Why Sales Is a Top Emerging Job in America
Choosing your future career path can be a daunting task. People may encourage you to start with what you’re most passionate about, what you’re good at, or what pays well. Or if you’re lucky, you’ve found something that sits across all three - the ultimate trifecta. Having spent over a decade hiring and developing young professionals, I can attest this is difficult to accomplish. However, you rarely hear anyone advising today’s youth to “get into sales.” Sure, it can pay well, and several people are good at it - but it seems few people see it as a career to aspire to.
It’s hard to blame them, right? Sales seems secondary to the main goal or vision of a company. We often think of obnoxious characters saying things like “Always Be Closing” and cringe. But today’s sales person looks a lot different than it has in the past. In fact, it’s one of the hottest career paths on the market today.
LinkedIn recently published a report that shared the top 20 emerging jobs in the United States. The growth of technical roles such as machine learning and data science were not surprisingly listed at the top - technology is ubiquitous across all verticals, therefore the demand for technical roles continues to increase. However, what might not be so obvious is that sales development representative was listed as third on the list. Growing faster than roles such as full stack developers and directors of data science, sales is among the most desired career paths in the country.
"Not all of the emerging tech jobs require technical skills. Sales development representative, customer success manager, and brand partner rank among the top emerging jobs at companies where a technical background is not a necessity. Traditional soft skills like communication and management underpin all of these emerging jobs."
LinkedIn's 2017 U.S. Emerging Jobs Report
Looking at the velocity in which new and competitive technology is entering the market, it makes sense that sales roles are on the rise. The sheer volume of options businesses and consumers have when buying products these days requires a field guide. People don’t know how to choose the right solution, they just know they have a problem they want solved. Or as Harvard Business School Professor Theodore Levitt put it, “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole!”
As customers search for a way to get that quarter-inch hole, they need trustworthy individuals who possess high EQ and can help them through the buying journey. They not only need it, it’s also the most effective way to sell. Direct interaction with a company is the most influential marketing activity, according Harvard Business Review. When conversations happen, people are more likely to buy.
At the end of the day, people want to buy from people, not technology. Looking at it this way, it makes sense why sales roles are pacing with the likes of data science and machine learning. Sales representatives are often the key to what customers need, and the only channel in which customers can better understand the product and ensure a positive outcome.
But why does “sales” still bring sting of the used car salesman stereotype? Money-hungry, slimey, audacious. It’s mainly because how we think about selling at-large is wrong, and the nature of the sales role is evolving. Victory Lap, Chicago-based sales education company, is working to break the stigma of sales through their intensive sales training and development program.
The Victory Lap program trains aspiring sales professionals, introduces candidates into their network of 100+ top employers, and allows companies to hire from a curated selection of pre-trained sales talent. To date, Victory Lap has achieved a >91% placement rate, >82% 12-month in-network retention rate, and a 9.3/10 program satisfaction score. Victory Lap’s curriculum actively dismantles the stigma of sales, all while providing candidates practical and actionable training on the fundamentals of sales.
But why does a sales education matter now more than ever before? Because selling is embedded in everything that we do, no matter if you are in a traditional sales role or not. As Daniel Pink wrote in To Sell is Human, “One out of nine professionals are in a sales role. The other eight are selling too." Whether you are bidding for someone’s time, negotiating a salary or contract, even getting a team aligned on a meeting time - selling skills extend beyond “traditional” sales roles. And if you’re an ambitious person looking to develop into a management role, it’s absolutely required. In short, we are all selling all the time, we just haven’t recognized these behaviors as such.
Customers today are trying on a few options at once. They’re not only taking the car for a test drive, they’re taking multiple cars for test drives before having in depth conversations with their peers, and finally running credible reports on the state of said car. And maybe, eventually, they’ll make a decision. Sales is no longer a transactional experience, and the best salespeople have known this for a while now. Selling is about understanding your audience’s needs, getting to the heart of their problem, their fears, their anxiety, and providing a solution that fits that unmet need. The mental jujitsu required to facilitate these conversations is the very process that will close deals.
During those mental obstacles courses that are customer conversations, sales reps are gathering qualitative data on the customer needs. A salesperson who is in direct conversation with a potential customer can gather the necessary data required to validate and quantify existing product roadmaps and feature builds.
As stated in the LinkedIn report, “Traditional soft skills like communication and management underpin all of these emerging jobs.” This pairing of an empathetic and analytical mindset make up the soft skills required to be a great salesperson.
And as we already have highly educated buyers, we now need highly educated sellers...sellers who have the necessary soft skills to fill the demand for one of the top emerging jobs in America. There's no doubt achieving career bliss can be a daunting task, but don't rule out a sales career yet. It may be more you than you think.