I’ll never forget that moment when the offer letter came. I went from selling radio ads at a media company to landing my dream job at Salesforce. I did it by selling the most important product I could think of: myself.
If you want to learn how to get a job in sales — and not just a job, but a dream job — then take the tried-and-true sequence of the sales process and apply it to your job hunt. Just like with any sale, you’ll create a territory plan, hunt down targets, qualify prospects, and advance opportunities to close. Let’s look at each step in the process.
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1. Create a territory plan: Identify your top 10 dream companies
A dream job is fulfilling and meaningful because it aligns with your values and goals. To narrow down your job search to the most relevant roles, ground your search in who you are (values) and what you want (goals).
Learning how to get a job in sales begins with learning about yourself. First, identify your core values by using this guide from professor and author Brené Brown. You’ll be tempted to circle 10 or 15 of these, but challenge yourself to choose only two or three. After all, if everything is important, nothing is important.
Second, create your list of career goals based on what you want to achieve over the next few years. Here are a few examples of career goals to get you started:
- Join a company with brand recognition
- Join a company that makes a positive global impact
- Increase compensation
- Get promoted to a leadership role
- Gain expertise in an industry
- Build your personal profile
Now that you have your core values and goals, you have a meaningful way to evaluate every company you find in your search. Instead of searching an ocean without a compass, you have a treasure map where X marks the spot.
To create your list of companies, begin with the ones you already have in your sights. These are the companies you’ve been dreaming about since you could first spell “sales.” Then, expand your view. Look through top-rated places to work using lists like the Inc. 5000 and the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For. You can also peruse forums like Glassdoor to see which companies are given high ratings by employees.
Cut down the list to 10, based on which companies align. The best part of this exercise is that now you have a story to tell in interviews: “Hey, I handpicked your company from a list of 5,000. Here’s why.”
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2. Prospect: Grab the attention of hiring managers
To get your foot in the door, you’ll have to find contacts at each company who are willing to prop the door open. Sales coach Marcus Chan, best-selling author of “Six-Figure Sales Secrets,” recommends doing direct cold outreach before you apply — after doing a little digging.
“Lead with research,” Chan said. He recommends searching for jobs on Linkedin by entering your target company and target role (like “Acme account executive”) into the search bar.
Read through the job descriptions to see if they name the product lines or business units. To identify the sales leaders for those areas, visit the company page on LinkedIn and search for sales titles (like VP of Sales) under the People tab.
Read the profiles for the people that show up and see if you can match them to the job description. If so, congratulations: You’ve probably just found the hiring manager. If you can’t find the hiring manager, no worries. Anyone at the company can become your champion. Pinpoint someone you can connect with easily, based on a shared experience or a mutual acquaintance.
Now that you have your target contact, it’s time to reach out. Chan recommends sending a connection request, then a cold video message to cut through the noise. Personalize your message by sharing something you admire or relate to about their experience. Share why you’re so excited about the job opportunity you’re eyeing and why you think you’d be a great fit. Then, close with a call to action, asking for the opportunity to chat more. Make it short and sweet.
You might have noticed that tips for how to get a job in sales are the same tips about outbound skills in general. It’s practice for your new job. Any hiring manager should be impressed with a sales candidate who managed to show up in their inbox with a personalized, sticky, polished message.
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3. Qualify: Dig in to confirm the opportunity is the right fit
To affirm that the job is the right fit for your values and goals, turn the interview into a two-way street, just like an initial conversation with a prospect. Sellers often struggle with this. We’re so good at selling ourselves that if we’re not careful, we’ll talk our way right into a position that’s not a good fit.
Here are some questions to help determine if the company is the right fit:
- What are your company values?
- What’s different about working here than anywhere else you’ve worked?
- What does growth and career development look like?
- What goals will my performance be evaluated against?
- What are the biggest challenges I might face in this position?
It’s so important for sellers like us to believe in the company and the products we sell, because we have to impart that belief to our customers. Dare to pressure-test the role in your questions to make sure it’s a dream job after all.
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4. Close: Nail the interview
Now that you have your heart set on a role, it’s time to close the deal. Show the hiring manager the three key qualities that every great seller has: self-awareness, resilience, and coachability.
To demonstrate self-awareness, go through your resume and highlight anything that might be interpreted as a red flag, like lengthy gaps between roles or jarring career shifts. Don’t shy away from these. Instead, come prepared to explain the context behind these red flags. Share your truth. Any hiring manager worth working for will appreciate the vulnerability.
Sales is all about hearing “no” ten thousand times, staying positive, and finding the lesson in it. To show that you’ve built this resilience, think about past experiences where you faced an obstacle, and prepare to describe how you met the challenges head-on and learned something meaningful. In all your responses, use the STAR method for answering questions, sharing specifics about the situation, task, action, and result.
Finally, to demonstrate coachability, share experiences when you put your manager’s guidance into action and improved over time. The world of B2B sales is ever-changing, and so is the economy. Show how you’ve embraced uncertainty and stayed positive, even excited, on the journey.
How to get a job in sales that makes you proud
“Your offer letter is enclosed.” Take a moment to close your eyes and imagine this sweet email. Then open your eyes and get to work.
It won’t ever be a straight line from where we are to where we’re going. That’s okay, it’s life. You know that age-old advice about love, and how it comes when we’re least expecting it? I wonder if it’s the same with dream jobs. Often, the biggest breaks come to us in a delightful surprise — but only if we’ve been putting in the work. So keep the faith, and lead with passion.
“Ow!” you’ll say at the desk of your dream job one day. “What’s wrong?” your co-worker will ask. “Sorry. Just pinching myself.”