Land a Job Without Sales Experience
Strategy 1: Persist
Persistence is the successful salesperson's number one 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, and 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 he 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 number one 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 Web site 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 customer's needs and presenting solutions. You can ask questions about the company's sales philosophy and whether or not they believe 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 him 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 their 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.