What’s The Career Path Available To Everyone?

Randy Illig

Three reasons why sales should be a consideration for anyone questioning their next move.

A friend called me the other morning. “I’m trying to figure out what to do with the rest of my career,” he said.

A totally unremarkable statement for most. Except that this friend is 61 years old.

That friend thinks he has another professional home run left in him, and I agree. But I’m not writing today to him, who’s been a salesperson his whole life and will be until he stops. I’m writing to those who might be in the same headspace but who’ve never considered a career in sales.

Whether you’re 21 or 61, whether you have a decade or more of experience or zero, I think it should be on your radar. Here are three reasons why.

The No. 1 thing that good salespeople have in common is that they get satisfaction from helping other people. This is the person picking things up when others drop them. This is the neighbor who’s always available and excited to contribute when you need to move something heavy.

The Most Trusted Leadership Company

Learn how your organization can use our people, content, and technology to create collective action and meaningful change.

This is how the best salespeople are wired. And what non-salespeople might not understand is that there’s tremendous intrinsic reward in helping other people be successful. Helping feels good, and those who most desire that feeling often become the best salespeople.

This is the complete opposite of most people’s view of salespeople. Something the world doesn’t realize because the stereotype of sales comes from the unpleasant experiences we have had with misguided salespeople who mostly care about helping themselves.

What I’m talking about is sales professionals. The person that sells packaging to a manufacturer that’s distributing around the globe. The metal company that makes parts for the best gutters. The mundane world beyond the reach and sight of most people that is actually fundamental to how we get things done every day.

Here’s something else most people also don’t see: Most people don’t realize that it is commonplace for salespeople in commercial settings to bring home salaries that would seem astronomical in other industries. Not everyone is going to make seven figures. But in commercial sales it’s not uncommon for the best to bring home $500,000 in salary and commissions.

It sounds crazy. And to some people it will always feel out of reach. But the third major reason to consider sales involves another misconception: how it’s possible for almost any person in almost any situation to pivot to it.

What customers want isn’t the salesperson who’s the best at selling. They want expertise.

If you’ve manufactured and engineered precision equipment in a plant for 30 years but never sold a thing, you’re actually in a far better position to make the transition to sales than most. Knowledge of the product and the industry is highly valued by customers. They don’t want someone to sell them, they want someone to guide them.

For younger people who don’t yet have that base of knowledge, choose one thing and do it really well. Pick a company with a good reputation and a quality product. Avoid commission-only sales positions – the exception rather than the rule – and find instead those that have a culture of service.

Then be a sponge. Becoming an expert is a choice, not something you’re born with. It’s simply a matter of time compounded by effort.

There are professions where the barriers to entry are truly onerous. Where it wouldn’t make sense for most people, no matter how old or young, to try to make it their career.

Sales is not one of those professions, and we all benefit from that fact. It could include you, provided you’re willing to put in the work.