Ideal.com CEO Somen Mondal has a go-to answer when someone asks him what type of job to pursue.
“My answer is always, ‘Get a job in sales,’” he recently wrote.
For many of you, making a sales call or putting next month’s rent at the mercy of a commission check might induce panic attacks. So what makes Mondal so sure?
“In particular, [a job in sales] taught me two things: a) how to get a person’s attention and b) how to convince them of the value of my service.”
Of course not everyone is a born salesperson, but Mondal has a point. There are many life lessons you can learn working in sales. Lessons that can propel you to a successful career in a number of fields. This is especially the case for young professionals fresh out of college looking for that first job and real-world experience.
So whether you eat, sleep, and dream about selling or hyperventilate at the words “cold call,” here are five life lessons anyone can learn from working in sales.
I was in college when the recession hit. More specifically, I was in journalism school; not exactly the fast track to employment. I was routinely told that finding a job was near impossible.
That wasn’t far from wrong. After applying to a dozen or more jobs with only a couple interviews to show for it, I finally landed a gig at a newspaper. Was I the most talented or most experienced candidate? Probably not. But I knew the importance of selling myself in the interview.
No matter your career, we are all in sales. You have to sell yourself and convince the person sitting across from you in an interview or business meeting to take a chance and hire you or move forward with your project. If you start a business, you have to convince people to buy your product or service. If you’re an architect, you have to sell your new design to your client or boss. This skill is universal.
Being accountable for your actions.
I talk with salespeople everyday at work and asked a few of them what they’ve learned in this business. One co-worker told me that above all, sales teaches you to be accountable for your actions. He said you won’t be successful unless you’re 100 percent accountable for everything you do.
It starts with knowing your product inside and out. People know when you’re unsure or don’t believe in what you’re selling. It’s clear in the sound of your voice. Sure, some months are slower than others, but you are ultimately responsible for your pipeline and are accountable for your results. Taking responsibility for your daily actions and being accountable when things go right and when they go wrong is vital across all career fields.
Getting and staying organized is the lifeblood of success in sales. You’re keeping track of leads, potentials, sales calls, and meetings across multiple time zones and multiple locations. It’s imperative that you plan your weeks, months, and quarters well in advance so nothing gets overlooked.
In many cases, poor organization means losing a deal and losing money. You can’t let that happen. The same goes for other careers. An oversight in scheduling or missing a deadline because you can’t locate a document or haven’t talked to the right person can be consequential.
When your success and career depends on organization—like it does in sales—it becomes part of your life and a skill set that never leaves you.
Effectively communicate your ideas.
No matter your career, you have to be able to speak well and effectively communicate your ideas and thoughts. Whether it’s during a meeting, a presentation, or working on a project with your team, the ability to communicate is invaluable.
In sales, you get to practice speaking and practice your pitch every single day.You get to hear the words “yes” and hear the words “no”. Every call is a chance at improvement.
In addition with the universal skill of communicating with your bosses, colleagues, or customers, sales also gives you experience talking on the phone. Even in the era of text messages, ‘Snaps, and ‘Grams, business is still primarily conducted over the phone.
You’re always in the customer service game.
You deal with all types of people in sales. Some are friendly and make your job easy and enjoyable. Others are—to put it nicely—unpleasant and abrasive. No matter who you’re speaking with or where he or she falls on this continuum, a good salesperson realizes the importance of customer service.
“The greatest lesson I’ve learned through sales is that every career has an element of customer service—you can’t get away from it,” said Ryan Bounds, account executive for the Texas Rangers Baseball Club. “You have to learn to deal with people and all their issues, and the best way to do this is through building relationships.”
Bounds, who didn’t see himself or have an interest in sales coming out of college, says the field has taught him how crucial relationships are in your career. And he knows that skill will benefit him later in life wherever his career takes him.
So whether or not you stay in sales for a couple years or your entire career, you can learn a number of life lessons working in the industry. Lessons that will stay with you in whatever direction your professional life takes you.