How to get a sales job without any experience

These strategies will help you break into this potentially lucrative occupation.

How to get a sales job without any experience


Many job seekers wonder: Can I apply to sales jobs that require two years of experience when I don’t have two years of experience? Will it immediately disqualify me from the running? 

Good news! You don’t need experience to kick off a career in sales. It’s an industry that welcomes go-getters of all types and levels of work experience. You have to be willing to do the legwork required of newbies.

This line of work is alluring for several reasons, but primarily for the paychecks. Though incomes can range widely depending on what you’re selling, sales jobs can be incredibly lucrative. The top 10% of performers make, on average $113,310 a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports.

But to break into sales, you’ll still have to follow the right job search and interview tactics. These strategies will help you get there.

Be willing to start at the bottom

Regardless of industry, when you lack experience, you should be prepared to take an entry-level job. That applies even if you had a higher position in your former profession, says sales trainer and consultant Marie Warner.

In sales particularly, there’s an upshot to this. “You’ll receive valuable training in most entry-level jobs,” says Greta Schulz, president and CEO of Schulz Business SELLutions in Jupiter, Florida. “[Sales managers] want to be able to mould you into the type of salesperson they need.” Therefore, during interviews, express that you’re eager to learn on the job and that you learn quickly.

Study up

Before you start going on job interviews, you’ll want to have a rudimentary knowledge of sales at least and be able to articulate a philosophy of selling that’s more than, “I’m a people person.”

For those new to the game, Jill Konrath, author of More Sales, Less Time: Surprisingly Simple Strategies for Today’s Crazy-Busy Sellers, recommends reading Mike Weinberg’s book, New Sales. Simplified.: The Essential Handbook for Prospecting and New Business Development. Also, check out TED Talks like Enersto Sirolli’s “Want to Help Someone? Shut Up and Listen!” and Angela Lee Duckworth’s “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance.”

Build a network

One of the best ways to find job opportunities is by attending networking events. Interested in selling in a particular field? Go to industry-specific conferences in your area, join professional associations, and connect with prospective sales managers on social media. Building a solid sphere can help you land a job faster.

Highlight your transferable skills

Sales managers want to see that you can sell yourself before they entrust you to sell their company’s product or service. Though you don’t have sales experience, you might have transferable knowledge that can make you a great salesperson. (After all, sales is all about getting someone to buy something that they may not necessarily need.)

Konrath gives an example of someone with nursing experience applying for sales jobs in pharmaceuticals. But even without such a clear-cut connection, you can lean on soft skills. At its core, selling is about persuasion, so think of a time when you had to convince someone to agree with you and talk about how you leveraged your people skills, such as leadership, problem-solving, and communication. Prepare a few anecdotes to share during the job interview.

Show them you did your homework

Another part of being a great salesperson is digging into the customers’ needs and offering them a solution. The job interview is a perfect opportunity for you to do just that.

Lead by saying, “In preparing for this interview, I...” Then list what you did, such as:

  • “I read your last three corporate reports.”
  • “I took one of your sales representatives to breakfast to see how I fit into your company’s mission.”
  • “I studied your competitors to learn what sets your products apart.”

Follow this up by asking meaningful questions during interviews based on the research you’ve done. For instance, “I see you’ve had steady growth over the last five years. Why do you think that is?” Or, “I learned that your company is expanding to a new market segment in the upcoming quarter. What are your growth plans?”

Not only are these questions smart ones to ask from a job-seeker’s perspective, but they also demonstrate to a hiring manager that you know how to get information from a potential buyer.

So, when it’s your turn to talk, show the interviewer that you did your homework. Lead by saying, “In preparing for this interview, I...” Then list what you did, such as:

Tailor your resume and cover letter

generic resume won’t cut it, says Warner. Make sure your career summary indicates that you’re seeking a sales job in the field you’re interested in. Look to job postings for prominent keywords and incorporate them throughout your resume.

Sales managers love a winner, so in your cover letter, make a note of select accomplishments you’ve enjoyed in your career. Were you able to create a streamlined process that increased efficiency? Did you develop a training program for new hires? Did you write blog posts that increased the number of visits to the company website by a notable percentage? Tell these types of stories to show you know how to put into action what you learned.

Could you use some help putting it all together? Get a free resume evaluation today from the experts at Monster’s Resume Writing Service. You’ll get detailed feedback in two business days, including a review of your resume’s appearance and content, and a prediction of a recruiter’s first impression. It’s a quick and easy way to build a resume that clearly outlines why you would be a smash hit at the new job.