How You Can Land a Sales Job Without Experience

Before you get a job in sales, you’ll have to sell yourself to a potential employer.
Before you get a job in sales, you’ll have to sell yourself to a potential employer. (Jenny Kane/AP Photo)

Many job seekers wonder: How do I land a sales job that requires two years of sales experience without two years of sales experience?

Here are seven strategies for doing just that:

Strategy 1: Persist

Persistence is the successful salesperson's No. 1 trait. When you persist professionally, the sales manager will often give you the benefit of the doubt. They want to see how you deal with rejection and uncertainty. They want to see how you'll handle their objections.

Keep at it. Get a referral to introduce you and make a phone call on your behalf. Write a brief but compelling letter of introduction, then make your own phone call.

Write a follow-up letter. Get the manager's email address and write a three-sentence presentation describing why they should hire or at least interview you. "I'll work just as hard to sell for this company as I'm working to get this job" is a good way to start that email.

Strategy 2: Do Your Homework

The No. 1 complaint about salespeople is their lack of preparation. The interview is just like a sales call. You're selling yourself to the prospective employer.

When it's your turn to talk, let the interviewer know you prepared by saying something as simple as, "In preparing for this interview, I ..." Then list what you did. Here are some examples:

  • "I read your last three corporate reports."
  • "I took one of your salespeople to breakfast."
  • "I spent an hour on your website to see how I fit into your mission."
  • "I had an informational interview with one of your customers about how you sell and service your products."

The point is to document your preparation. Sales managers want to know you're willing to dig for information. If you're not willing to do it to get a job, then why would you be willing to do it to land a sale?

Strategy 3: Customize Your Resume

Make sure your resume says you are seeking a sales job in the aerospace industry if that is indeed the job you are seeking. Salespeople today are customizing virtually every sales presentation. Your resume should be tailored to the industry and company. A generic resume won't cut it if you have no experience.

Strategy 4: Document Your Achievements and Sell Them

A need to continually achieve is key to sales success. Prove you are an achiever. Document your three biggest victories and be prepared to reel off a list of at least seven other significant wins in your life from school, sports, music, class politics, etc.

You will achieve again for the employer, because past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior. You may not have sales success, but you have had success in other areas. Success leaves clues.

Strategy 5: Have a Philosophy of Selling When You Walk in the Door

If you want to land a sales job, you should have a rudimentary knowledge about sales and be able to articulate a philosophy of selling, and it has to be more than, "I'm a people person." You can't learn to sell from a book, but you can learn that selling is a process.

You can discuss the importance of understanding customers' needs and presenting solutions. You can ask questions about the company's sales philosophy and whether it believes in a consultative or team approach.

Strategy 6: Have a Story About Your Biggest Sale

You need to document an incident when you persuaded someone to do something you wanted them to do. Describe how you achieved an objective and what you got other people to do for you in order to achieve it. Show how you already have the necessary skills to do the job you're applying for.

Strategy 7: Be Willing to Take an Entry-Level Sales Position

There are minor leagues and major leagues in sales. You may be able to land an entry-level sales job at a television station in Rhinelander, Wisconsin, because its second-leading salesperson just took a job in Milwaukee. The point is, you'll have less competition in a smaller town or company.

Another variation of this is to start with an internship and demonstrate competence. A willingness to work for free or low wages to get your foot in the door can be a good strategy if you can afford it.

Be Ready to Work

If getting a sales job without experience sounds like a lot of work, it is. Selling is a lot of work. That's why top salespeople make a lot of money. They are willing to do the work before they get paid for it. They are willing to take risks and face rejection.

The reality is that few people have the drive and determination to apply even two or three of these seven strategies. When you do, you'll be a refreshing change of pace for hiring managers.

Remember, there are more good sales jobs than there are good salespeople.

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