Entry level sales job are hard. They serve to weed out a good chuck of the people interested in sales. The pay is not great, the products are boring, and the hours are long. There is typically less autonomy and more scrutiny from management about productivity. The key is putting in the time and grinding through this period. This will lead to higher pay, more interesting products, and more flexibility down the line. Here is what I learned during three years as an entry level sales rep.
How Does One Become An Entry Level Sales Rep?
First, some background. I was interested in pursuing a career in medical sales out of college. I had a science background and knew sales could be a lucrative career path. The challenge was that there was no straight forward path to getting started in the industry. In hindsight, the important thing is jumping in and getting some entry level B2B sales experience.
I interviewed like crazy during this stretch. I wanted a role at company like Enterprise-Rent-A-Car. Somewhere with a well established and respected sales training program. Unfortunately, I did not land one of these gigs. I ended up getting my break with a small company selling simple disposable products in the healthcare space. Three years and many interviews later, I got on with one of the industry leading medical device manufacturers.
Ten Things I Learned As A Entry Level Sales Rep
1. Sales Is Taught By Experience
No one really knows how to teach sales. You learn through experience. Sales is messy and difficult to grasp from a textbook. It is helpful to read books, review the principles, and engage in role play exercises. But the biggest lessons will be learned by making sales calls. You will make mistakes. That is okay.
2. Get Uncomfortable
Accept that you will have to get out of your comfort zone and push yourself to find a sales style that ultimately works for you. At some point a manager will have you follow up with a customer more persistently than you would like. You will be told to close a deal that seems unfeasible. This is the world of sales.
3. Expectations In Sales
Sales managers will try to get you to see everything as being within your control. This is the type of mindset an organizations is after. But there are many things that will always be beyond your control (contracts, a previous rep, etc.). Control what you can and don’t beat yourself up over everything else.
4. Excuses In Sales
Excuses are a slippery slope. Accountability may be the most important trait in producing sales success. I was once working with a new rep who had just completed their first big customer presentation. We discussed how the meeting went and they were quick to blame the clinical support specialist. This is not an acceptable response in sales. A sales rep needs to be accountable when things go right and when things go wrong.
5. Put Yourself First
Companies will try to squeeze as much value out of you as possible as an entry level sales rep. Establish your worth and don’t hesitate to highlight your work and accomplishments. Unfortunately, there is a lot fluff and politics in sales. You need to be vocal about your successes. This can be done in a way that is not annoying.
6. Sales Performance Metrics
You will be heavily scrutinized and monitored in your first entry level outsides sales job. Except it. If you do the right things day in and day out you will get more autonomy later on in your career. Managers will look at metrics like the number of sales calls, opportunities identified, or quotes generated. Sales is an activity based job. Get use to it.
7. Why Did The Previous Rep Leave?
A company and manager will never give you the full context on the performance of a territory or the why the previous rep left. You have to dig in and ask the right questions. The further you get in your career the more you will realize these details matter. A warm, well covered territory is much easier to take over than one that is a mess.
8. Don’t Get Fired For Expenses
Don’t be stupid with expenses. Also, follow the compliance rules. Too many young reps get fired for reasons that could have easily been avoided. It takes a lot of work and time to get a good job. It is not worth being reckless and having to start over.
9. What Does An Entry Level Sales Rep Do?
You have to do the things no one else wants to do in entry level medical sales jobs. This mean prospecting. This means calling on the competitive or uninterested customers. This is a valuable skill. You can earn respect and support from the senior sales reps by grinding through cold calls and teeing up prospective customers.
10. Find Good Sales Training
It is important to get formalized sales training early in your career. Small companies are not always good at this. They put reps out into the field to learn from experience. You need to understand how to follow a formal sales process if you want to transition out of an entry level sales job. My initial sales training was rather informal and I got drilled about this during the interview process with big companies.