A surprising number of entrepreneurs I've met over the years got their first taste of business while working in Sales. Here's why, based on some observations from Doug Camplejohn, the CEO of the sales technology vendor Fliptop.
1. You'll gain business expertise.
As you work with customers, you'll gain an intimate familiarity with their most critical business challenges and how they measure success.
This is useful because you'll inevitably find areas where a startup could add value and thereby make money.
2. You'll gain technical expertise.
As you help your customers, you'll learn about your product and product category and how your own industry works.
This is useful because you'll know where your startup and its product fits in the larger scheme of things.
3. You'll learn how to simplify.
Potential customers today have access to more information about products than they could ever possibly digest. You'll help them navigate this deluge.
This is useful because selling your idea to investors will be much easier when you habitually boil things down to what's really important.
4. You'll hobnob with bigwigs.
As an adviser and strategic partner, you'll be invited to meetings with (and present to) plenty of C-level executives.
This is useful because you'll gain first-hand knowledge of how powerful decision-makers see the world and how to adapt to their way of thinking.
5. You'll build valuable relationships.
As you sell, you'll form strong bonds with prospects, educating them on industry trends and best practices, and offering solutions to their individual challenges.
This is useful because you can use those relationships to get advice and traction for your startup.
6. You'll learn to be self-motivated.
In sales, you're competing with yourself on a daily basis, honing your skills and increasing your ability to contribute.
This is useful because when you start a business you don't have a boss who helps to motivate you. Instead, you must draw from your own enthusiasm.
7. You'll learn to be autonomous.
Salespeople are usually in control of their own time and must succeed without much management guidance.
This is useful because your startup won't have an infrastructure, which means you'll need to make decisions on your own.
8. You can make a LOT of money.
The compensation for top salespeople in some industries exceeds that of the average C-level executive.
This is useful because if you're smart, you'll sock away the money you make in sales to fund your startup in its earliest phases.
9. You'll learn to be more creative.
To be successful in sales, you'll need to apply your technical and business expertise to solve a wide variety of problems.
This is useful because that expertise will help you understand what needs to be done next as your startup grows and succeeds.
10. You'll learn how to present.
Selling always involves presenting problems, solutions, strategies and tactics to groups of decision-makers.
This is useful because you'll need to present your ideas when you cultivate investors and sell to your initial customers.
11. You'll learn how to close a deal.
This is useful because in the early stages of your startup, you'll be doing a lot of selling and it will take a lot longer to get going if you don't know how to close.
12. You'll learn how to handle rejection.
Even the world's greatest salespeople sometimes get rejected. It's just part of the job.
This is useful because you'll need a thick skin when (as is inevitable) some people don't "get" the idea behind your startup.
13. You'll learn to be courageous.
Successful salespeople learn quickly how to shrug off fear and keep selling, even when they haven't sold anything for a while.
This is useful because you'll need courage to leave your corporate job (or the idea you'll get one) in order to start your own business.
14. You'll never be bored.
As you work with different companies, you'll be constantly learning more about people, innovations and industry challenges.
This is useful because as their companies grow, entrepreneurs must become lifelong learners.