How to Land Your First Sales Gig in 8 Steps

By January 27, 2016
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Three years ago, I quit my legal job in London and moved to San Francisco with no job, no contacts, and a limited knowledge of tech–pretty bullish! Let’s just say I’d heard the streets were paved with gold and I had a suitcase full of dreams!  Really though, everyone knows that tech is undergoing a boom right now (just don’t call it a bubble) and I wanted to be a part of it.  I only knew a couple of people in San Francisco, but I spoke with anyone I could find who would meet with me.  I went for coffees, lunches, drinks, and dinners with friends of friends, acquaintances, old family friends of friends, you name it.  I ended up getting three sales job offers within the same week after about three months–and, if I can, then so can you!

So, whether you’ve just left college or are looking to start a new career in sales (as I did), the good news is that there a lot of jobs out there for you. Sales is at the forefront of the boom–it tends to be one of the first divisions that companies hire (and fire!). Here are some steps to take to execute your plan.

  1. Ask if sales is what you really want (see my previous post!).
  1. Practice your pitch. Practice and perfect your personal pitch. If you can’t sell yourself, how can you sell a product? Everyone has a personal story–tell yours! Your hiring manager and interviewers are your prospects–pitch and close them.  This is your chance to show how you present yourself, articulate your ideas, and ultimately represent their company.  Regard all contact with the hiring manager and interviewers as part of the interview process. Every follow-up with them is a sneak peak of how you will follow-up and stay persistent with prospects. Just like people tend to buy from people they like, people also hire people they like.  Would your interviewers buy from you?
  1. Do your homework. There is a multitude of content about sales online and in print to digest.  No one is expecting you to be Marc Benioff in your first interview, but realize that sales is a process encompassing strategy as well as tactics. Ultimately, it’s about understanding a prospect’s needs and figuring out whether or not the solution you are selling can fit those needs, and then executing on how to get your prospect to sign.  This is one reason it’s important to find a company whose product you believe in–because if you don’t believe in the product then you won’t be able to effectively sell the need for it.  In addition, research the sub-industry you’re trying to break into. Who are the thought leaders? Who’s the competition? How do you see yourself fitting into the space?
  1. Network inside your network. Speak to anyone and everyone you can to gain knowledge and understanding of what you’re getting into. You may think you don’t have a network but you do. Friends, friends of friends, and friends of acquaintances are all fair game.  If someone pushes back on helping you, or says they’ll help you and don’t, then keep following up with them–again, just as you’ll have to do on the job.  You’ll be surprised at how much people are willing to help you if you only ask. People like to give advice–it makes them feel important, valued, and respected.
  1. Network outside of your network. Research and go to industry events like the ones you can find on  Make sure to follow up by adding them on LinkedIn, as well as sending an email note (or better, a handwritten note!)–just as you’ll have to when you’re on the job.  People you met once at a networking event are now in your network (especially if you’ve connected with them on LinkedIn!). Selling is all about relationships–you’ll be forming them with your customers so you may as well form them with your network too.  Networking, in general, is a lot like sales–it pays to be bold, ask for favors, and above all, hustle!
  1. Be persistent with your network. Persistence is one of the most important skills you will need when looking for a sales job. While speaking with your contacts is high up on your priority list, it’s unlikely to be high up on theirs– you have to give them a reason to get back to you and earn the right to be heard.  If they don’t want to meet with you then you can move on.  Rejection is part of the game–learn to accept rejection and not take it personally.  Keep emailing, and don’t hesitate to call.  Get ready to hustle–it’s a lot of work and can be very stressful.  There are no guarantees other than you’ll get out what you put in.  Sales is all about hustle, so you may as well get used to it during your job search!
  1. Get ready to learn. There is a common misconception of sales being a necessary evil that promotes unscrupulous behavior, dishonesty, and manipulation. And I admit I was guilty of this before I entered into the field. Though it wasn’t long before I realized that the best salespeople know their industry, company, and products inside out and act more like consultants than snake oil vendors. A good sales rep needs to be articulate, business minded, and be able to think on his or her feet, as well as build great relationships and create trust.  All of which are much easier said than done!  Figure out what success in a role means and how you would get there if given the opportunity. Make sure to ask interviewers what the top performers do differently than everyone else.
  1. Be humble. If you’re pivoting into sales then you may have to take a pay cut initially.  If you’re straight out of college, the money may be decent, but the work will be repetitive and unglamorous (this doesn’t completely end when you graduate into more senior sales roles by the way!), though both sales development and sales have their own rewards.

These steps will help you out in your journey to a fully-fledged sales professional.  It might take a little bit of searching, but if you’re strategic and focused in your efforts you’ll find the role that’s right for you–happy hunting!

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