9 Signs You Were Born to Work in Sales
Maybe you’ve been told you’re a natural-born salesperson. Maybe you’re looking for a versatile field that can qualify you to work in a variety of different industries. Or maybe you’re simply on the hunt for a career you know will always keep you on your toes, sharpening your skills as each work week passes. Whatever has brought you to this point, you’re left wondering if you’re truly cut out for a career in sales.
Firstly, you can rest assured that the field you’re considering is an important one. “Sales is the lifeblood of any organization,” says John Surdakowski, founder of the New York City-based digital creative agency, AVEX. “Whether you’re working within a sales department for a company, or you’re the founder of your own small business, the bills do not get paid without making sales.”
With that in mind, it's widely known that successful salespeople can be well-compensated for their work. The earnings potential of a salesperson will certainly depend on the industry in which they launch their sales career. The lowest ten percent of sales professionals bring home roughly $39,930 annually, whereas the highest ten percent of earners take in $160,940—which brings the median annual wage to about $60,530, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2016 salary data.*
Another notable benefit to working in sales is that the skills you gain are so versatile, so you won’t be pinned down to a single industry for the entirety of your career. “Sales experience is applicable everywhere, in any type of job and in every aspect of life,” says Greg Archbald, founder of GreaseBook Oil Production Software. He adds that some people are simply “genetically designed for sales.”
“The sooner these individuals are able to identify this gift, the sooner they can begin to hone their craft and become wildly successful,” Archbald says.
Are you a natural-born sales pro? We asked sales experts of all stripes to identify some of the telltale signs of sales success.
9 Sure signs you’d succeed in a sales career
1. You’re positive in the face of rejection
Daniel Scott, co-founder of Mother Erth, offers the following questions to aspiring salespersons: Does your drive for success overrule the sting of rejection and failure? No one likes rejection, but are you willing to work through it to reach your goals?
“A salesperson will be rejected multiple times every day,” he explains. “You can get a job where you will fail much less, but the rewards will be equally diminutive in comparison.”
According to our experts, failure is simply part of the nature of the job. “Every single future sales professional needs to expect to get rejected most of the time,” says Bart Turczynski, career expert and editor of the Uptowork Career Advice Website. He admits it can be hard—especially when you’re first starting out. “Learn from your mistakes, make sure you don’t repeat them and focus on the next client. A successful career in sales is only possible if you move on.”
2. You value relationship-building
Something the most successful sales professionals learn quickly is that it takes more than just a quality product to make a sale. “Salespeople must be interested in others,” says author, speaker and sales consultant Drew Stevens. “Consumers do not buy companies or products—they invest in the sales relationship.”
The truth is that personality can go a long way for a salesperson. “When hiring a new sales representative at my digital agency or even when receiving a sales call from a potential vendor, I’m more receptive to a salesperson who is personable and easy to speak with, as opposed to a robotic, pre-written sales pitch,” Surdakowski offers, adding that the more you actively listen to your customer base, the better you will understand them and be able to help them solve their problems.
“The more you know or predict about your potential client, the better,” Turczynski agrees. “If you listen to prospects, you’ll learn what they need. You don’t have to be a good talker if you’re a good listener.”
3. You are organized
Working in sales means you’re never going to be working with just a single client at a time. Rather, you’ll be juggling several in addition to chasing down new leads throughout the entirety of your career. One of the biggest favors you can do yourself in a field like this is to remain organized.
“Are you the kind of person who feels comfortable handling projects with many moving pieces? Do you enjoy organizing and staying on top of various deadlines?” Scott asks. “Sales’ effectiveness is very much tied to effective time management. You’ll have to keep track of many different contacts and deals at various stages in the cycle.”
4. You’re willing to put in the work behind the scenes
While it often seems like much of the heavy lifting in sales happens face-to-face or while in conversation with clients, the most effective salespeople understand the amount of behind-the-scenes work a successful sale takes.
“The days of the boiler room sales personality are behind us,” says Drew Trombley, outbound business development manager at Fueled. “Today, successful sales professionals are faced with clients who have unlimited, instant access to information to call out bluffs and separate fact from fiction. To succeed in this new sales environment, it’s imperative that each seller is an expert in their offering.” He adds that a good rule of thumb is to assume that every prospective client has a Google search open and ready to validate all claims being made in a given sales pitch.
“Good salespeople must think in terms of output,” Stevens says, explaining that it’s important to research the industry and the competition, so that the salesperson can position the product in a consultative manner that illustrates how the product or service will help the consumer.
5. You are persuasive
Maybe it goes without saying, but being a persuasive person matters in sales. “Persuasion is another important skill in sales, but it’s hard to learn in school or on the job,” explains Steven Benson, founder and CEO of Badger Maps. “To be persuasive, you need a combination of clear communication skills, listening skills, empathy and confidence. You also need to be genuine, likable and generally positive.”
So how do you know if you’re inherently persuasive? Consider the following offered by Danielle Kunkle Roberts, co-founder of Boomer Benefits: “You are a born salesperson if you found ways to make money around your neighborhood during your childhood.”
“In my interviews with potential salespeople, I always ask them why they like sales or how they first knew they would be good in sales,” she explains. “Almost without exception, born salespeople mention how they mowed lawns for their neighbors or knocked on doors in the neighborhood asking if someone wanted to buy a carwash for a few dollars.” Roberts clarifies that even childhood ventures like these demonstrate the presence of both confidence and courage, which salespeople need for cold calls and in-person sales.
6. You are skilled with language
To be a good salesperson, it’s imperative that you have a strong command of language, offers Nate Masterson, director of sales for Maple Holistics. “Selling something to someone means opening up their eyes to the possibilities of the future, and this is done primarily through speech skills,” he says. “When you are able to paint a vivid picture and plant it inside a person’s mind, your job is basically done.”
But being skilled with language isn’t limited to skilled conversation. “Communication skills have always been important in sales, but great writing has emerged as a top skill because so much contact with clients now depends on it,” explains Tony Mariotti, realtor and owner of RubyOne Mortgage. “From initial outreach via email to crafting a business proposal, writing is used every day in the modern sales environment.” Mariotti also goes on to highlight how important blogging has become as a lead-generating tactic.
7. You are naturally competitive
Bob Bentz—author, lifetime salesman and president of Purplegator—acknowledges that there are several skills and personality traits that can make you a great salesperson, but one seems to stand out among the rest: having a competitive nature. “I find that athletes make great salespeople for that reason,” Bentz says. “I want to hire a salesperson who hates to lose.”
Call it competition, assertiveness or an overall sense of urgency, most salespeople who see great success in their field have an insatiable drive to do well. “Sellers need to be focused, proactive and action-oriented,” explains Mike Schultz, bestselling author and president at RAIN Group. “The sellers who achieve the most are always pushing themselves to be better, are always helping buyers to decide sooner than later and are not content with the status quo.”
If you want to sell successfully, Schultz adds, you have to be willing to disrupt. “Disrupt a buyer who is doing something else to focus on what value you can bring to them; disrupt the status quo to get buyers what they need most.”
8. You have a mastery of soft skills
Traits like persuasion and a competitive nature may be top of mind when most people think about succeeding in sales, but a successful salesperson also has a certain mastery of soft skills like teamwork, empathy and effective communication—all skills that enable one to work in harmony with those around them.
“In the workplace, savvy salespeople need to effectively work with others, because no one can succeed by themselves in this profession,” offers Jonathan Morgan, director of business development at Solodev. “Good salespeople should have a bevy of soft skills, including leadership, confidence, humility and an insatiable desire to help others solve their problems.”
“To be a good salesperson, you need to be a team player,” Masterson agrees, explaining that while it may seem the sales game operates on an “every man for himself” mentality, today’s sales teams reach goals and bottom lines together. “Now, more than ever, the ‘lone salesman’ theory is something we see less and less of.”
9. You’re unafraid of conceptual thinking
Finally, successful salespeople are not those who shy away from conceptual thinking. “Most professional selling is a puzzle,” Schultz explains. “Banks, technology companies, management consulting and services firms all have a veritable cornucopia of offerings that can be pieced together to form an elegant picture that’s just right for the buyer.” If you’re drawn to thinking about the big picture and solving problems both creatively and logically at the same time, he says, you’re well suited for a career in sales.
Do you have what it takes to work in sales?
If you’ve been wondering whether or not you could hold your own working in sales, hopefully the insights from our panel of experts have helped steer you in the right direction. While it seems many inherently possess many of the skills that could make them successful salespeople, some formal education can certainly help polish those skill sets and open the door to the first few stepping stones to a long, lucrative career.
If you think a sales and marketing career is in your future, you’ll want to read up on some of the important intricacies of two major focus areas—business to business and business to consumer marketing. Check out our article, “B2B vs. B2C: Which Type of Marketer Are You Meant to Be?” to learn more.
*Salary data represents national, averaged earnings for the occupations listed and includes workers at all levels of education and experience. This data does not represent starting salaries and employment conditions in your area may vary.