I was recently asked by Sara Ridley to put a piece together on sales as a career for her own blog over at Top Quality Tuition – a website dedicated to people looking for help with studying at school and college or even for those looking for job coaching. Thats job coaching for those looking for a start in their career or even a promotion or advancement. It’s a great service, and I know Sarah well enough to tell you that she is a lovely lady, and a dedicated and talented educator. I highly recommend her service. (Disclosure: I am listed as a job coach on her site – though there is no financial return for me in this exercise)

So… sales as a career, here we go!


High earning opportunity. Sales people at highest level can earn a lot of money. There are very specialist sales people earning millions of pounds a year. And even in South Wales there are sales jobs out there with Opportunities To Earn (OTE) six figure salaries.

Sales people mostly don’t need any qualifications other than the ability to sell. Though rising through to management, and as mentioned, those specialist sales people (for instance medical equipment sales or scientific sales) will find a degree level education will be helpful if not outright required at some point.

Sales people have more control over their earnings than any other job I can think of. Sales people can give themselves a pay rise every day, just by making more calls and seeing more people.

Field sales people (face to face) get to spend most of their time out and about meeting different people. Variety is the spice of life, and never more so than for sales people.

Flexibility. Again for field sales at least, you’ll usually have a chance to fit your working hours around appointments, and that can sometimes work to your advantage.

Never a dull moment. Sales seems to be a fast paced environment, with lots going on most of the time. You are usually working to deadlines in sales too, and that can add to the excitement.

Opportunity to progress. Sales people who succeed in their field can often look forward to promotion to sales manager or sales director. And further, many organisations look towards commercial departments for Managing Directors and Chief Exec’s too.

On the other hand…

High pressure. The usual refrain from people who don’t want to move into a sales job is that they don’t want the added pressure. Sales people tend to thrive under pressure and do their best work when under the cosh, so it’s usually welcomed by them in some way. Those not suited to selling are extremely uncomfortable under these conditions.

It’s all about numbers. In a sales job you are extremely accountable. Often with daily weekly and monthly targets. You will be managed by objectives, and measured on many and various Key Performance Indicators. These might include rates, call levels, client growth etc. For most sales people these formalities provide a framework that allows them to do the job well, and so this way if working is accepted.

Rejection. Sales people effectively ask lots and lots of people to buy from them. In most sales jobs, the majority of times, most customers say no. This can be hard on a sales persons psyche. Add this rejection to constant measurement and the feeling of pressure and hey presto, you’ve a pressure cooker environment that lots of people don’t want to subject themselves too.

You are only as good as your last target. And achieving targets is the best way to ensure that your targets will go up too. You get ahead in sales by doing more than what is expected of you. And world-class sales people know that they have to build a track record they can cash in on. This means hitting targets. You don’t win in sales by coming in second.

Not everyone has the same view as sales people about the career choice! Some people think that all sales people are Arthur Daley types. A little bit dodgy and not to be trusted.

What you’ll need to succeed

The attributes of successful sales people are very similar. Tenacity, perseverance and determination for sure. But also energy and enthusiasm. Creativity is increasingly important and all great sales people are great story tellers.

The number one reason for failing sales people however is lack of commitment. All top sales people are extremely committed. Committed to their career and committed to their plan for success.

Sales people are mentally tough! They take full responsibility. Great sales people also learn to live with the family of barnacles which attach themselves to all sales people: rejection, discouragement, pressure, stress.

So there you have it. Sales is right for some, and not others, like everything else. It’s a great job, where you can literally reach out and carve a career from nothing for yourself. But it’s often a tough journey with tears and trials and tribulations the whole way.

But the rewards are tremendous. Satisfaction from target achievement and the earnings that top sales people achieve more than make up for the tough stuff. I thoroughly recommend it!

If you are interested, you could do a lot worse than to check out Sara’s website and even drop her an email, there is a ton of advice there on loads of different career options and help for students of all sorts of ages too. And Sarah is a real star, great fun and very committed – also highly recommended!

    • Tony Dowling
      Tony Dowling says:

      Thanks Sara, no coincidence to find it on this blog really! I think its proabably the number one thing that people cite when leaving sales as an industry after trying it for the first time.
      Thanks for the comment!

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