You can’t compete when you can’t close a deal. Sales is the very heart of a business, and most CEOs come directly from the sales floor. In fact, most executives, regardless of their explicit duties, spend their time in sales: selling the company to recruits, selling equity to investors, and even selling the products to customers. It’s obvious that sales proficiency is vitally important to all business leaders.
Yet, it is rare that companies focus on improving their sales staff or finding the most educated, most experienced, and most talented professionals for their sales teams. In fact, few MBAs go into sales despite the importance of sales abilities, because businesses are disinterested in placing these qualified individuals in sales positions.
However, businesses need MBAs in sales. Rather than being a waste of resources, highly educated and experienced MBAs are the perfect people to lead sales teams. Here’s why.
MBAs Understand Business Needs
The bulk of an MBA program is devoted to teaching students the ins and outs of business administration, which requires understanding what a business needs and how to attain it. Ultimately, what a business needs most is more income — which is the direct responsibility of the sales department. Thanks to their awareness of the importance of sales, MBAs should be able to motivate sales teams and encourage better sales practices to improve profits significantly and build a better business.
MBAs Are Trained Leaders
Leaders are integral elements of businesses, especially in sales. Studies show that sales teams with excellent managers regularly achieve or exceed their annual quota, proving that effective leadership is mandatory in a sales environment. MBAs are trained to be leaders; most MBA programs include courses that help students practice critical leadership qualities, like communication, motivation, and determination. Thus, if nothing else, it makes sense for MBAs to seek sales management positions so they can flex their leadership skill.
MBAs Are Strategic
There is a common misconception that sales doesn’t require complicated strategy — that sales people win clients through brute force and impulsive action. However, the truth is that sales is incredibly strategic, and they benefit greatly from strategic leaders like MBAs. Sales requires abundant planning to target appropriate prospects and close deals in a practical timeframe, and MBAs, who study strategy in school, are well-equipped to guide sales teams to their goal.
MBAs Are Risk-Averse
Another widespread belief is that sales is inherently risky. Meanwhile, many MBAs seek advanced education to lessen risk in their careers — thus, business leaders believe mixing risk-averse MBAs with risky sales positions is inherently ineffective. The truth is that sales leaders should be unwilling to behave so imprudently as to imperil a business’s primary profit center. Businesses need MBAs to mitigate the risks associated with sales through smart tactics and strategy.
How MBAs Can Reach Sales Positions
While hiring managers should push for more qualified candidates for sales positions, MBA students and grads can do much to steer their careers into the sales field. To greatly increase the chances of acquiring a sales job, MBAs should:
Have Enough Sales Experience
Most MBA programs, even for online MBA degrees, require applicants to have some real-world work experience before they return to business school. Spending a couple years in an entry-level sales job is a good way to learn the ropes before taking the helm as an MBA-toting sales manager.
Sell the Appropriate Skills
Interviews for sales jobs are more like auditions: Most hiring managers expect prospective sales employees to prove their selling ability before they are hired. Thus, MBAs need to understand what skills are valued for sales positions and sell them properly during the hiring process.
MBAs must perform thorough background checks on their prospective employers, just as employers should research potential new hires. In truth, MBAs should do this whether they are applying for sales positions or not; however, because sales rarely incorporates MBAs, knowing a business’s history of sales managers and strategy is a major boon for finding a flexible and supportive employer.
Set Correct Pay Expectations
Compensation for sales jobs isn’t exactly like compensation for other MBA-ready positions. Sales salaries are more likely to be tied to performance, so MBAs shouldn’t necessarily expect a guaranteed salary equal to what they might earn in another field. Through bonuses, commissions, and other unpredictable figures, they are likely to earn substantially more, but employers likely can’t say exactly how much.