From Marketing Major to Sales Career: Nope, It's Not as Weird as You Think!

When most of us think sales, we draw up the image of sleazy used car salesman. Movies and television do the field no favors. Salespeople are often portrayed as aggressive, disingenuous, or even manipulative...someone who will do anything to close a deal. Think "Boiler Room" or "Glengarry Glenross." We get it, coffee's for closers!

This stereotype, coupled with the fact that closing deals is not a college major, prevented me from fairly evaluating a career in sales. My parents and I were of the mindset that "if it wasn’t a college major, it wasn’t a worthy career." Marketing appeared to be a safe option with viable opportunities upon graduation.

Fast forward to four years later. I was a newly minted college graduate with a marketing degree and absolutely no idea of where to start my job-search, let alone how I wanted to define my career. I had decisions to make and soul-searching to do.

Ironically, when I took stock in my inherent characteristics and motivations, it was clear to me that I had always been a salesperson. I'd always loved the grit and persistence required to sell. At the ripe old age of nine, I launched these three "summer businesses" alone:

1. Selling ice cold Heinekens out of my parents' garage to fathers (and the occasional frazzled housewife) on their way home from a work. Who wouldn't want a cold beer after a long work week? Ka-ching.

2. It's a well-known fact that friendship bracelets can make or break a summer friendship. I set up shop selling my product to the numerous gangs and pre-teen gals so they'd never forget the summer of 1996.

3. Soda Stream. Your parents don't allow you to drink Coke, you say? No worries. I could make you one in a jiffy for just 10p. Bargain...and technically, not Coke.

Throughout college, I had been so focused on my one-track view of marketing that I lost sight of its shared purpose with sales: to increase revenue.

When reflecting on my experience and interests, a career in sales should have been the most obvious choice. It was only when push came to shove (i.e. I needed a job and fast), that I even considered it as my career.

Now, the better part of a decade into a career in sales, it’s obvious how connected sales and marketing are. Below are a few similarities and ideals for each field:

Know Your Target Market

One of the first steps in marketing a product or service is to identify who you are targeting. Sales is no different. What market has an unfulfilled need? Pinpoint who you are selling to, and why it's a meaningful product to that specific audience.

Listen

What does your audience want? Marketing 101 is how to appeal to your target market. The same goes for sales. As a sales rep, you have to listen to your clients in order to know what is most important to them. By absorbing their priorities, you can help align how your product or service directly addresses their needs. By listening to their needs, you can create a viable solution.

Outreach

Pick a marketing channel to communicate your message. Similar to diligently following-up on a sales meeting or cold call. Showing the client that you are proactive and available as a resource may result in that next close.

This list could go on!

So, no. My marketing degree didn't go to waste. My career in sales benefits from the long hours I put in studying target audiences and surveying users. The two fields complement one another and are intrinsically linked. Oftentimes, they may not function without one another. In most organizations, sales and marketing work together to reach their individual goals.

You could very well say that sales and marketing are one team. Everyone plays their part to get the win. It’s important to remember that there are no sales or marketing rockstars without the rest of the band. Even if you did start three businesses in one summer...

Jackie Burke | Vice President of Sales, Builders Studios