How to get your first job in sales

By Heather Foley

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A job in sales is the very best start to any career. Whichever career path you follow, or wherever your career leads you, you will need to sell. You may need to sell your ideas, sell a key message, or even sell yourself for a promotion.   Whether you want a life-long career in sales, or just believe it’s the best way to start your career, you need to get that all-important first job.


Great sales people have energy and drive. They’re keen to make things happen and they don’t expect good things to drop in their laps. They feel deeply motivated to improve themselves and they know that the best way to achieve this is through hard work. Happily, these sorts of people are driven in many walks of life, so ensure this aspect of you shines through at the interview.  You’ll need to demonstrate that you are a determined character and will need to have examples ready to prove this.


However good a product or service is, not everyone will buy it. This means that great sales people need to be able to deal with rejection by dusting themselves down and moving on.

Make sure that, before any interview, you have thought through examples in your life where you’ve faced set backs but have, in the end, achieved what you’ve wanted. This will go a long way to demonstrating your resilience.


Sales people are fixated on targets. They eat, live and breathe targets, knowing that their success is entirely dependent on hitting (or exceeding!) them. Fortunately, it’s not just in sales that targets exist. Before the interview, consider a time in your life when you were given targets (or, even better, when you set them yourself). Share these with your prospective employer, remembering also to disclose how you exceeded them!


Although great sales people can’t predict the future, they often know whether a deal will come off.  Accomplished sales people are realistic and have a good ‘nose’ for qualifying prospects. But, they also have an optimistic nature. They believe that they can influence the outcome and that people will like their products and services. Be prepared to show examples of your optimistic nature and why it turned out to be well founded.


In a world where many products and services are exceptionally similar, the true USP or differentiator can be the sales person. Your interviewers will be putting themselves in potential buyers’ shoes and wondering whether they would buy from YOU. Any customer must experience that you are a person genuinely trying to help them to make a good buying decision.  People buy from people.  You need to be a likeable character, so smile and be sincere.

A job in sales will stand you in good stead for your entire career, no matter what that may be.  In the words of Harvey Mackay, businessman and columnist, “to me, job titles don't matter. Everyone is in sales. It's the only way we stay in business”.  Now, there’s something to think about!

Heather Foley is a consultant at, a UK-based HR consultancy


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