Sales. Say this to a group of veterans and you’ll get a variety of reactions from running out of the room to eager interest. The term can have a lot of different meanings depending on the role and the company. When you start learning about sales roles, you’ll find that there is a wide spectrum of opportunity. In general, it’s not about convincing companies or consumers to buy your product, it’s about helping them identify problems they have and offering them solutions that you can provide. While this type of problem solving can be translated into any industry, there are five factors that unite most sales roles.
1. Sales is not for everyone.
There are certain aptitudes that you need to have in order to be successful in sales. For those about to transition here are some clues: if you’ve been rated number one or in the top 5% of your peer group on your annual evaluations, you are probably a competitive person who is concerned with performance. You pay attention to what you need to do in order to do well in your military role. This is a reliable indicator that you might be a fit for a sales role. If working with people and expressing ideas comes easily to you, this is also a clue. Sales requires leadership abilities, empathy, relationship management, and thoughtfulness — you need to be able to put yourself in the customers’ shoes and quickly figure out what they need to know and what they are likely most concerned with.
2. Pay is usually a function of performance.
When considering a specific sales role, you should ask what the average person makes in terms of salary their first year and decide whether that figures works for you and your lifestyle. The best sales roles feature a livable base salary with commissions, or bonuses paid out on top of that base salary. Sales roles that incorporate commission tend to be highly competitive. For many, the idea of a variable income from month to month is a dealbreaker. For others, it’s a challenge, but worth the uncertainty for the overall reward.
3. You don’t need to be an extrovert to be good at sales.
It’s a common myth that the best salespeople are extroverted, outgoing individuals, but in 2013, a new study showed this simply wasn’t true. Rather, “ambiverts” working in sales roles have proven to earn more per hour compared to extroverts and introverts. According to the Washington Post, “Ambiverts, a term coined by social scientists in the 1920s, are people who are neither extremely introverted nor extremely extroverted. … They’re not quiet, but they’re not loud. They know how to assert themselves, but they’re not pushy.” Does this sound like you?
4. There are many types of sales roles.
It’s hard to go through your day without running into someone in a sales function. Telemarketers, retail, the list could go on. But what you probably don’t see are the higher-level sales roles — healthcare, manufacturing, finance, etc. — you name the industry and these companies retain competitive, bright people to increase their sales of whatever service they provide. If it is bought and sold in America, someone is selling it. And many of these folks are achieving income levels that are really hard to come by without very difficult to attain technical skills otherwise.
5. You may have to start entry level, but it can be worth it if you work hard.
Most successful high-level sales people started somewhere lower, making less money. When you look at medical device sales — arguably the top rung for the transitioning veteran audience — a lot of these people started in a more entry-level role and worked their way up after establishing a track record of success. Now they are working in operating theaters as a subject matter expert on a device that surgeons are using to improve someone’s quality of life.