So How Do You get an Outside Sales Job for Construction?

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So how do you get into outside construction sales? Well a good first step is inside sales if you have no experience. Get a job with a company that has an outside sales department ( or not, you can jump ship later) and start in inside sales so that you can gain experience and have a resume that shows your worth. Phone sales as a side job is a bonus too.

Now in inside sales, there are two things you need to do. Sell to new customers, making sure these walk in customers become repeat customers while maintaining older existing accounts so that your older customers stay with you. Sound easy?  It isn't.

Some of your co-workers will often act as the stereotypical cashiers when they are working inside sales. “It’s the company’s customers, what can I do to get into that break room and drink a cup of coffee?” Too, you can have bosses who only care about displays because they have no sales talent and frown on you when you help customers, a key to selling.

This said, it is the sales aspect you care about for your future outside sales career which you can develop in a number of ways. Show concern for your customer, be honest, hand out business cards and use the phone to bring in customers.

The phone, as a matter of fact, is your best friend. In inside sales customers contact you, so when they call, you can inform them of sales, find out order sizes and if allowable, work out better prices. Always call a customer back and always show an eagerness in helpfulness that brings them in.

Also, when on the sales floor, approach customers and ask them if they need help. Find out their projects and suggest products that they may need to go with their purchases. A customer will appreciate not leaving without the nails needed for a wood purchase.

If you have construction experience and sales experience already in inside sales, you are in luck. Outside sales is often a commission only job at first and, if you are lucky, you will have a draw against commissions (you get paid against future commissions up front so you that don’t starve in the beginning. You do not ever buy material though. You front your gas and your time). This is good because employers are more likely to hire you because, provided you don’t beat up a customer, they have nothing to lose.

Often, the jobs are first come first serve with employers more likely to hire faster than a job like say a secretary or nurse. This is because if you don’t sell, you will be out the door so the employer can hire you without the sense of permanence. If you are good though in this job, the sky is the limit.

One way to get a job in this field is by having a list of customers you built up from a previous jobs or as an employee of different contractors you subbed for as a carpenter, electrician or plumber with the contractors being the potential customers.

I must warn you here though, there's a story of a ball player who became an announcer and approached an old teammate for an interview. The teammate looked at him and said, “Get out of here, you're one of them now.” Once you go into sales, you may be treated differently.

A good place to look for work is on the jobs lists that advertise on this site and Craig's List. Jump on the first job you like in outside sales. "I’ll call tomorrow," will get someone else the job today. Use the title of account manager or account supervisor if you dealt with customers in any kind of sales relationship.

This is true even if the company you worked for gave you a low title. If asked about it after a reference check say that you did that job, but the old company did not offer titles that adequately described the jobs you did. I am not telling you to lie because you deserve the title if you engaged in sales with customers. Why is someone a sales associate at one lumberyard and an executive account manager at another? Never bad mouth an old employer either, though you're not required to heap praise.

I love to read your comments. If you have one, please post it.

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Jeffrey Ruzicka is a retired executive of a small company that specializes in industrial water treatment. He lives happily with his wife in Western Pennsylvania and is a contributing writer toFinancialJobBank,FinancialJobBankBlog,ConstructionJobForce, ConstructionJobForceBlog and Nexxt.


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  • Jeff Ruzicka
    Jeff Ruzicka
    Great comment!
  • Gamze
    Hi Josh.  Contracting is certainly an opiton.  And you might find, in the face of losing your job, that you actually have the time to try working for yourself, while also looking for other work   to keep opitons open.  That's what I did   tried starting a freelance business after I was laid off. Even though ultimately I was hired for a full-time job in a company, I still do some freelancing on the side.  For me it's a good backup plan!Nice to find this blog.

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