Learning to sell is one of the best skills you can bring to your career — and life.

Recent college grads often think, “Meh/ugh (or some other whiny noise), I don’t want to do sales.”

Either they think a sales job is beneath them, they don’t want their pay to be tied to performance or they just “don’t like the idea of selling something.”

I’ve been there, too; I actually felt bad for my friends who were “reduced” to sales jobs right out of college. And I’ve seen friends adopt an air of apology when explaining that their job involved sales. Oh, the shame!

But that approach is plain old stupid. Being able to sell is everything.

Every idea you pitch to your boss, every business you want to start and every job interview you have are all about selling. Sometimes it’s an idea, other times it’s a product or service, and it almost always involves selling yourself. The ability to sell is an absolutely critical skill, and taking a job that forces you to learn and master the art of sales early on in your career is a great move.

Get over yourself

If you are a recent college grad, chances are good that nothing is beneath you. Sorry, but that’s how it goes. People love to say they’re willing to “start at the bottom” and “work my way up the ladder,” but when they are presented with such an opportunity, they recoil in terror.

Taking a sales job is hardly starting at the bottom, but there’s definitely an air of superiority implicit in anyone who disregards sales as an unworthy profession.

Are you just afraid?

The reasons why we have negative perceptions of sales as a career vary, but part of it is the thought that salespeople are “sleazy.” That stereotype does a great disservice to young professionals everywhere. “Sales involves being sleazy,” so the flawed logic goes, “thus my dismissal of a sales position must be due to my integrity.”

The fact is that a career in sales can be quite challenging, and that’s intimidating. But associating a sales position with being “sleazy” allows people to give themselves a pass, rather than take on a difficult, sometimes uncomfortable job. In other words, a lot of people don’t want to do it because they’re scared.

To the bold goes the paycheck

While some of us are intimidated by the prospect of salary being tied to performance, others wouldn’t have it any other way. They see a set salary as a cap, a limit to their potential, while a sales commission-based salary is only limited by their abilities.

That’s why lots of people in sales make great money, eventually landing the set salary and the ability to make a bunch more via commissions. Adopt the right attitude and sales-based pay can be very attractive and lucrative.

Learn to pitch

The ability to sell is one of the most versatile skill sets a person can have. It doesn’t matter if you’re an engineer, an architect, a waitress or a business owner – if you can’t sell, you’re severely handicapped.

At some point, probably more often than you’d think, we all have to sell, and taking a job in sales forces you to learn the craft quickly. Making sales calls and presentations hones your critical thinking, on-the-fly thinking, public speaking and interpersonal skills like nothing else.

Plus, part of making a sale is negotiating – another tremendous skill set. By the time you need to negotiate a salary, ask for a raise, buy a house, a car, a business or sign a lease, the practice you’ve had at negotiating and working through alternative prices to close a deal will pay huge dividends.

Bottom line: taking a sales job is a great way to jumpstart your career, make good money, become a pitching and negotiating pro, and turn yourself into a well-rounded professional.

You might not want to be “in sales,” but the fact is, you don’t really have a choice. You’re going to have to pitch, sell and negotiate regularly throughout your life. Rather than brushing off sales as “not for you,” why not embrace it and get to work mastering a skill you’re going to need, regardless of profession?

Tim Murphy is founder of ApplyMate.com, a free application tracking tool.


  1. Edward - Entry Level Dilemma

    Personally, I’m one of the world’s worst salesmen. Part of it is just because I don’t like being sold to. I’m a “just the facts, ma’am” kind of guy. The one who shoos the salespeople away from me in the store. My roommate is an insurance saleman; a couple times he’s tried to cross the line from informing me what my options are to trying to get me to buy something. Because he’s my roommate, I’m a little more polite to him, but I still shut him down.

    • Tim

      Hey Edward,

      Thanks a lot for the comment. I totally get that you don’t care for the sales pitch thing, and that you don’t think you’re any good. You just need to practice! Like it or not, you’ve certainly pitched many people throughout your life, and will continue doing so as long as you’re alive (we all will). So, anything you can do to get better (including taking a sales job) will get you ahead. Not that you need to quit your current job and run out to get a sales job. I was just saying there’s a ton of value in learning to sell and a sales job is a great way to learn and improve.

      Thanks again for the comment and for reading!


  2. Jrandom42

    As an Adult Asperger, I’d really suck as a saleman, sleazy or not. I don’t do well with the ‘smoke and mirrors’ that sales regards as integral tools.And I can’t begin to count the incidents where I’ve yelled at a salesperson who’s trying to change my mind on what I want to purchase,

    “Because you’re so clueless that you don’t seem to understand “GO AWAY! I KNOW WHAT I WANT!’, I’ll go to your direct competitor and purchase something more expensive, and let yoursales manager know that it was YOUR attitude that drove me to your competitor!”

    The choice comes down to: do I want to be a successful engineer or a failed sales person? The answer is obvious to me, but for those that don’t get, success ALWAY trumps failure.

    • Tim

      Hey Jrandom,

      Thanks a lot for the comment!

      There are definitely a lot of crappy salespeople out there, and the bad ones really do stand out (poor attitude, pushy, whatever). I think that’s why so many people are afraid of taking a sales job or learning to sell, because it involves a lot of rejection and if you are bad it’s really obvious.

      My point was that even if someone doesn’t like selling, there is SO much value in learning the skill. The crappy salesman might just be crappy because he’s new, but by taking a sales job he can learn and get better. Regardless of your job (engineer, artist, whatever) you will have to sell/convince/pitch/debate/argue your point at some time. Sales jobs teach you very valuable skills to that end.

      I’m not advocating everyone quit their job and go into sales, just saying that sales jobs offer a lot more value than people might think.

      Thanks for reading!


      • Jrandom42

        How do I “sell” an IT project? Simple. I confirm their pain points with the current infrastructure. I then lay out the new infrastructure, what goes into it, why it’s an upgrade from what they currently have, and how much time and money they save from the lack of downtime, and necessity to keep fixing and patching the current infrastructure.

        Either they say no, it’s too expensive, or they say I’m sick and tired of spending time and money to continually fix what we have now.

  3. Christina Wood 82

    Great post. I like your angle. I’m a college recruiter, and although I consider myself more an educator than a sales person, you’re right…sales plays a factor. I have a “product” and it’s education and the desire to advance professionally and academically. I have to be able to “sell” people on this idea so that they will want to invest.

    • Tim

      Hey Christina,

      Exactly! Just because someone’s role isn’t “Sales Person” doesn’t mean they don’t have to sell. We all do, and learning the craft will pay off in the long run. I used to work in PR and cold call pitching reporters (which I sucked at) really pushed me to think on my feet and get better at it. I wasn’t selling them a “thing” but I definitely had to sell them on my idea or client.

      Quick thinking is an awesome skill to have and my “sales” practice really led to improvement.

      Glad you enjoyed the post – thanks for reading!


  4. Michelle

    True, we are always selling, regardless of our job function. I used to be quite envious of effective sales people who seem so natural in their role….but once I better understood my strengths and why official “sales” isn’t on that list, now I just admire their skill set. Thanks for the post, Tim!

    • Tim

      Hey Michelle,
      Thanks a lot for the comment! Glad you didn’t just accept the “I’m no good at sales” bit and instead found a way to make it work. Great job and thanks for reading!


  5. Budding Entrepreneur

    Great point of view on sales. Any recommendations on online resources for getting started understanding how to think like a salesperson?

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  8. Shawn

    Personally, I differentiate between businesses that sell to an already interested audience (a real estate agent who talks to people at an open house, car salesman dealing with people who walked into the business, business to business sales) and businesses that bother people who have no interest in their product. I find most of the available jobs fall into that second category, and I don’t want to annoy people for a living. The ability to make a sound sales pitch is important in all walks of life, but I’m not willing to be a professional annoyer to do it.

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