In almost any career, selling skills are important. Whether you're fundraising for your startup, getting early adopters for your product, or convincing internal stakeholders to back your campaign, knowing how to show others the value of your idea or solution will make a huge impact on your career.
I fundamentally believe that anyone can learn how to sell. But I also believe that others are better at selling than most, and you should think carefully before making sales your career. After all, there's a vast difference between getting exposure to sales and learning selling techniques -- and choosing to work in a sales role for the rest of your life.
Here are three reasons you shouldn’t choose a sales career. If you’re in sales and relate to any of these points, you might want to think about other options.
1) You’re more passionate about “making” than “influencing”
If you are passionate about making things, such as apps, software, or physical products from furniture to cars, a career in sales may not be the best fit for you.
Many people love working on projects for weeks on end by themselves and developing something beautiful or inventive. My co-founder and Elucify CEO Gerald Fong comes to mind. If you’re passionate about being a “maker,” then a sales career probably isn’t a fit for you.
That’s not to say that you can’t be a maker while you are in sales, although it is a bit harder and you may end up satisfying your “maker” passion as a side hobby.
Sales involves honing your influence and using human psychology, along with constantly interacting with prospects face-to-face and/or virtually. If you’re someone with the maker mentality, you'll probably find this distracting.
2) You aren’t comfortable with a volatile paycheck
This is an objective point, separate from the question of whether your personality is a fit for sales.
Sales is inherently volatile. At many companies, you’ll receive a relatively low base pay -- how much money you take home every month will hinge on your commission payments. That means significant uncertainty about how your paycheck will look every month.
There may be some months where you can barely pay the rent because you just met quota (or missed it). There will be other months where you’ll buy all your friends a drink because you beat quota (well, hopefully you’re not as bad with money as I once was.)
If you’re not comfortable with financial uncertainty, the anxiety will take a toll.
I had a friend who did well at sales and always made his quota yet couldn’t live with the monthly stress of wondering whether he’d be able to pay his bills. These concerns decrease over time as you become a better salesperson and receive a higher base pay -- but you need thick skin to deal with it in the initial stages of your career.
3) You have a fear of rejection
I think everyone has a fear of rejection when they start out in sales. Many salespeople never get over it.
But if you don’t become accustomed to rejection, you might want to look for a different career.
One of my managers used to say, “You're in sales to get rejected 90% of the time, but you are in hot pursuit of the 10% of customers who actually like you and your product.”
This rejection can come at any time. In sales, sometimes people will get mad at you for doing your job, not for anything you’ve said or done.
If that scares the sh*t out of you, you’ve got a hard road ahead. You can build up a stomach for rejection, but some people are better at this than others.
Not being a fit for sales isn’t a bad thing, nor does it mean you should never sell. It simply means you shouldn’t pursue a sales career. To be most successful, find the roles you are optimized for.