How I got a sales job without a marketing degree or experience

Sales Job India

After an engineering degree, it’s common for students to get engineering jobs that mostly involve highly technical responsibilities. The front-office roles (like sales and marketing) are general taken up by people with business degrees (e.g. MBA).

As an engineering student, Abhishek Kochhar got interested in extra-curricular activities that involved selling. He talks about how that informal sales & marketing experience in college helped him get a sales job as a fresher in India. he also goes on to share how a good exposure to sales can transform just about anyone.
 


How I got a sales job without a marketing degree / formal experience

by Abhishek Kochhar

I am sorry beta, you can have it next time.

And that’s when you failed at selling for the first time in your life. It was bound to happen; you wouldn’t have known better back then!

Marketing Careers - AbhishekAs and when a human being grows up, he learns more about what he really wants. He grows up and learns more about what he wants from others.

The problem comes when others don’t want to give it to him. And that’s when his sales training starts!

Selling, in its most rudimentary form is nothing but persuasion. It is an art and not a science, simply because there’s nothing mechanical about sales (though some sales professionals wouldn’t agree. It’s okay; we all at times feel that our job is the most monotonous piece of work in this world).

It is one of the most common skills needed for anybody to succeed, both professionally and personally.

Primarily because every conversation two people have involves selling of an idea. And as Ben Affleck rightly said in Boiler Room, either you sell the prospect why he should buy or he sells you the reason why he can’t.

Let’s look at some simple examples of how our selling skills are used on a daily basis, without even us noticing.

When we convince the opposite sex to go out on a date with us, when we send that appraisal document to our manager, when we make an SOP for our dream university and even when we perform on stage; we are trying to sell an idea to someone.

It takes less than ten seconds for the other guy to form a judgement about an idea and ridicule it, probably one-hundredth the time it took for the creator to come up with it.

And that is why; the art of selling can seldom be perfected.

Unlike how it is misinterpreted often, there is a considerable amount of difference between good communication and good selling skills.

In fact, good communication skills are just an added advantage for the seller as with that, he at the least knows how to drive the message home.

We all have read in a lot of blogs and articles about how one should have some hardcore sales experience at least once in their lifetime. But what does a good sales experience really teach us?

 

How my sales & marketing experience in college changed me

Allow me to share my example of how I ended up being part of a sales and marketing based career without a formal marketing degree and what led up to it.

I was always an expressive person. As a student of Manipal University, I chose to join an organization called AIESEC, which provided me more of a parallel education by throwing me opportunities and responsibilities that a college student doesn’t usually come across.

I consider that as my pre-MBA training.

Manipal and AIESEC were my tipping points towards building above average selling skills. Being part of those made me communicate a lot more than I did.

In fact, I organized and delivered sessions to motivate people who were barely 1-2 years younger than me and were still working under me while I headed the Marketing vertical of the Manipal chapter of AIESEC.

While doing all that, I was trying to sell the organization’s values to the subordinates in the organization who were almost my age and had agreed to work purely on a voluntary basis.

I evolved, working on local and national level events and in a global learning environment, which slowly and steadily polished my selling skills to the extent that I landed up a hardcore sales and marketing oriented job in one of the fastest growing Ed-Tech companies in India, Think and Learn (popularly known as Byju’s).

How I have changed after a year of this work experience is something I really value.

When you become a successful sales professional, it brings up a lot of confidence that was buried deep inside.

You strongly believe in the idea of getting things done using key interpersonal skills that are your USPs as a seller.

Every person I want work from, every professional bottleneck I want to remove is a lead or a prospect to me.

In my case, I use my USPs of knowledge, consistency in lead engagement and decent communication skills to walk my way through any problem; personal or professional.

Not to say that a great sales professional has no problems in life, (our targets haunt us even in our dreams!) but one gets the confidence of approaching any argument with good calculation of the words that he’s going to use to convince the other guy; and still selling is not a mechanical process, it’s an art.

And every person may follow a different way to master it.

 

Look for informal sales opportunities around you

There are numerous ways to reach a point where you start being more than a novice as a seller.

Like everything else, practicing selling makes you perfect. One might or might not be in the sales industry to undergo this practice.

For example, the guy working on his desktop every day, building software for the most important projects, may start building up his selling skills by just bringing in some change within his team to avoid the monotony of coding.

He may also put his skills to use and create some technology solution for the society!

My point is – taking initiative not only shows your leadership potential (pretty important from an MBA point of view), but also puts you out of the comfort zone and while you’re at it, you create something new which needs to be pitched to the world.

For many of us, our intellectual needs are not fulfilled because we keep doing the same work again and again.

If we try to step aside from the usual routine and do give a try to creating something new, something original and our own, we will want it to be accepted by the audience out there.

Getting up to create that something is just the first step.

Starting to sell it to our peers is a different chapter all together; just like how product development follows product marketing. So being part of some hardcore sales experience is up to us.

Some of us already are in the field and the rest of us just need to find or create that thing that will be the stepping stone of our journey to become an excellent seller.
 
Read these related articles:
How to get a job after college without experience
How marketing works in any business or company
 
Image source: Rocket Singh: Salesman of the Year (Yash Raj Films)


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Abhishek Kochhar //
Abhishek Kochhar
An alumnus of AIESEC and Manipal University, works as a Business Development Manager and an Educational Consultant in an Ed-Tech company in Bangalore.

13 Comments

  1. Dash says:

    Is a sales profile good for Marketing? I have heard you end up stuck in sales for the rest of your life.

    • Hi Dash

      You’re right in being apprehensive about where exactly a sales profile will lead you. Though it completely depends on industry to industry, it often happens that a sales guy gets stuck in doing sales and is not able to maneuver his way into a marketing profile. That said, if you’re smart enough, you can prevent that from happening to you.

      The first thing to do with that regards is to have a very clear expectation setting with your organization/reporting manger about where you want to be headed in an organization. Often companies convert an employee from a sales to marketing profile after he has been seasoned with the sales experience and understands the ground realities of the sales process, which is very important from the marketing perspective.

      Another way to be smart about the same is switching companies at the right time. You can plan your exit from the current organization in such a way that by the time you leave, you would have had atleast some marketing experience. Make sure you’re networking well with the employees responsible for marketing activities in your team so that you can learn from them. Continuously coming with ideas to generate more leads or to engage leads in a better way can always help the higher ups in your organization understand that you’re the guy who’s ready to take the next step.

      I do understand that creating such a scenario for yourself is difficult. If you don’t find yourself evolving into a marketing career, it’s best to shift to an organization which will help you grow into a marketing role.

  2. mohit says:

    Hi Abhishek, thank you for sharing your experience. Congrats on finding your dream job right after college.

    I am still in college (final year) and as you can guess doing engineering. Just like you I have lost interest in the degree. I have not been part of any social events. So I don;t know what I like.

    I don’t know what type of job I should go for. How to find out?

    I don’t want to go into a job that I will hate from day 1. What can I do from now onwards so I don’t fall into deep career hole?

    Mohit

    • Hi Mohit

      I understand that like thousands of engineering graduates, you’re also in the spot where you don’t want to pursue something in which you use the technical skills of your degree. This seems to happen in our country not only in the engineering field, but elsewhere as well due to lack of proper knowledge, peer and parental pressure to choose a course or simply because of the inability to take career risks.

      Having said that, let me know tell you that an engineering degree even from an average institute never goes to waste because there’s a huge demand of engineers in every field ( that’s how I landed up where I am! ). Now, the plan of action for you should be to identify areas where you can use whatever skill-set you have built while in college and then decide how to proceed. There are multiple options available. I will list a few.

      1. Higher Education

      A masters degree changes a lot for your career and makes you an expert in specific fields unlike a bachelor degree which makes you open to a plethora of opportunities ( sometimes leading to confusion ). You may look at courses like MEM ( Masters in Engineering Management ) , MS in Management Information Systems or MS in Management, popularly known as MiM [related article: MiM vs MBA] The first two are techno-managerial course and are being selected by a lot of engineering graduates who don’t want to completely leave the technical side but also want a job which doesn’t require hardcore technical ( boring for some ) work. You may explore the field of business analytics, data sciences where MEM graduates can be well placed. On the other hand, MiM is simply a management degree meant for freshers which can lead you to careers in Marketing, Finance , etc

      2. Hunting down that right job !

      If you don’t wish to pursue higher education immediately, you may start your research on the jobs that different industries are offering to engineers. And trust me, you have a lot to look at these days. The start-up boom in India is creating increasing demands of employees. More often than not, these start-ups are by people like you who did engineering but doing something of their own pleases them. Rather than thinking of starting something of your own just because you don’t want a 9-5 job, work in start-up for even a 9-9 job simply because you will get to learn a lot more than you expected and you will realize what your true calling is because a good start-up will provide you opportunities to fail and learn. You need not necessarily use your technical skills and you will be able to experience on the job learning. And since you’re not sure what type of job to go for, you may do a hit and trial with 2-3 startups before you start work on something that you actually start liking.

      3. Take a 1 year Break

      Though this may turn out to be risky, but it’s better than doing a job that you hate. A lot of people take certificate course, travel and get involved in volunteer opportunities with recognized organizations. Make sure there’s some way in which you document your work to be able to prove it later. You may explore your creative side while on this break. To make sure this break doesn’t turn out to be an extended vacation, make sure you’re always involved with some sort of project work or organizations. I don’t personally favor any such organizations but out of my own knowledge and experiences I can name a few like Auroville , The Art of Living, Green Peace, etc. Talking about certificate courses, you may sign up for courses on Big Data, Stock Markets, etc.

      I would end my long reply by saying that for anyone who’s confused, two things are very important.

      A. Finding what skill-set you have and what you’re good at.
      B. Ability to take calculated risks.

      So before you begin to chose one of the options that I suggested, work on yourself keeping in mind the above two factors.

  3. maqsood says:

    Nice article, brother. I like to meet people and travel and talk a lot. but I am also very sensitive. if someone says something bad to me, I can’t get it out of my head. I want to knnow if sales job is good career option for me.

    • Hi Masood.

      Talking and travelling are signs of being expressive and outspoken which might work in your favour. But taking things to heart when criticised is something that might pull you down as a sales person. The thing is, if you seriously understand your job and your customer, you will be able to take any form of criticism as your customer is not really critical of you but your product. Also, any sales person has his soruce of energy in the results he generates. So all you need to do is draw that first blood from the sales you make and ignore the small problems that come along with the job. This is a question that you will be able to solve by pushing yourself into a sales experience temporarily. Go sign up with an NGO and play the role of their promoter where you need to get more people to do charity by signing up. Trust me, this will be one of the most difficult sales experience but it will tell you a lot about yourself. After this experience you will come to know whether you really like talking 🙂 .

  4. Anmol says:

    Hey Abhishek,
    Recently Think and learn came for campus placement in my college and I got selected for BDA.
    So are you a BDA too? and if yes can you please tell me what kind of work you do there and hows the working environment there?
    I am a computer science student and I am really confused whether to take up the offer or not.

  5. Hi Anmol

    I started working in Think and Learn as a BDA and now I am a marketing and sales assistant manager. The work environment is good for a fresher as the company if growing at an exponential pace and has lot of its employees from premiere Engineering Schools of India. It’s a good place to start a sales career in and if you find yourself in the right team and career trajectory, you shall benefit in the long term.

  6. Lav Pratap Singh says:

    Hi, Mr. Abhishek Kochhar
    I am selected for the internship program by think and learn for job profile of BDA , (,through campus placement drive). I am bit worried about the job security as it’s only a internship offer…location is Bangalore . kindly provide me with the relevent information about the internship program .. the stipend and other perks offered during training ….duration of the internship …what will I get to learn….and procedure of selection for final job offer after going through the internship…..please mail me …..
    Thank you

  7. ron mukkherjee says:

    hi abhishek,

    iam also an engineering student, currently in my final year. iam in a sort of confused whether to accept a sales profile job (if i get an offer) from think and learn,or cisco sales associate program. iam interested to do a MBA and currently iam also preparing for the same.
    after working in a sales profile job,does this give an edge to someone who wants to do a MBA.
    i want to move on from the technical side to a managerial role as iam not interested in my field anymore and this is the sole reason iam thinking of such opportunities to explore the marketing and sales aspects of the corporate work.
    please do advice>>>
    thank you!

  8. Markus says:

    You do not need a degree in marketing or a degree at all to get into sales. Let alone and MBA. After college I was stuck in sales with all the losers so I finally decided to go back to grad school cause I was sick of such a crappy job workin with losers. I hate when people make sales out to be more than just a low end job for the uneducated.

  9. Aditya maheshwari says:

    What about the placement papers of think and learn?? What kind of questions do they ask in the placement papers?? Aptitude, reasoning,english ?? If you could give away an idea on how do.i prepare for its placement paper?

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