Considering a career in sales and wondering what the pros and cons are? I personally have been in outside sales for over 18 years as of 2011 and I have loved every year of it. Many people have came and went in this fast paced and rewarding career, but it is not for everyone. This article will provide some key pros and cons of a career in sales to help you get a better understanding based on my personal experiences and research I have done.
Each sales career experience is uniquely different based upon the company you choose to work for, the products you sell and your personal sales skills. This is an important factor to think about when deciding on a career in sales and to be aware of what you are looking for and what to expect. The best way is to do research on your own to find out as much as possible before committing yourself to a job. I have seen some people blindly accepting a sales job, and later realizing that it wasn’t for them. Sometimes it is the experience you might get from working with a company that might give you the wrong impression of the entire industry. Do yourself a favor and do your homework, and the first step is to find out what you want, learn about the industry, the products, the people, culture with a goal of learning the good, the bad and ugly of the career opportunity. This article will help you understand some of the general pros and cons of a career in sales.
One of the most attractive reasons as to why many professionals choose a career in sales is due to the potential of earning a lot of money in comparison to many other career choices. Out of college, my first sales offer started at $50,000.00 base with a full benefits package, car allowance, commission and various perks such as bonuses and exotic trips. After my 5th year in sales, I have consistently made over six figures and with the experience and contacts I have under my belt, I could command this income with each job I pursue.
According to simplyhired.com, the average sales salary came in at $59,000.00 per year with a high of $160,000.00/year. This of course depends on your years of experience, industry and job title. I have worked with sales professionals that have shown me a commission check for over $55,000.00 in one quarter and taking home a total of half a million dollars in a single year.
One of the best things that many sales professionals like about a career in sales is that they have a direct impact on the amount of money they could earn. On top of a great salary, you might have the potential to earn top dollars with additional commissions. The high earners in sales are the ones that work hard, work smart, continually hone their sales skills, build lasting relationships and gain valuable experience that can be used to command a high paying salary.
Start-up companies looking to enter the market attract many sales professionals by offering higher than average salaries and also add on stock options as well to share the success of the business. While large established companies provide better job security and great benefits with proven products and support.
Some of the other monetary benefits include a car allowance, gas cards/reimbursements, cell phone, laptop, sales contests, expense accounts, tuition reimbursement and the list goes on. Companies pay their sales team well because, this is the team that generates revenue for the company and as the saying goes, nothing happens until something gets sold and without revenue, a business will be out of business.
With a high income, comes high accountability and responsibility to deliver on your numbers and goals. This does add to pressure and stress if your performance is less than on goal. Some people cannot handle this kind of stress and the pressure to perform. A high income is also not a guarantee as part of the pay is directly influence by your commission check. It is important to understand the salary/commission percentage to calculate and plan your earnings and finance. For example, some sales jobs pay out at a 70/30 mix where 70% is base and 30% is commission. Some jobs pay out 100% commission and if you don’t sell, you don’t earn. The competition for a lucrative salary is fierce and the selling environment is very challenging. If you have the talent and mindset to see yourself through the stress, you can build a successful career.
I personally don’t understand how anyone can be stuck in a cubicle all day or report into an office all the time. When corporate employees vie for the corner office with a view, a sales professional has an ever changing view of the outside world as they travel from customer to customer. I always tell people, that my car’s windshield is my office view, and it is never boring. Being in outside sales, you also don’t have a boss or groups of the management team looking over your shoulder all day, this usually done virtually and managers occasionally work with you in the field, but this is a lot less than the daily exposure you have working in the office.
If you are a trustworthy professional that doesn’t abuse the freedom, you can schedule your workday to take care of errands and have the flexibility to dictate how you run your business. I have built a self sustaining business where I did a lot of work on the front end and as I established my business, I was able to take it easy on some Fridays or head out to the mountain to snowboard during the weekday. If my business was not successful, I did not have this freedom as I strive to deliver on my accountability’s and deliver results.
Believe it or not, an outside sales career can be a lonely job. With freedom and flexibility from being away from the office, you are out there on your own. Many people cannot grasp this since you are out and about meeting clients all day, but you do not have the same camaraderie and daily interactions with colleagues as you would being in an office.
Your exposure to management is also limited, so career advancement is also a challenge since there are only a few upward career advancement opportunities for field sales people. For example, if you work in an office setting, there are many different paths you can take your career. With field sales, you will most likely work remote and your home office could be in another state and moving up could possibly mean moving away from your home state.
You also need a strong sense of accountability and self motivation to set your own work schedule, since nobody is there looking over your shoulders, you are basically managing yourself. For some, this could be hard and immediate answers are not readily available as it would be if you worked in an office housing many different
Being in sales and managing your territory is like running your own small business while having the support and financial backing from an organization. A sales career can provide you with the entrepreneurship and creativity of running your territory as a business where you are the CEO, marketing, sales and operations person. The way I look at it, it is comparable to being a franchise owner where my business is supported by a national brand with established products and marketing and I am selling the products that I do not have to create or develop as my main focus is on gaining business and sales.
As with running your own business, it is up to you to generate revenue, develop relationships and drive a profitable business. You are responsible and held accountable for the performance of your business as it directly relates to your efforts. The level of stress could be tough for those who prefer a more structured type of working environment and running your own business or sales territory is not a 9 to 5 job. My significant other is a nurse and didn’t understand that once I was done with work, I also had administrative items I needed to do, paperwork, planning and activities to maintain my business. When she was done with work, she was done until the next work day, where being in sales, you have a lot of administrative work and after hours work that you continually do at home.
With a sales career, you have a high level of accomplishment as you are directly the person responsible for making things happen. It is quite an adrenalin rush when you close a sale. You also get the satisfying feeling of providing your customers with products that they truly want and need and you had a large part in facilitating and meeting their needs. Some jobs can be really redundant and you might feel that you have not accomplished anything, but with a sales career, every sale is a direct result of your efforts. Along with sales awards and rewards, your hard work is rewarded handsomely with commissions, reward trips, sales contests and recognition. You have a much higher level of control of your career when compared to many other career choices.
Nothing is perfect in life and a sales career that is being built or competition is tough, you might not be meeting your goals and the pressure and job satisfaction could be really tough when you are being asked as to why your business is not producing. People have always asked me how I could work in an environment where the axe is always hanging over my head. My response to this is that at least I have better control of the axe, which hangs over everyone’s head no matter what job or career they are in. The negative side of doing well is poor performance, which leads to pressure, stress, depression and job dissatisfaction.
If you are like me and love a good challenge, then a sales career might just be for you. I love the thrill that sales provides me and getting people to buy from me versus my competition. A sales career will really challenge you to get your life in order and develop great time management skills, people skills, communication skills, productivity and business savviness. With the challenges that comes with a career in sales, I am seldom bored or feel that my job is stale as I am always challenged do gain more business, beat my competitors, build stronger business relationships and win year over year with consistency. Sales is a profession that could truly give you the passion to jump out of bed every morning with the efforts you do resulting in measurable outcomes. Most sales professionals love the challenge that sales brings.
A challenging work environment could mean stress and pressure for some people. Some people who cannot handle the challenging and demanding work of running a sales territory can also become depressed when not accomplishing goals and the pressure could be significant. Some people might want the structured working environment where if you do activity A it results in B, where in sales the results can have many different outcomes such as a customer not buying, the competitor is outselling you, and the list goes on. The challenging work environment brings many positives but also brings with it the immense pressure of meeting and exceeding expectations.
These are only a few key pros and cons of a sales career and I recommend you continue your research by asking others in the industry and learn as much as you can about the company, the culture, the people, and the expectations before committing yourself to a sales career. The more informed you are, the less surprises will come your way and you will be better prepared to do well. I personally love the sales career and would not want to do anything else, but for some it would be a tough career choice. For example, I could never be a doctor. I could go to school and learn the trade, but the work wouldn’t excite me and dealing with the cons of the job does not outweigh the pros. Make sure you are a good fit for the career you are pursuing, because it could mean having a successful career or one that will create more problems for you.
Also, realistically look at the career and don’t chase the money alone. Look within yourself and ask the tough questions to see what your strengths are and where you could truly excel. As with any career, there are superstars and ones that consistently perform poorly. By finding your match for a career, you could gain career satisfaction and all the pros that comes with it. Good luck!