The Three Most Effective Ways to Get an Entry-Level Sales Job
By: Ashley Artrip
The average job opening today attracts 250 applicants, out of which only 2% are called back for an interview. The competition only gets steeper for entry-level positions at growing companies, particularly in sectors where entry-level employees have exciting opportunities for advancement. This can be extremely daunting for those looking to break into an entry level sales job, especially if you don’t have relevant experience already under your belt. So without a resume makeover wand, how do you make yourself one of not just the 2% who get an interview, but the less than 1% who get an offer?
This is a question that recent graduates and ambitious non-graduates face on a daily basis. As a company dedicated to providing one answer, we know the challenges that entry-level sales job seekers face, and the strategies that you can use to overcome these challenges. In this article, we’ll outline three effective routes to getting an entry level sales job, each with different associates costs, pros, and cons.
1. Reach out to people in your network (hello, LinkedIn!) who work at companies with hiring sales teams
The network effect goes a long way in the sales industry, particularly in enterprise and tech startup sales. Reach out to people who went to your school, worked with you in a past position, or even just worked at a company you used to work in, and ask if they have any advice or leads on breaking into the sales industry or open entry level sales jobs.
You can also include references to connections you may have in your cover letter. For instance, it can go a long way to say “I first became aware of the great work you’re doing through my classmate, X, who has been working with your company for three years.”
However, keep in mind that it is usually not kosher to directly ask for a job, or to over leverage your connections. Position your initial reach outs as asking for advice or leads, not asking “do you think I could get a job at your company.” Additionally, if you do leverage a connection, make sure not to rest on it or assume that it will be a direct path to hire. A connection may get you in the door or give you a little extra push, but on its own it’s not sufficient. You still need to wow with your attitude, communication skills, and determination. See more ‘soft skills’ that sales hiring managers value here.
2. Apply for a SDR training program
SDR fellowships or bootcamps provide training, job opportunities, and networking opportunities for aspiring sales representatives with little-to-no relevant experience. Like the coding bootcamps they’re generally modeled after, the programs are typically highly selective and rigorous, but also guarantee job placement in a well-paying position upon graduation.
Most sales bootcamps follow one of two business models: ‘income share’ or ‘employer sponsored’. In an income share model, the program takes a percentage of your first-year salary provided you make over a certain amount. In an employer-sponsored model, you pay nothing, and instead, the company that hires you pays for access to the premium talent that the bootcamp produces.
Sales bootcamps are a great avenue to a well-paying entry level sales job. SV Academy, for instance, offers a 12-week tuition-free training program with job placement at an average starting salary package of $78,000 upon completion of the fellowship. The program also gives access to executives at Google and other enterprise companies for mentoring, coaching, and networking. Getting accepted to a sales academy is one of the most effective ways to launch a sales career.
3. Pivot out of tangential experience
Employers know that entry-level candidates will not necessarily have experience that is directly related to the position at hand. To widen the applicant pool, many employers will look at candidates who have experience in another field that may indicate an aptitude for sales. For instance, at SV Academy we’ve had former college/high school athletes, former retail associates, and our founder is even a former McDonald’s worker turned serial entrepreneur.
Because hiring managers look for soft skills in entry level positions — drive, adaptability, communication, etc. — it’s important to successfully position your tangential experience as indicative of an aptitude for sales. You can do this in your initial cover letter, in the ‘skills’ section of your resume, or in an interview (but make sure to use the first two steps to get that far!).
Be careful of assuming that your tangential experience will directly translate, though. Instead, focus on the soft skills that made you successful in your other position, and then elucidate why you believe those same skills would be applicable to an entry level sales job.
The First Step is the Hardest — it Gets Easier
Despite the fact that only 2% of people get interviews for any given job, the reality is that most people end up being in that 2% at least some of the time. The key to getting there, is learning how to apply and leverage the soft skills and talents that you already have.
Elaina Ransford contributed to this article