Entry-Level Sales: What You Do, Skills You Need, and How Much it Pays

Why a job in sales might be the perfect fit for you.

There’s a lot of confusion surrounding early-career sales roles. Are you constantly cold-calling customers using the same script? Do you contact as many people as possible to sell your product, regardless of whether they’re the right customer profile? While entry-level and early-career sales roles do involve constant outreach, sales is much more challenging and rewarding than portrayals in pop culture make it out to be. So what does starting your career in sales really look like?

What sales at a respectable organization is:

  • Crafting personalized, targeted outreach to connect with potential customers
  • Understanding the value of a (potentially complex) product or service and conveying that value in an articulate manner
  • Identifying customers who could benefit from your company’s product or service
  • Understanding a customer’s needs and determining if your product can address those needs
  • Strategizing new outreach methods and streamlining messaging of your product or service

Looking at the bigger picture, entry-level sales roles directly contribute to the bottom line of the company. Every email you send and every call you make helps to move the needle on a company’s growth, allowing you to see the impact of your hard work firsthand.

What sales at a respectable organization isn’t:

  • Trying to sell people something they don’t need
  • “Scamming” customers out of money
  • Cold-calling with zero personalization

Entry-level sales roles such as business development representatives (BDRs) and sales development representatives (SDRs)  can help you get your foot in the door of great companies, setting you up for a long-term career in sales or instilling transferable skills that can help you be successful in a number of other roles. And unlike some, more technical roles, previous sales experience is not typically a requirement of entry-level sales jobs, though it’s heavily preferred. Employers are more interested in your ability to learn and soft skills like communication and work ethic. Below are key skills and traits that employers look for in BDRs and SDRs – if this sounds like you, a sales role could be a great fit for your first job.

Skills and traits employers look for in entry-level sales reps:

Strong verbal communication skills: Are you articulate? Can you explain a concept concisely? How well can you hold a conversation? These are all the things a recruiter or hiring manager will assess during your interview.

Strong writing skills: Today’s sales landscape entails much more than cold-calling. Sales jobs require writing engaging, error-free emails in a short time span. You will likely have to complete a written assessment to show off your ability to write clearly and concisely.

Work ethic: Succeeding in a sales job requires a strong work ethic. In sales, you get out what you put in, so working hard is essential to achieving results.

Perseverance: Building off of work ethic, perseverance is another essential component to succeeding as a BDR or SDR. You’ll likely be faced with challenges such as unresponsive prospects and constant rejection – how do you get back up when you’re knocked down?

Competitiveness: In a sales job, your success is directly tied to how many calls or meetings you set up. It’s important to ask yourself if you thrive in a competitive environment with straightforward success metrics, especially when those metrics are stacked up against your peers. Friendly competition will push you and your team members to surpass your goals as each of you works to be the best person on the team, so being naturally competitive can help you succeed in a sales role.

Tasks and responsibilities in an entry-level sales role:

So you think you have what it takes to succeed in an entry-level sales role – but what does your day-to-day really look like?

Your daily job responsibilities and tasks will vary depending on the company you work for, but in general, the work of an entry-level sales person (like BDRs and SDRs) may look something like this:

  • Researching and identifying prospects using sales engagement platforms and LinkedIn
  • Finding creative ways to get in touch with prospects, often leveraging social media
  • Crafting personalized emails and messages to capture the attention of a prospect to set up a call
  • Reaching out to prospects via email, phone calls, or other methods (like social media)
  • Following up on emails to prospects
  • Calling prospects to follow up on previous messages
  • Scheduling calls and meetings for Account Executives

As noted, your day-to-day responsibilities and overall goals will vary depending on the organization you’re with. Generating qualified outbound leads at the top-of-the-funnel through strategic and engaging outreach, however, will be present in nearly every entry-level sales role.

The salary of an entry-level sales job:

Starting your career in sales can provide you with a solid paycheck and a strong foundation for the rest of your career. According to Glassdoor, the national average base pay of a business development representative is $57,860. In New York City, the average base pay is $64,519. Note that those salaries are base pays – your On-Target Earnings (OTE), contingent on hitting your specified sales targets, will bring you a much higher salary. The average additional compensation in New York City according to Glassdoor, for example, is around $20,000, but the range goes up as high as $50,000 in additional compensation.

Career progression and advancement of a sales job:

If you stick with sales, there are a few different paths you can take as you advance through your career. You could become an Account Executive, where you’ll communicate directly with prospects and be responsible for ultimately closing the sale. If you like working at the top of the sales funnel, you can become a BDR or SDR lead and manage a team of sales reps working to generate leads for the company. If you aren’t interested in working directly in sales in the long term, the transferable skills you gain from starting your career in sales will prepare you for a career in just about anything client-facing, giving you a strong foundation for the rest of your career. Many people start out in a sales role and transition to other client-facing roles like account management or customer success.

How to get a job in sales:

The good news: great entry-level sales talent is in high demand. If you’re interested in starting your career in sales and you have what it takes to succeed, you’ll likely receive competitive pay from top companies, especially in the tech sector. So where do you apply? Sign up for websites like RippleMatch, or search for BDR or SDR roles at fast-growing tech companies. You got this – good luck!


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