As another academic year comes to an end, recent school and college leavers and university graduates all over the country will be looking out for their next adventure. If you are one of them or know someone in that position, a sales career could well be a very sensible next step to take.

Sales roles can be varied and exciting, as well as secure and lucrative, with lots of opportunities to develop valuable skills and build a great long-term career. It can seem daunting to begin with though, as entry-level sales positions can be highly sought-after with plenty of competition amongst job candidates. Here are some questions to answer that could help you get ahead of the game.

What Do You Actually Want From Your Sales Career?

As any good salesperson will tell you, an effective negotiation must start with each party knowing what they want to get out of it. A potential employer will be looking for a competent, eager, presentable person who is willing to learn the sales role and all it entails. That much is obvious. However, make sure that you enter the interview knowing what you want as well.

The sales sector is an extremely wide one, with so many opportunities to choose from. Research the industries that you are most interested in. Work out what type of sales you would like to learn. Online or face-to-face? Business-to-business, or direct to consumers? You will perform better and be happier doing something that interests you, and that can hopefully turn into a genuine vocation.

Who Can You Learn From To Help You On Your Way?

Mentors and people who inspire us can play a huge part in helping us get on in life. From formal mentoring schemes with regular meetings and updates to informal arrangements and unplanned chats here and there, they can help less experienced people increase their knowledge and boost confidence. Mentors can also introduce you to other people who might be able to help by opening doors for interviews, inviting you to useful events and letting you know about openings in their own companies, or others, that they hear about.

You can find sales sector mentors in all sorts of different places. Your school, college or university could be a good place to start. Take a look at local social media and websites to see if there are any local business groups in your area or an active Chamber of Commerce.

man working in a call centre at the beginning of his sales career

What Can You Offer That No-One Else Can?

Again, a key part of selling something is to convince the buyer that they will only be able to get the precise mix of benefits that you are offering by investing in what you have to offer. That applies to you as an entry-level sales candidate too. You may not have a long list of sales achievements, awards and target-busting data yet. That shouldn’t matter hugely when you’re just starting out – take a moment to appraise yourself and understand what you DO have to offer.

Think about your strengths. These could be qualifications and skills that you have worked hard to earn and develop, but also personality traits that make you suitable for a sales career. These might include tenacity, confidence, patience, charm… What makes you the ideal fit and a better prospect for the interviewer than your fellow sales job applicants?

How Can You Demonstrate Your Suitability?

It’s all very well identifying what you can bring to a sales job, but you also need to prove what you are saying. Again, at an entry-level, this isn’t always easy. Qualifications and exam results are helpful, but if you don’t have any or many of these, don’t despair! Lots of employers also value practical experiences, like work experience, summer jobs and volunteering. These types of experiences show that you are willing to ‘get your hands dirty’ and learn while doing something useful to wider society.

You could also talk about situations where you demonstrated sales skills, even if you weren’t actively trying to ‘sell’ at the time. Think about examples of when you negotiated something with a friend. Or went above and beyond to help someone get hold of what they needed when you really didn’t have to. On a related note, go through your social media with a fine-tooth comb. Your proclaimed suitability may not matter if a potential employer decides to look your name up online and then stumbles across a less-than-professional online presence…