This may be the most important career decision you ever make. Seriously.
Getting the right kind of sales experience as a foundation for your sales career is critically important. Every year Selling Power publishes a list of the best 50 companies to sell for. I have written previously about some of the top companies I recommend for getting initial sales experience, and many of these appear on this list. The question is: what do these companies have in common and why does it matter so much for your career development?
Here are the essentials you should be looking for in your first sales job: 1) a solid, formal training program 2) high activity level to give you many opportunities for learning 3) a strong manager or mentor who will offer you feedback and coaching and 4) accountability for results. Note: compensation doesn’t make the list. It is an important consideration, but getting the right kind of training and sales experience is even more important. The main purpose of your first sales position is to turn you into a sales animal.
A great first job in sales goes beyond great training, though a structured training program is invaluable. The key to getting great sales experience is having opportunities to apply the training in real life situations. The higher the level of sales activity, the more opportunities you will have to practice, learn and improve.
If you join a company where a sales rep is expected to make 50 cold calls a day, versus one where the sales rep is making only 20, at the end of the week – the first rep has make 250 cold calls, and the second rep has made only 100. Who has more opportunities to apply what they’ve learned? Or learn from their mistakes? The answers to these questions are pretty obvious.
And yes, there is a telecomm company that expect reps to hit 50 “doors” a day. The pace of work is intense, and reps generally only last in that environment a year or two, but in a short period of time these reps gain a ton of knowledge.
If you are able to get great training and have many opportunities to apply it, having a knowledgeable mentor or manager who can help you correct your errors and become more effective will maximize your learning even more. In order for this to be true, you need to be open to feedback on your performance. Better yet, you need to invite it. One successful strategy many top performing reps seem to have in common is seeking out others who are successful in their office or company, and asking them what the secrets to their success are.
The final essential element you should look for in your first sales job is accountability for results. Some companies do an excellent job of establishing a “no-excuses” performance culture. These companies often frequently publish rankings, offer various awards and incentives, and regular reviews of quota performance and pipeline activity on a weekly or sometimes daily basis. You should welcome this and use these tools to hold yourself accountable. You want to stay away from environments where complaining and excuses are the norm - it can be contagious.
Working for well-known companies that offer great sales experience will make breaking into medical device sales much, much easier. Even if a company isn’t well-known, but offers most or all of these attributes, then it could offer an equally good career move.
There are no shortcuts to great sales experience. Choose a company that will train and challenge you to grow as a sales person. Paying your dues will lead to big payoffs in your career.