Every person who has considered a career in sales has asked the following question: Is sales a good career?
With high turnover rates and reports of burnout in sales floors, sales might not seem like a worthwhile career. But this job path packs a lot more positives than you might think — and a few negatives you should think about if you’re looking for sales roles.
In this post, we’ll cover what you need to know if you’re considering a career in sales.
Is sales a good career?
Yes, sales is an excellent career. Salespeople have the potential to earn a high salary and often have a clear career path within their organizations. Most importantly, anyone can get into sales. You only need to have the drive to grow your sales skills and the desire to succeed.
Here are a few reasons sales is a great career:
- High Pay: Unless your employer places a cap on commissions, the sky is literally the limit. You can bring in well over $100K/year in the right sales role.
- Clear Career Path: As an entry-level salesperson, you’ll be able to move into management roles or shift laterally into business development.
- Personal Growth Opportunities: You’ll grow both your professional and interpersonal skills in a sales role. Talking to strangers every day will help you improve your communication and problem-solving skills.
- Always in Demand: Sales jobs are always available and are forecasted to continue growing. Mid-level sales manager roles are growing at a 7% rate, and that's without accounting for entry-level positions.
- Transferable Skills: Once you land a job in sales, you can do anything. You can use your communication skills to go into customer service, or your product knowledge to go into marketing.
Overall, working in sales requires grit, resilience, and a thick skin. It can be one of the most rewarding jobs you’ll ever have, but keep in mind you’ll face a lot of rejection.
However, not all sales jobs are created equal. A cold calling job is much different than an inbound sales role, where the people you speak to are genuinely interested in the product you sell. While cold calling is part of most sales jobs, especially during the prospecting process, it can’t make up the bulk of what you do or you’ll quickly face burnout.
When you’re interviewing for a sales job, ask targeted questions that help you understand the employer’s sales process. Ask them how they primarily get their prospects and how they determine whether the prospect is a sales qualified lead. If they can’t provide a clear answer, continue looking for another role.
Pros and Cons of Sales Jobs
Pro #1: You determine how well you do.
Most salespeople are paid a base salary plus commission. The amount you’re paid is based on the number of deals you close.
A base salary-commission pay structure might strike fear into the hearts of some, but great salespeople know that if they invest time and energy into consistently generating new pipeline and go the extra mile for their prospects, it can pay off — big time.
Con #1: Poor performance can affect your pay.
A hefty portion of what salespeople bring home is determined by how well they did the previous month. There will be months where your pay dips, whether it’s because of seasonality in your sales cycle or because the deals you were counting on didn’t close.
Of course, results affect compensation in every field, but sales is one of the few professions where a huge chunk of your salary is directly tied to your performance. And what if you have a bad month?
Pro #2: You have the power to choose good leads.
Top-performing sales reps don’t “spray and pray.” As a new sales rep, you might be tempted to focus on activity levels (calls, emails, and meetings) to judge your performance, but the best salespeople know they have to balance quantity and quality.
Instead of leaving yourself at the mercy of 100 random prospects, you might cherry-pick your 15 or 20 best leads. This will enable you to deeply understand those prospects’ problems and suggest tailored solutions, dramatically increasing the odds that you’ll get their business.
Con #2: Not all good leads will turn into a closed-won deal.
You can send as many resources, make as many calls, and send as many emails as you can. But at the end of the day, you can’t make your prospects buy; you can only try to persuade them.
Pro #3: There’s a clear measurement of success.
Sales quotas may seem intimidating, but they aren’t randomly determined by an out-of-touch leadership team. In fact, they’re carefully calculated and represent the part of the company that you are personally responsible for. The best reps understand this and approach their quotas as an invitation to be part of their companies’ growth.
In a more Darwinian sense, quotas are also one of the most meritocratic measures of job performance. We all know someone who doesn’t seem to ever do anything, but manages to get promoted based on their charm and personality alone. Well, that doesn’t cut it in sales. Quotas mean reps who consistently underperform have nowhere to hide.
Con #3: Quotas can be stressful.
Salespeople live and die by their quotas. You could be the best relationship-builder on your team, but if it doesn’t translate to deals, it doesn’t matter. When you’re having a bad month, your quota can seem like an arbitrarily set value designed to make your life miserable.
Pro #4: You can easily exceed prospects’ expectations by being helpful.
People are wary of sales reps because they believe you’ll contact them incessantly with information about products they don’t need and won’t buy. The good news about such low expectations is that they’re easy to exceed.
The best salespeople know they can’t — and shouldn’t — strongarm prospects into a purchase. Instead, they arrive at a mutually agreed-upon solution to a defined problem. By being hepful, you can establish yourself as a trusted advisor and problem-solver.
Con #4: People think salespeople are sleazy.
Prospects who have had the misfortune of working with manipulative or pushy salespeople will be more reticent and more difficult to sell to. You’ll need to work through these biases as you try to sell to prospects.
Pro #5: You will continuously build your muscles for certain tasks.
Prospecting, calling, emailing, and creating pitch decks are all tasks you’ll repeat day in and day out. These foundational tasks, while not inherently exciting, are the building blocks of the big, exciting moments in sales. Your ability to soldier through the “boring” parts of the job are the sole determinant in whether you’ll feel the thrill of winning a big deal.
Con #5: Sales can get repetitive.
There’s no way to get around it. Success in sales requires a lot of repetitive tasks. You will have days when you have to prospect at scale or send so many emails that your eyes will get blurry.
Pro #6: You’ll be solving different problems for different customers.
Every sales process is different. Each and every customer has a unique problem, so you’ll never have the same conversation twice, keeping your week-to-week exciting and engaging.
You’ll also become an expert in your field and be able to develop highly custom plans for your prospects. If you feel like you’re getting déjà vu in all of your sales calls, reexamine your notes to see whether you’ve been having an overly general conversation.
Con #6: You only sell one thing.
At the end of the day, you still sell one thing (or just a few products). Talking about one product, one set of features, and one value proposition can get monotonous.
Pro #7: You’ll build your ability to handle rejection.
Rejection is a part of sales. It’s not a reflection on you, and it’s built into the sales process — after all, you wouldn’t need to prospect and qualify at scale if you could close 100% of your leads. At first, it will be hard, but as time goes on, you’ll be able to bounce back quickly and approach each new conversation with a positive attitude.
Con #7: You’ll need to handle a lot of rejections.
Rejection sucks. It’s discouraging, and after a string of 10 “no’s” in one day, it’s natural to want to give up and quit. However, this will serve as an opportunity to differentiate yourself and prove that this career is right for you. You simply pick up the phone, prospect again, and solve more problems for your customers.
Sales Is an Excellent Career for the Right Person
Sales has an unfairly bad reputation, but it’s an exciting and challenging career that will help you grow personally and professionally. If you view the items on this list with excitement and anticipation, a career in sales is right for you. Prepare as well as you can with the best sales training materials, and you’re looking at a successful future in sales.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in October 2015 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.