Career Advice Aug 30 2012

Sales Jobs for the Average Joe

By Alina Dizik

For job seekers looking to move up in a sales career, competing with others who have specialty experience (along with stellar sales skills) can be a hurdle.

Many positions call for specific science or finance expertise in sales experience. But not all sales jobs require applicants with specialized knowledge. Some areas of hospitality, transportation and consumer goods are open to candidates who have a broader sales background. They also provide additional in-house training.

When searching for a non-specific sales position, prepare for the interview by focusing on transferable skills and weeding out clichés, says Deborah St. James, deputy director of scientific communications at Grifols, a Durham, North Carolina-based biotech firm. Avoid words like "team player", "think outside the box", "at the end of the day," or "win-win," she says. "Focus on specific skills such as the ability to listen actively, write well, present and communicate to a wide variety of audiences, honesty, patience, persistence and a good sense of humor."

Here are six sales jobs that require little previous experience:

Luxury Transport

Total compensation: $70,000 to 90,000

Breaking into any kind of luxury sales requires a keen understanding of the consumer, but most people are hired without prior specialized experience. Auto sales are known for providing on-the-job training, says St. James, a former sales training manager in various industries. In addition to luxury cars, selling private jets or boats also calls for the ability to connect with VIP customers. The commission structure from selling high-cost vehicles, boats and jets is a perk.

Real Estate

Total compensation: $60,000 to $120,000

As the real estate industry shows signs of a rebound, sales people can find work in various areas of the industry. Think beyond residential real estate when conducting a search, suggests Tom Moore, co-founder of ROCS, an entry-level staffing firm in Fairfax, Virginia. Sales people can work for management companies where professionals are responsible for selling off entire apartment complexes or subdivisions, or specialize in commercial real estate.

It doesn't pay to be overly pushy, especially in real estate. "Sometimes taking the no pressure approach to sales can be very effective," says Moore. While a state-issued license is required, it's possible to break in without any prior experience, according to the National Association of Realtors.


Total compensation: $50,000 to $60,000

If you're eager to break into the food industry with some sales experience under your belt, catering sales can be a good start. Since 2009, the catering industry has increased at about 10% each year with revenues over $14 billion. Whether working for hotels, caterers or restaurants to sell and promote large events, there's plenty of work for those eager deal with demanding clients.

Like other areas of sales, it requires resilience says Chris Carlson, president of Sales Talent Inc., a sales recruiting firm outside of Seattle. "The ability to quickly recover from defeats, learn from them and get back to work is important and can be cultivated," he says.

Corporate Insurance Sales

Total compensation: $90,000 to $120,000

When it comes to B2B insurance sales, eager candidates can jump in without too much industry expertise, says Carlson. For newbies, corporate insurance sales can help propel a business career or facilitate a move into other areas of corporate sales.

These days, agents and other sales pros need to do more with a dwindling budget. "Having the skills to be able to come up with creative or unique solutions to get your message in front of the customer on a little to nothing budgets can go along way to get a sales job," Moore says.

Nonprofit Memberships

Total compensation: $30,000 to $50,000

Whether it's the local chamber of commerce, a museum or theater, finding members who are willing to donate in order to become members is often the core part of a nonprofit's mission. Because donations are a main source of funding, many nonprofits employ knowledgeable sales people even during tough economic times. Persistency trumps prior expertise.

"These roles involve a lot of cold calling and phone time so candidates should ask themselves: Can I handle making 100 calls a day?" says Frank Belzer, vice president of corporate development at Kurlan and Associates, Westborough, Mass.-based sales training firm. Membership sales are also a great way to break into the nonprofit industry since most employees with a sales background must multitask and take on additional functions.

Office Equipment

Total compensation: $60,000 to $80,000

An office equipment sales role allows many to break in to the industry and wholesalers are constantly looking for new talent, Belzer says. Sales consultants need to understand the unique needs of each business – it's no longer about copier sales but striving to meet the innovative technology needs which includes both digital and more traditional solutions.

While prior experience isn't required, reps need know-how of navigating corporate bureaucracy with ease. Additionally, it's important to avoid pushiness when it comes time to make the investment. "You have to show that you care for the customer and you actually are looking out for them," says Moore.

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