9 Ways a Marketing Degree Can Boost Your Sales Career
By Will Erstad on 08/08/2018
You have always been a persuasive person. You’ve smooth-talked your way into plenty of lopsided trades, from bartering snacks in the elementary school lunch room all the way to your latest fantasy football league-busting swap. If you want to put your persuasive skills to good use, you’ve likely considered—or perhaps even begun journeying toward—a sales career.
Your natural knack for negotiation may make a career in sales seem like a no-brainer, but it’s understandable if you’re a little skeptical about how valuable a marketing degree may be within that sector. After all, success in commission-based sales jobs can depend much more heavily on ability than credentials.
But there are plenty of good reasons for even the sharpest salesperson to consider enhancing his or her skill set with a degree in marketing. Read on to learn more about the various ways a working knowledge of marketing fundamentals can benefit sales career hopefuls, as identified by a handful of seasoned sales professionals and some hard-hitting data.
9 Ways a marketing degree can enhance your sales career
How can a marketing degree help in the world of sales? It turns out there are several advantages to having this type of training. Here are a few:
1. A degree can qualify you for more sales positions
One of the biggest and most obvious benefits of earning a marketing degree for sales professionals is the fact that it can help job hopefuls meet the requirements many employers are seeking. While not every sales position requires a college education, there’s a significant percentage of employers who reportedly prefer college-educated sales professionals.
In fact, we used real-time job analysis software to determine the preferred education level listed in over 2.8 million sales job postings from the last year. Just over 45 percent of all postings were looking for a candidate with a minimum of an Associate’s degree or more.1 While that may not be an overwhelming majority, it’s important to remember this analysis covers a wide range of sales jobs—from door-to-door sales to business development managers and everything in between.
2. Many of the best sales jobs require a degree
Not all sales jobs are created equally—just check the pay stubs of a tech or medical sales professional. As a rule of thumb, the more complex and specialized a product is, the more difficult it is to sell. And it’s often true that difficult-to-sell products tend to result in strong commission potential.
So what products and services fit the bill? According to data from Monster.com, the following industries to have particularly strong earning potential for sales professionals2:
- Consulting sales
- Consumer packaged goods (CPG) sales
- Digital media sales
- Medical-device sales
- Outsourcing services sales
- Software sales
- Telecommunications sales
It’s important to note that sales positions in these areas are highly sought after and will typically come with stiff competition—a marketing degree may help your resume catch the eye of a potential hiring manager.
3. It’s a confidence-booster
While they’re definitely not a great representation of the sales profession, con artists got their name from the confidence they exuded as they sold questionable products to unwitting prospects. As distasteful as their motivations and tactics may be, there is a kernel of truth to their approach: Confidence matters immensely when it comes to making a sale.
Many sales roles require speaking to business executives and other highly educated professionals, and even a slight sense of being out of your depth can really hurt your confidence. A college education can not only equip you to hold your own in these high-pressure environments, but it can also help you feel like you’re not out of place when it comes to your training and experience.
4. You’ll be equipped for more than just straight sales roles
Long days spent pounding the pavement, calling prospects and traveling to pitch meetings all come with the territory of a sales career. Some people love it and are perfectly content to spend their careers as sales professionals on the front lines, but what happens if you’d like a change of pace in a similar role?
Maybe you’d prefer to manage a team of sales professionals, or perhaps you would like to oversee the work of marketing professionals who contribute to business success outside of the direct sales realm. A marketing degree allows for increased career flexibility and makes options like these much more viable to transition to.
5. You can learn to make your strategic sales plans
Sure, you can probably make your share of sales by cold calling and conducting tried-and-true in-person negotiations, but having an effective strategy can make you a much more efficient salesperson. Deborah Sweeney, CEO of MyCorporation says her marketing education has helped her better understand the nuances of the strategies and tactics used by effective salespeople and avoid sales mistakes.
“While certain people are more sales-driven, and much of that cannot be learned in school, I think that education in the area of Marketing can help you think more strategically,” she explains.
6. You’ll get a look into how consumers think
Wouldn’t it be great to get inside the heads of your potential customers and clients? While you’re not going to become a mind reader upon graduation, you will be much better equipped for understanding the behavior of potential buyers if you’ve earned a marketing degree.
Dr. Jenny Ekern, department chair of the marketing program at Rasmussen College, says college coursework can help sales professionals better understand the thinking of potential prospects. “When it comes to specific courses,” she offers, “Consumer Behavior is hugely beneficial with understanding people’s purchasing decisions. Additionally, the Marketing Research course is helpful with analyzing consumer and market trends.”
Some might argue that knowing what commonly drives people to make a purchase is an essential ingredient for a successful sales career. Once you know the common triggers and motivators, they can become regularly used tools in your sales toolkit.
7. The “big picture” becomes clearer
Every salesperson is keenly aware of quotas. Sales goals loom over the typical day-to-day work of industry professionals and, depending on how things are going, can really cause some anxiety as deadlines approach. During those nerve-racking moments, you’ve likely wondered why your sales quota was set so high and what exactly goes into this form of goal-setting.
A marketing degree can help you get a better handle on the factors driving sales management decisions. You’ll learn more about what goes into a sales forecast and the promotional strategies currently being offered. Having this knowledge is a huge plus for anyone who wants to eventually step into a sales management role.
8. You’ll learn additional modern marketing techniques and strategies
There’s more to sales than just calling prospects and meeting face-to-face to hash out the details of a deal. A lot of time and energy is spent building a pipeline of leads for salespeople to engage with—and modern digital marketing techniques are a big part of it.
By earning a marketing degree, you’ll learn more about targeted advertising and other lead-generation tactics that keep the leads trickling in.
9. Earning a degree will polish your communication skills
To sell like a professional is to communicate like a professional. You might have the gift of gab, but if you’re sending out error-filled follow-up emails, your credibility with sales prospects will take a hit. While it might not be the most exciting aspect of going to college, learning to write at a college level and giving well-researched presentations is an incredibly important career skill.
This work to develop your communication skills isn’t just found in English or Humanities courses—it’s baked right into the coursework most relevant to your sales career. “Communication is the key to all things marketing-related,” Ekern says. She adds that the Marketing Communications and Professional Selling courses at Rasmussen College give excellent guidance for developing business relationships.
Does a marketing degree make sense for your sales career?
Going to college to earn a marketing degree is a big decision worth careful consideration. While some may not find it to be worth their time and effort, you can see there are several good reasons for a sales professional to earn a degree.
If expanding your career potential and polishing your marketing and sales abilities sounds like it’s worth pursuing, the Rasmussen College Marketing program may be the perfect fit for your busy schedule. Check out the Marketing degree page to learn more about the program—including the Sales Management specialization designed specifically to equip you with the skills needed to be a sales team leader.
1Burning-Glass.com (analysis of 2,880,520 sales job postings, July 14, 2017 – July 11, 2018)
2Data from Monster.com. [accessed Aug. 8, 2018]. Salary information represents national, averaged earnings for the occupations listed and include workers at all levels of education and experience. Ranges do not represent starting salaries and employment conditions in your area may vary.