8 Red Flags When Looking for an Entry Level Sales Position

Red Flags in Sales

8 Red Flags When Looking for an Entry Level Sales Position

Red Flags in Sales

Sales is one of the very few career choices where income potential is fairly unlimited. It’s also one of the few promising careers that one can get started in with little or no training and education. There are plenty of entry level sales people who have extremely lucrative careers that have never had any secondary education.

 

While sales can seem like a career that’s easy to get started in, there are some employers that take advantage of the inexperience of entry level salespeople. Many of them offer incentives that seem too good to be true, because in all actuality, they are. 

 

A sales career can provide opportunities that may be unavailable elsewhere. It can be a place where someone like an experienced bartender can hone their people skills into traits of a successful salesperson. But it can also be a discouraging journey if the wrong path is taken.

 

Below are some important red flags to look for in potential employers. These words of caution are especially true if you’re looking for your first sales job. Knowing to watch out for certain signs can save years of disappointment, as well as set you in the right direction for a successful career in sales.

1. Commission Only

Generally, with any sales position, commissions should make up the majority of the income. Once you’ve exceeded any base pay, the job is essentially all commission. 

So why is it important to watch out for commission only jobs in an entry level sales position?

The answer lies in how much the company is willing to invest in the growth of their employees.

If a company offers a base salary, that means they’re putting faith in a new hire. They believe in their product and training process enough to spend money when there’s no guarantee they’ll ever recoup any of it. A base salary demonstrates their confidence in the new hire and the company. They believe that, with their training, a new employee will generate enough income in the future to make it worth the investment. 

Alternatively, a commission only company may not care if a new employee is successful at all. Many of these companies have a very high turnover rate. This could be due to a poor product, company, or inability to make much money. They’re more than willing to hire an inexperienced salesperson for a position knowing there’s a strong possibility that they’ll fail. This is because they have very little, if anything to lose.

Commission only sales positions aren’t always a red flag, but someone new to sales should be extremely cautious. At the very least, they should be aware of the risk they’re undertaking.

2. Up Front Costs

Something that’s become increasingly common with certain types of positions is requiring a salesperson to purchase their inventory. This is extremely common in multilevel marketing platforms, which have been frequently compared to pyramid schemes

They lure inexperienced sales people in with tales of successful members living lives of luxury. One common denominator with most multi level marketing jobs is the need to purchase items up front. 

The truth is, study after study have shown that very few people make money with these types of sales. Often, the salespeople invest a significant portion of their own money and are unable to sell the product. It ends up costing money to have the job.

Other upfront costs to be aware of are the actual expenses required to do the job that you’re applying for. This is extremely relevant with sales positions that require in home or in store demonstrations, even if the region you’ll be selling in is local. Doing demonstrations means that you will need to travel to the locations of potential customers in order to try to sell your product. Accounting for gas, wear and tear on your vehicle, and travel time can make a big difference on how much you can actually make at a job like this.

3. Where Do They Get Their Leads?

How a company generates sales leads is crucial to the salesperson’s success. This is especially true in sales positions like the ones we just described. A company’s process for lead generation goes hand in hand with the level of interest of people you’ll be selling to. 

Lead generation is often done by cold calling homeowners, sending canvassers door to door, or online sign ups. The issue with collecting leads like this is that the potential customer is often misled to get them to agree to the sales demonstration.

Sometimes, the entry level sales job you’re applying for is actually a lead generation position like this. There is the potential to make money and build a career at these types of positions. But this is the exception, not the rule. More often, a person who’s interested in a sales career will convince themselves that this is just a rite of passage in this industry. They’ll be sent door to door with little training and attempt to sway homeowners into saying yes to a demo. Or they’ll be glued to a phone that automatically dials random numbers non stop all day, getting hung up on and cursed at while repeating the same pitch over and over.

Just because a job is door to door or requires cold calling doesn’t mean that it is with a disreputable company. The majority of seasoned sales professionals have done a job similar to this at one point in their career. But it’s important to make sure what you’ll be doing actually is sales and not just collecting leads for other salespeople to make money off of. And there needs to be a clear and accessible path towards promotion within the company.

4. Always Hiring

Unless a business is going through Amazon level expansion, having a help wanted ad posted constantly is almost always a bad sign. Seeing the same job listed for a long period of time means they either can’t hire employees or keep them. Whatever the reason, tread lightly with companies like this. 

A business not being able to retain employees can be for a number of reasons, few of which are positive. It could be because of staff or management causing a toxic workplace. It may be because of a poor, outdated, or overpriced product that’s difficult to sell. Or it could be due to company policies that are unfavorable to employees, like bad benefits, hours, or pay structure.

Help Wanted Sales

Alternatively, if they can’t hire anyone, this could be an even bigger red flag. The company may have a reputation for being a bad place to work for any number of reasons. Or maybe they offer little or no base and a very bad commission structure. It’s also possible that the interviewers are abrasive and push candidates away. Either way, an employer that is constantly hiring is a red flag that an inexperienced sales candidate should walk away from in a hurry.

5. Negative Glassdoor Reviews (and Fake Ones)

Thanks to the internet, there are countless advantages for a person looking for a job that were available in the past. One of the most beneficial being employee reviews on the positions offered within a company. Glassdoor and Indeed, among other job board sites, provide an area for past and present employees to review the companies they work or worked for. This information can be an invaluable resource for an entry level salesperson. 

Company reviews often provide information on the actual income a salesperson can make, both from the base pay and on target earnings (expected total pay with commissions). There are also reviews about management, work conditions, hours, environment, and many other tidbits of information.

Something to be cautious of is reviews that are not written in good faith. Job posting sites have strong rules about companies requesting positive reviews from employees, but this can be very hard to regulate. One way potential employees can look for this is be wary of the dates and employment status on the reviews. If there are several reviews posted in a very close time frame from people that all still work at the company, they were probably solicited by the business to raise their ranking. While this may not necessarily be always bad, it is certainly a red flag. If they’re less than honest with review based on the working conditions, where else are they misleading potential job candidates?

6. Excessive Entry Level Sales Requirements

Entry level positions requiring high levels of experience requirements are one of the biggest pet peeves of job seekers. This can be especially true in sales positions. 

Often, many job postings require degrees and/or experience that is completely unnecessary for the position advertised. A bachelor’s degree requirement for an entry level sales position unrelated to the product being sold makes very little sense. Also, asking for several years of experience for an entry level sales position seems excessive as well.

These requirements are often made by the job recruiters posting the positions. Those recruiters are generally hired by companies to fill open positions, and their pay often directly correlates with how long the new hire retains employment. For the recruiters, it makes sense to conclude that someone who’s gone through several years of college or worked at other sales positions for years is more likely to stay at this job. 

Just remember, postings requiring excessive experience are made by gatekeepers. Getting past these recruiters will generally put you in contact with a sales manager in the second interview. This is the person that has the power to offer you a job. Even if you don’t possess every one of the requirements, take a chance and apply anyway. You may be surprised.

7. Capped Commissions

This next red flag is something that shouldn’t even have to be on this list. Unfortunately, some companies still limit a salesperson’s potential with a commission cap. Because of this, it’s crucial to find out if a potential employer caps commissions.

If you’re not familiar with what this means, a commission cap is a limit on how much an employee can make in sales over a period of time. Once a salesperson reaches their cap, they are still expected to sell more, but will receive no additional compensation. A company stating that they cap commissions in an interview will cause nearly any experienced salesperson to walk out immediately. 

There is no logical justification for limiting commissions if an employee continues to sell more and make the company money. Usually a capped commission is enacted by someone in the company who has no experience in sales. They are looking for any possible way to make the company more profitable, even at the expense of the employees. This is also the easiest way to tell how they value their staff. Take this as a sign and move on.

8. No Work/Life Balance

It’s very important to remember that when you’re interviewing for a sales position, the person doing the interview is probably very experienced in sales. What this means is that they’re probably selling you on all the great things about the job, while avoiding any negatives. Often, an experienced salesperson will do this without even realizing it. That’s why it’s up to you to ask the right questions about your potential place of employment.

How many hours per day and per week required to meet goals is one of the most important questions. $60,000 per year is great money for an entry level sales position, especially if you’re starting out with no experience. It’s not so good if you have to work six days per week, twelve hours per day. 

This should also include the time it takes to commute to the location of your potential customers. Many sales territories can cover large areas, sometimes even multiple states. It’s not uncommon for salespeople to travel three or more hours to an appointment. It’s also not unheard of for them to have several appointments per day. 

Even if travel isn’t involved, you should find out how many hours the top sellers work to reach that mark. Most sales floors have some type of board with employee sales goals and stats listed. Interviewers will proudly point to the top of the list and make potential employees’ mouths water. They’ll see monthly commissions of several thousand dollars and start dreaming about a new car. What won’t be shown is whether top sales performers ever get time outside of work in which to enjoy these luxuries.

Conclusion

The purpose of this article isn’t to scare or dissuade anyone from switching to a sales career. Only to help newcomers avoid some of the pitfalls that many tenured sales professionals had to learn the hard way. In sales, perseverance, dedication, and hard work can lead to unlimited earning potential. Making smart choices along the way will help you achieve that potential faster and with a much smoother journey.