avoid early missteps.

Ryan Holiday said, “If you ask most smart or successful people where they learned their craft, they will not talk to you about their time in school. It’s always a mentor, a particularly transformative job, or a period of experimentation or trial and error.”

Commitment is Key

When I talk with sales reps looking to exit selling, they have a common theme. They feel the pressure to sell, and it makes them feel uncomfortable. Early in my sales career, I felt the same pressure, which hindered my performance. But it was misapplied pressure. Instead of feeling pressure to sell, I should have felt pressure to help my clients.

Until you feel personally committed to solving your client’s problems, your sales career will suffer. This one principle, if applied early, will change the trajectory of your sales career.

To be a high performer in sales, you must be committed to helping your clients. 

The nuance of commitment is that it requires a purpose. Purposeful commitment to helping clients is transformative. Why? Because, your sales career becomes more meaningful when you value purpose over a paycheck. Purpose brings a higher level of commitment and accountability than a paycheck. 

Be Result Oriented

It requires more than hard work and ambition to succeed at your first sales job. Those are prerequisites but not enough for today’s highly competitive sales environments. To go from new sales hire to top-performing sales superstar in the shortest time possible requires one thing: You deliver results for your clients, not just checking items off a to-do list.

A results-oriented new hire is more valuable to both the sales organization and clients. They also sell more, get promoted faster, and earn more income. Being result oriented is not just essential for sales success but sales survival. It means more than closing deals. It includes:

  1. Integrity: If I were the CEO, would this be acceptable?
  2. Proactivity: Learn not to be afraid of the ask.
  3. Professional Development: The motto is learning & earning.

Long-term sales success never happens by accident–it is the result of good work habits and delivering results for clients. Early in my sales career, if someone asked me about my results, I would tell them about my sales numbers and exceeding quota. Today, I realize that my sales results are predicated on the results I can deliver for clients.

Early in my sales career, I did not have the strongest sales leadership. I was working very hard but not generating the results I desired. There was a massive gap between my effort and my results, and it seemed like the harder I tried, the worse my results were. I felt like I never had enough time, and sales were stressful, to say the least. 

At about this time in my sales career, I doubled down on professional development. Slowly, my sales performance started to improve. The more I worried about generating sales, the more stress I felt, and the harder sales felt. I learned over the years from trial and error that the more I focused on my clients, the less stressed I was, and the better my results became.

In Conclusion

The sales leaders of the future will be those who can learn more sales skills, apply them creatively to their client’s problems and deliver results that their clients value. The motto for early-stage sales professionals should be to learn first and then earn. 

A successful sales career comes down to two critical components. First, you commit to delivering results for your clients. Second, you derive a sense of purpose and satisfaction from your client outcomes. When these components are missing, sales careers struggle.

Finally, everything that happens to us in sales is a form of instruction if you pay attention. We can become frustrated, blame others, and make excuses, like too many early career sales reps do. Alternatively, we can look at what is happening and find new opportunities we did not see before.

Scott Peck, the author of the Road Less Traveled, may have said it best, “The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.