Congratulations -- you finally did it. You’ve graduated college and received a formal job offer. You’re moving to San Francisco, New York, Chicago, or Boston to work in sales for a leading technology company as a sales development rep. Or an inbound call specialist. An associate inside sales rep, an emerging technology specialist, or an associate account manager.
Whatever your company calls its sales roles, get ready for the ride. You’ll tell your friends you’re in sales, but when you first hit the floor you’ll feel a little like a lab rat. You’ll be tested and put through the fire time and time again.
But entry level sales roles are incredibly valuable if you approach the job correctly, and if you make the most of them they can be a springboard for bigger and better roles in the future. Here are six ways to build a strong foundation for long-term success.
1) Your ego has no place in sales.
Accept this early on. The sooner you lose the ego, the sooner you’ll be able to start learning. This is the greatest opportunity you’ll ever have to fully understand the process of a sales role. The “lights-on” moment when you realize that sales is actually hard and the satisfaction of success won’t happen if you don’t understand that you’ll need to be humble to do well.
You may be charming, personable, and relatable but it takes hard work (and a little bit of luck) to do well.
2) Take training seriously.
As a sales rep, there are plenty of times each week where you’ll think to yourself, “I wish I wouldn’t have thrown away those notes from training!” or “Damn, that executive that came into our class actually gave tips that I know I could benefit from right now. Where are those notes?"
Stay organized. Whatever company you work for has developed a program designed by successful sales reps to help make you successful. They wouldn’t have created the program if it didn’t have value.
Quick tip: Do not accept an offer at a company that doesn’t have a training program, or at least some type of program that promotes your professional development. These are signs that the company isn’t equipped to provide training or doesn’t care about it, and you’ll never learn as much here as you will at a business that will invest in you.
3) Be a sponge.
Your two-week, three-week, or even seven-week training program is finally complete. You’ve passed with flying colors, and now you’re on the floor.
You’ll think to yourself, “I'm four days in. This isn’t anything like training -- it’s all moving so fast. What the heck am I supposed to do now?"
Take a deep breath. It’s time to put your training to use. Leverage as much of the material as is applicable. There was a method to the madness, and taking a step back to put the pieces together will help you.
Then, meet with your peers who have been doing the job a little bit longer than you. Ask them what they wish they had known in their first week. Introduce yourself to the seasoned rockstars and let them know you want to learn.
Make sure you’re prepared -- why would you want to waste the time of someone you respect and want to have as a mentor? Have an agenda, and organize how you want to spend your time. Be honest and tell them what’s on your mind. You'll soon realize that you can relax and be yourself. Everyone you interact with has the same goal of wanting to help the company, in turn progressing their own careers.
Quick tip: Truly successful people will always be willing to help. What you learn from your colleagues will stick with you forever. They have mentors and will enjoy the opportunity to pay it forward, and one day you will too.
4) Listen and take action on feedback you receive.
If your manager tells you to stop taking call notes by hand, stop. Put them in your CRM where they need to be.
If your manager gives you advice on the soundbites you’re messing up on the phones, work on them. Practice or role play until you’ve got your message down cold.
If your manager suggests improvements to your prospecting process, make them.
Don’t be the one who rebels against some new policy because you don’t see the point. You simply don’t have the context to rewrite the playbook, and the value of your sales process will become more apparent as you gain more experience. Buy into the program and commit to hitting your goals.
5) Manage your time well.
Organizing your time well is the single best thing you can do in an entry-level sales role. During your one-on-one sessions with your manager and mentors, figure out how to best manage your time. Ask them their best strategies, then test out which ones work for you. This will be fun -- take one approach for a few weeks, then move to another and keep testing until you figure out the routine that works best for you.
6) Know that this isn’t forever.
Entry-level sales roles may not seem sexy, but they’re important. You’ll build friendships and professional relationships you’ll maintain for your entire career. It’s the only opportunity you’ll have to focus on developing your activity, attitude, skill, and networking abilities without being directly responsible for carrying a quota.
In these roles, most managers look for high activity and the ability to be coachable (capable of taking feedback and applying it on the spot). Know this and focus on doing well in both areas to help you move through the ranks.
Have fun, and good luck.