I’m nine months away from graduating college. That alone is a terrifying reality, but the question of what comes next is even more daunting.
My friends and I got together recently to talk about the kinds of jobs that might be good first fits. When I mentioned sales jobs as a possibility (I had already been offered a sales role at a Finance Tech company), the blank stares and sidelong glances spoke volumes. I don’t know when it happened, but somewhere down the line, sales became a dirty word.
Business Development Professional
Customer Solution Specialist
These titles are all used to disguise entry-level sales jobs. With people my age, there is this sense of shame associated with selling something. Maybe it’s the used car salesman effect, but I still think it strange that people look down on a technique every single person in the world uses daily to satisfy his or her wants and needs. We all sell, and the sooner us college students can purge euphemisms and double talk from our collective vocabulary, the sooner we will be able to thrive in positions we might have previously considered taboo.
Watch Darryl Rawlings, CEO of Trupanion, share why he thinks entry-level sales is the best place to start your career.
When I was sixteen, I realized that within the next two years the day was going to come when I would have to convince a university that they should accept me. Sitting in an information session at a New England college the speaker opened with:
“If we wanted, we could have an entire freshman class of valedictorians.”
I was nowhere near the top of my graduating class, and in that moment, I understood that I would have to demonstrate my value in ways that were not tied to “my numbers.” I began my education in sales.
I ended up at Bates College (a different New England school.) Why? Because once I identified it as a goal, I made sure to interview in person on campus, meet with professors in my intended major, and research which teachers at my high school went to which colleges so I could strategically ask for letters of recommendation. In each of my supplemental essays and interviews, I would include tidbits of information from recent press on the school or a new program I knew had been instituted. Careful personal touches made all the difference.
In retrospect, I now understand that I was, in fact, using sales strategies. It’s all about quickly and effectively forging genuine human connection. This is key, because when sales becomes a fulfilling person to person interaction – it doesn’t feel like work. It’s no longer a transaction. It’s a genuine human connection.
Let’s loop back to the top of this post and examine how you would feel if your first job out of undergrad had one of those titles. Would you feel like you had something to hide? What if you were described as someone who was accountable, trustworthy, driven, dedicated? Those are the qualities that employers look for in a top-notch sales person. They are also the same qualities I so badly wanted to demonstrate to the colleges I fell in love with.
There are more paths to happiness than I could ever imagine, and no matter which one I choose, I will have to convince others to be allied with me in some way. Whether we’re selling an actual product, asking for a grant to complete a charity project, or asking another person to be our partner in life – we’re going to need sales skills. So please, please, please, remember that sales is not a dirty word.
Harry is a senior at Bates College majoring economics and minoring in english literature. He attended Koru this past June and misses Seattle terribly. When he is not managing his stock portfolio he is avidly playing fantasy football.