If you’re looking to get into sales, not having a college degree can feel like a huge barrier to your career. But what if I told you that a degree isn’t always required for a sales job?
“Even though disciplines like medical sales may need a degree, there are many other sales jobs that don’t require one,” says Doug Brown, CEO of Sales Strategies.
In this guide, we’ll explore how you can get into sales without a degree. Whether you’re just starting out or want to switch careers, this guide will give you expert insights to land your first sales job.
Table of Contents
- What does it mean to work in sales?
- 7 Expert Tips to Get a Sales Job Without a Degree
- How to Find Entry-level Sales Jobs
What does it mean to work in sales?
The core responsibility of salespeople is to generate revenue. Working as a salesperson makes you accountable for identifying, qualifying, closing, maintaining, and growing new and existing business opportunities.
These responsibilities also make a career in sales highly rewarding. The average salary for a salesperson is $61,151, according to Salary.com. Sales managers can earn a median salary of $127,490. Once you can get your foot in the door, your earnings potential will greatly increase.
Simply put, you can learn all of the essential skills to work in sales outside of school. As Alex Kracov, CEO and co-founder of Dock, says, “People don’t need a degree to work in sales.”
7 Expert Tips to Get a Sales Job Without a Degree
To help you get into the world of sales and start earning the above attractive salaries, we reached out to industry sales leaders to share their best advice. See what they said.
1. Be a voracious learner.
Whether you want to switch careers or begin as a salesperson, you must be open to learning. In fact, the desire to learn can mean more than a degree.
“My top rep back at Toast had no degree. He was a restaurant general manager for 8+ years who transitioned to sales. His previous experience — while not in sales — set him up to succeed,” says Adam Jay, chief revenue officer at Falkon. “He was highly coachable, had transferable life skills, a winning attitude, and was always asking to learn more. This landed him a spot as the top rep on my team within a year of being hired.”
If you have previous, people-centric job experience, you can leverage your prior roles to make your way into sales. This is especially true if you’re used to working with other business professionals.
“I hired a former golf caddy to be a salesperson,” says Alex Kracov, CEO and co-founder of Dock. “This person was incredibly successful because they were comfortable talking to business people, but above all else, they had a growth mindset and an insatiable desire to learn.”
Fast forward a few years, and Kracov’s rep ended up going to the President’s Club — an annual employee recognition program that rewards salespeople who meet or exceed sales goals and quotas.
These are beautiful stories of people who launched their sales careers without a degree. The common thread? Great soft skills and a desire to learn the ropes.
To become a top salesperson, you need to start learning the basics. Learn how to write cold emails, listen to experts on the best sales podcasts, read content on the best sales blogs, subscribe to the best sales newsletters, and take free or paid sales training courses.
Make no mistake, your learning process will be bumpy. You’ll get lots of “no” when you test the sending of cold emails. But as Kracov puts it, “The best salespeople enjoy talking to people, have grit, and don’t let a ‘no’ stand in the way of a deal.”
2. Find companies with great products and training programs.
In 2018, Apple made history by becoming the world’s first publicly traded company to achieve a market capitalization of $1 trillion. That’s thanks to one man who didn’t have a college degree — Steve Jobs.
Steve was a veteran sales leader who firmly believed in Apple. Though the Apple board once ousted him, Jobs returned to the company he co-founded during its ailing times and rejuvenated it.
To perform optimally in your sales role, you need to love what you sell.
“Look for a company with a product you believe in and want to represent. If you know what you’re selling makes a real difference, sales becomes the transfer of that enthusiasm,” says John Barrows, CEO of SellBetter by JB Sales.
A great product is one side of the coin. When interviewing for sales roles, ask questions that’ll help you know if the company has a strong sales training program for new hires.
Mareike Popp, CEO and co-founder of Atlas Analytics, says, “Companies with a tested and validated sales system have a repeatable process that’ll help you make progress, get better, and deliver results.”
3. Start in a hunter sales role.
Sales hunters are relentless in finding new opportunities, prospects, and accounts. They are usually business development managers who understand the needs of their audience and enjoy moving from one deal to the next.
“Regardless of the compensation structure, begin your career as a sales hunter,” says Brisa Renteria, CEO of Improve Growth. “Starting in this role puts you way ahead of most salespeople because you’d have learned how to find prospects and close them. These are the most critical sales skills.”
4. Prove you’ve got skin in the game.
Hiring managers and sales leaders want you to prove you’re the right pick for the job. To improve your chance of making this happen, you must put your skin in the game.
“Start selling. Learn what it feels like to get rejected and keep going,” says Rex Biberston, principal at No Fluff Selling. The more rejections you get, the faster you learn about customer objections and how to overcome them.
Don’t overthink about what to sell. Selling items at a car wash, operating a lemonade stand, or doing door-to-door selling are sales. Provided you gained useful experience, your recruiter will love to hear your story, especially when you can discuss your results.
“Number-based results — as opposed to anecdotal results — get the attention of sales leaders,” says Margaret Henney of Covideo. “Where were key performance indicators before and where do they stand after your contribution? Whether the metrics are from efforts in marketing, operations, or any other role, they show your drive and motivation for moving the needle.”
5. Networking with peers is the name of the game.
Cars don’t drive on their own. They need gas. Just as gas enables cars to move, so can an excellent network help you grow as a salesperson. But how do you network? Begin with LinkedIn.
For every five LinkedIn members, four drive key business decisions. To reach these decision members, the first step is to set up a great LinkedIn profile. Afterward, follow sales leaders, engage with their content, and keep making new connections.
Also, go all-in on creating your own content. This builds your personal brand and helps you attract sales leaders or recruiters. An excellent way to start creating content is to use LinkedIn as a public journal to document your successes, failures, and learnings.
Joining sales communities is another great way to network with peers. Communities like RevGenius, Thursday Night Sales, and Pavilion let you network with industry experts, develop as a professional and get free knowledge and resources.
6. Polish your resume by playing to your strengths.
Nikola Neskovic, vice president of sales at Cake says he would take a chance on someone without a degree if they’re suitable for the job. How can recruiters tell? They look at your experience and interests.
“When assessing their resume, I might look for certain hobbies, interests, leisure activities, public speeches, and group memberships in a resume — basically signs that the person is outgoing and socially confident,” says Neskovic.
You can also complete relevant certifications instead of a degree.
“For sales in the IT industry, I prefer candidates who hold any computer or programming certificate. Extroverts with developed technical skills are my top picks,” Neskovic adds.
Does this mean introverts and other personality types are unsuitable for sales jobs? No.
Introverts have some excellent skills that make them ideal salespeople. The ability to listen attentively helps introverts understand customers. Introverts are also great at communicating in writing. This can help when cold emailing prospects.
Whether you’re an introvert, extrovert, or ambivert, recognize that sales leaders and recruiters want someone who they believe can produce results. So play to the strength of your personality type and ensure your sales resume shows you’re a go-getter.
7. Go the extra mile.
Submitting a cover letter and resume is now table stakes. Do something different to stand out from the crowd. Atlas Analytics’ Popp says, “If you want to be in sales, learn how to sell yourself first.”
Popp also recommends you record a one-minute video (ideally customized for the recruiter or hiring company) that introduces who you are and why you think you would be a good fit.
You can also amaze your recruiter by doing something unconventional. For instance, you can change the colors and fonts in your resume to match the branding of the hiring company.
Hannah Kutchinski did this and got the attention of Nicole Jackson. A month later, Hannah got the role. While this was a marketing position, this tactic (and more) applies to jobs in many disciplines.
Now that you’re equipped with expert tips to get into sales, the next step is to identify your preferred industry that doesn’t require a degree. Examples are insurance, SaaS, consumer packaged goods, and advertising.
How to Find Entry-Level Sales Jobs
Let’s go over some places to find an entry-level sales job. When using these websites, ensure you use their filters to narrow your search to entry-level roles.
Here’s an example of a sales job on Indeed after applying different filters.Image SourceImage Source
The role: Insurance Sales Representative
Salary: $40,000 and up in the first year. $80,000 and up in the second year.
- Meet new business production/sales goals
- Proficient at marketing through social media
- Solicits for new business via telephone, networking, and other lead sources
- Develop ongoing networking relationships with similar business structures
- Prospecting and generating new business through leads and referral sources
- Generate leads and follow up with prospects
- Arrange and coordinate meetings with clients and sales representatives
- Update client databases and maintain a personal log of your contacts
- Hit set productivity and sales goals
- Prospect new and existing customer networks for business opportunities
- Be honest and proactive in customer communication
- Negotiate with customers
- Use industry-leading customer relationship management (CRM) and transportation management software to manage customer interactions
Skills and qualifications required:
- No degree necessary
- Time management and decision-making skills
- Solid computer, grammar, and multi-tasking skills
- Proven ability to be persuasive, persistent, and confident in closing a sale
- You’re self-motivated, persuasive, and results-oriented
- Computer savvy and capable of learning other computer applications
- Exceptional verbal and written communication skills
- No college degree required
- Excellent organizational skills
- Passionate about rapport and relationship building
- Love to hustle, learn, and think on your feet
- Familiar with CRM like HubSpot
Glassdoor is more than a job site for employers. It provides candidates seeking sales jobs with an inside scoop on companies with employee reviews and salaries. Over 50 million people visit Glassdoor every month.
Here’s an example of a sales job on Glassdoor.
The role: Entry-level Sales Representative
Salary: $45,000 to $70,000.
Skills and qualifications required:
Alt Text: LinkedIn: a job site to find sales jobs without a degreeTitle: LinkedIn-job-site
As earlier discussed, LinkedIn is a professional platform with almost a billion users. The platform also has a job board.
Here’s an example of a sales job on LinkedIn.
The role: Entry-level Sales Associate
Salary: $42,000 (base)
Skills and qualifications required:
Starting a Thriving Sales Career Without a Degree
Overwhelming evidence shows you can get into sales without a degree. Many experts tell fantastic stories of people without degrees who became top salespeople. What matters most is your soft skills, desire to learn, and passion for the job.
Pair these with a brilliant resume, an excellent company, and quality sales training, and you will be on your way to the President’s Club.
So don’t let the absence of a degree stop you from beginning this exciting journey. If Joe Girard could get hired without a degree and sell 13,001 cars during his sales career, I’ll wager you can do the same.