2.3. What Kind of Job Can I Get in Sales?

You have the power to choose your career. Do you want to travel across the country or around the world to meet with customers, understand their needs, and develop new business opportunities for your company? Or would you rather be a technical specialist, or a subject matter expert, and talk to customers about exactly how your product or service works? No matter what you want to do, chances are there is a sales role that you will enjoy. It is important to understand the different industries as “the skills to work in either (B2B or B2C) industries are quite different and moving between the two can be difficult so it’s well worth doing some research up front to ensure you make the right choice.” (Walters, 2020, para 2).    The main differences are that the majority of B2B sales jobs tend to be technical with complex products or services (hospital medical equipment or industrial car parts for example). The complexity of B2B sales jobs usually means that sales professionals in B2B tend to earn a higher income than B2C sales people and this is often justified with the requirement for more education or training with a B2B sales job (Walters, 2020).  Lastly, “When choosing between a career in B2B or B2C sales comes down to where the sales person feels most passionate and where they can achieve the most fulfilment. Professionals who enjoy dealing with people on a professional level will do well in a B2B sale environment. Professionals who are typically a “people persons” would flourish dealing directly with people in a B2C environment. “(Walters, 2020, para 8).

Direct Selling

You may have been invited to a “party” at a friend’s or relatives’ house to see the new line of Nutrilite Ocean Essentials vitamins and supplements. You have heard good things about the products from your friend. You did not realize that Nutrilite also made sports drinks and energy bars. You have a great time trying the products and talking to everyone at the party, so you decide to try the Nutrilite ROC 20 Antioxidant Enhanced Drink Mix, and you order it in three flavors. You just experienced the direct selling process, “the sale of a consumer product or service away from a fixed retail location.” (Direct sales association, 2009).  Some of the most well-known direct selling companies are Amway, Mary Kay Cosmetics, Avon, and Pampered Chef. There were  over 19 million people in the United States who sell products or services via direct selling in 2019 (Selling Power, 2019), which is  four times more than twenty years ago.  It is an industry that employs many sales people! In Canada, there were 1.2 million independent sales consultants with $3.5 billion in annual sales  (yes, billions)  (Industry statistics, 2020).  What makes direct selling so appealing is the fact that you can run your own business using the power of an established brand name and without the costs of manufacturing or providing the product or service? More important, you are your own boss. Although direct selling usually requires an initial purchase of products or services, called starting inventory, many direct sellers have been able to supplement their incomes and in some cases make it their full-time job, earning more than six figures a year. Given the opportunities, you probably are not surprised to learn that direct selling is growing because of the uncertain job market. Recent graduates, retirees, and everyone in between are turning to direct selling as a way to safeguard them during the recession. It is attractive because those who sell or distribute the products (also called independent business owners [IBOs]) make a percentage on the products they sell.

But direct selling isn’t lucrative for everyone. Not all IBOs maintain their focus and develop their network. It is hard work running your own business. It takes time, discipline, effort, focus, and passion.  Many direct selling companies engage in network marketing, also called multilevel marketing (MLM), which allows IBOs to invite other people to sell the products and earn money based on the sales of those they recruited. If you think about the concept of social networking on Web sites such as Facebook, it is easy to understand MLM. You can expand your network of contacts simply by tapping into the network of your friends; MLM operates on the same principle. If you sell to your friends and they sell to their friends, your opportunity to earn money expands significantly with every contact. So if you were an IBO for The Body Shop and you recruited your friend Alex to be an IBO, and they recruited their friend Devon to be an IBO, you would not only make commission on your product sales, but also on the product sales of Alex and Devon. You can see how being a part of an MLM company can offer significant earning potential (multi-level marketing, 2009).  Unfortunately, there have been some unscrupulous people involved in the MLM business, and some have created pyramid schemes in which many people have lost money.  The concept of MLM sales will be explored further in the chapter on ethics.

You have now seen how B2B, B2C, and direct selling work. Still, there are some other selling environments that you may also want to explore.

Entrepreneurial Selling

Martha Stewart (Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia), Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), and Jeff Bezos (Amazon) each had a unique idea for a product or service. And while good ideas are key to building a business, what ultimately made each of these people successful was their ability to sell their idea to their customers and to their investors. If you have the passion and vision to start your own business, you will need selling skills no matter what business you decide to create. Being an entrepreneur can be exhilarating, invigorating, and exciting, but it can also be challenging, time-consuming, and frustrating. That is why successful entrepreneurs, like successful salespeople, plan, do their homework, listen to customers, and make ideas and solutions come alive. It is no surprise that the traits of a successful salesperson discussed earlier in this chapter are the same traits that are required of an entrepreneur. Just like the different types of sales positions covered previously, there are virtually unlimited types of businesses that can be started by entrepreneurs.

Nonprofit Selling

Nonprofit organizations are those that use their proceeds to reinvest in the cause and are granted “tax- exempt” status from federal and other taxes (McNamara, 2009).  In May, 2020, Idealist (a nonprofit job and volunteer portal) had over 135,000 charities in North America looking to hire and Work for Good (job board for mission driven  careers) has matched candidates with  more than 30,000 organizations. There is work in the non-profit arena for mission driven folk.

You might be wondering what selling has to do with nonprofit organizations. The fact is that fund-raising and the development of endowments are actually the lifeblood of nonprofit organizations. Your school may have a director of alumni relations and development. This is the person who secures donations for the continued development of the school and facilities; for example, if your school needs a new athletic facility or classroom building, much of the funding would likely come through the alumni office. Just like for-profit businesses, selling is the engine of nonprofit organizations as well. If you have a passion for a particular cause, such as the green movement, breast cancer, literacy, or education, among others, and want to focus on making a contribution by choosing a career in the nonprofit sector, you can find selling opportunities at many organizations. Although you may want to volunteer for some organizations before you make a career choice, there are paying career fund-raising and development positions in the nonprofit sector.


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The Power of Selling Copyright © 2021 by Dr. Michelle Clement is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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