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Entering the world of sales can be both a lucrative and rewarding move for recent grads. But what if your degree is in no way relevant to this line of work? Can you still break in? The short answer is yes. Fortunately, sales is one of those fields that’s fairly open to individuals from many backgrounds. You just have to be willing to do the legwork.

Here are seven steps you can take to successfully launch a sales career without relevant education or experience.

Be the salesperson you aspire to be in your resume, cover letter and interviews.

Your resume, your cover letter and any interviews you attend are all brilliant opportunities to prove that you have what it takes to be a first-class sales rep. It’s important to recognize that during the job search process, you are essentially the product, and prospective employers are the customers. Demonstrate that you can sell anything by selling yourself effectively first. Identify your unique value proposition and then communicate it vividly and persuasively.

Also remember that at its core, sales is about helping clients solve problems. So, do extensive research into the challenges facing your target company, and then put the focus on how you’re an ideal solution. After interviews, stay in sales mode and follow up strategically. That way you can show that you know how to close a deal too.

Zero in on your transferable skills.

When you don’t have a relevant college degree, you have to work extra hard to put the focus on your sales-related transferable skills — those abilities you’ve gained through other experiences (volunteer work and extracurricular activities, for example) that will serve you well in a selling role.

Think about how to write a resume that puts the spotlight on competencies like communication, public speaking, self-motivation, empathy, problem-solving and planning, and offers clear examples of how you got results by applying these skills in the past. If you’re not sure where to start, you might find an online resume builder helpful.

Network, network, network.

If you want to launch a sales career, you need to cultivate relationships with the right people. Not just because this will give you an in, but also because it shows that you possess a skill that’s central to selling: the ability to network. If you don’t know anyone in the field, start attending industry events and career fairs, or reach out to target contacts via LinkedIn to request informational interviews or even the opportunity to job shadow. If you can spend some time with sales reps on the job, you’ll learn more about what the work actually entails, and this deeper understanding will serve you well in interviews.

Identify businesses with training programs.

Several larger companies run entry-level training programs for new grads looking to hone their skills in certain sectors, including sales. This is a great first in and a good way to learn while on the job and build a foundation in the industry. While most companies will likely be looking to recruit sales and marketing graduates, if selling is a strength of yours, you should be able to convince the powers that be to give you a chance to participate in a traineeship too.

Just start somewhere.

In a Forbes article that profiles ways to overcome a lack of relevant work experience, career coach Ashley Stahl recommends that young job seekers looking to start careers without the “right” background should just “do something.” That is, don’t sit and wait for opportunities to come to you; get out there and create them. Start a sales-focused blog, take on unpaid work (if finances allow) or seek out internships. You should also be willing to accept any job that gives you access to the sales world, even if it’s not your dream job. You may ultimately want to work as an outside salesperson, but inside sales will likely be an easier place to start because hiring managers recruiting for indirect roles won’t necessarily insist on seeing evidence that you’ve exceeded quotas.

Read widely and voraciously.

As you don’t have a sales-geared degree, it’s critical that you learn as much as you can about the discipline of selling by consuming heaps of relevant material. Pertinent blogs, books, podcasts and public talks will all help you to get familiar with industry lingo and find out about the latest trends, techniques and leaders in the field. Well-known sales management consultant Alice Heiman recommends that anyone looking to fast-track a sales career read “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie right now.

Keep at it.

Effective sales reps are both persistent and resilient. Remember this during your job search, and don’t let rejection get to you. Even if you’re feeling a little down about your prospects, make sure interviewers only ever meet an upbeat, optimistic, energetic version of you. If they don’t see perseverance and positivity, they may doubt whether you have what it takes to overcome the challenges associated with this line of work.

So, just keep going and trust that you will eventually make your sales career dreams a reality.

PS: We're hiring! Confidence can sometimes hold us back from applying for a job. But we'll let you in on a secret: there's no such thing as a 'perfect' candidate. HubSpot is a place where everyone can grow. So however you identify and whatever background you bring with you, please apply if sales is a career that would make you excited to come into work every day. At HubSpot, we’re invested in helping you grow your career.


Originally published Jun 17, 2019 7:00:00 AM, updated January 13 2020