Should You Go to College to Work in Sales Development?

Troy Buckholdt
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Should You Go to College to Work in Sales Development?

Are you thinking about building a career in sales development, but not sure if you should go to college?

Perhaps you’re a recent high school graduate, or maybe you took a gap year to work a basic sales job and realized you want to make a career in sales.

You might even already have a career and want to make a transition to sales. There are a countless number of people who seem to think that college is the best way, and some think the only way, to start a career in a role such as sales development.

These people try to convince others that they need a college degree to be able to have a successful sales career.  It’s sad to see people just choose college as the default path when they have never been given an alternative way for starting their career in a role such as sales development without relying on college. Here at CourseCareers, we have gotten many students SDR jobs without degrees.

1) Is College the Most Efficient Way to Start a Career in Sales Development?

When considering if you should go to college to start a career in sales development, you need to take into consideration how efficiently you will utilize your resources (time & money). 

Can you start your sales development career in less than 4 years and $100,000?

With a bachelor’s degree being the standard for people who want to work in sales development this means that you have to invest 4 years at a minimum before you can start your career. The federal government actually released statistics showing the bachelor’s degree takes 6 years on average to get if it’s even attained at all. 

The average cost per year for an in-state public university is about $25,000. I’ve actually broken down the full cost of college which you can read about it here. This means that if you go to an in-state school and are above average where you graduate in 4 years, then you are looking to invest about $100,000 before you can start working in sales development. 

This goes back to the question of can you start a career in sales development with less than 4 years and $100,000? Could there possibly be a better way to break into a career in sales development in less than 4 years? Could there be a way to spend less than $100,000 in the process? The answer is a resounding yes! You can learn the material to be able to break into a career in sales development in as little as 1 month and with as little as a couple of hundred dollars. This results in nearly a 50x improvement in the efficiency of your time and over a 200x improvement in the efficiency of your money. I wrote a free ebook about this process of starting your sales career much more efficiently. 

What’s the value of having 4 years worth of sales and work experience?

If you were to use the more efficient process for starting your career in sales development, then you would have 4 years worth of sales and work experience by the time you would have just been graduating college.

After talking to quite a few recent graduates who started their careers in sales development, they all told me that in their first month on the job they learned more useful and relevant knowledge than they did during their entire tenure in college. If they were able to learn that much in just one month, what do you think you could learn in 4 years? You would probably very quickly pick up all of the basic business etiquettes while honing in on your sales skills. You would likely also develop industry expertise during this time and be promoted to an account executive or sales manager if desired.  

How much more mature do you think this experience would make you? How much better do you think your communication and social skills would be after having thousands of conversations with prospects and employees? How much do you think you would learn just by being submerged in this professional atmosphere for 4 years? 

Having money in the bank without any student loans.

By choosing to immediately start a career in sales development you would have 4 years worth of income and zero student loans. 

With the average starting salary for a sales development rep being around $50,000 a year, how much money do you think you would be able to save in 4 years? Say you live the same way you would have if you went to college and spend $20,000 a year on living expenses. As you get more experience and likely get promoted, then you would make even more money. It wouldn’t be unreasonable to suggest that you could work your way up to $100,000 by year 4. 

Year 1: $15,000 saved

Year 2: $25,000 saved 

Year 3: $30,000 saved 

Year 4: $40,000 saved

By the time you’re 22 years old, you could potentially have $110,000 in the bank without any debt. That money can be used to invest in a house or perhaps take a risk and even start your own business. 

2) Why Sales Development Is a Great Career for Bypassing College

There are many types of careers you can break into without going to college, therefore,  bypassing college. The one career that really stands out as being great for bypassing college is sales development. Here’s why. 

All college degrees are irrelevant to sales development.

There is currently no bachelor’s degree for sales development. This means that the most relevant degree you can get would be a business or marketing degree. 

With sales development requiring a very particular set of soft and hard skills, over 90% of what you learn as a business major would be wasted. This means that over 90% of what you learned will likely erode away since knowledge is only retained if it is used.

If you don’t believe me about this 90% waste, then you can read The Lean Career for free where I go in-depth about it and how 90% is actually on the low end. 

College is ineffective in differentiating you from other candidates.

Other than the huge amounts of wasted time spent learning things that will never be used, college is also very bad at helping you stand out as a qualified candidate for a sales development position. 

With online job applications being the new standard for applying to entry-level positions there has become a huge influx of applicants. An average sales development job posting could easily get hundreds of applicants within the first week of posting. Out of these hundreds of applicants, about half of them have a college degree. 

There is also no statistically significant difference in performance based on degrees and all of them have close to no relevance to the job. This means the type of degree does nothing in separating you from everyone else who also has a degree. At best your college degree only gets you to second base where you must then separate yourself from over a hundred applicants. 

Specializing in sales development is easy and makes you stand out.

Since sales development only uses a very particular and simple set of soft/hard skills, it’s easy to specialize your education in these skills.  

Verbal communication, written communication, and social skills are by far the most important soft skills for sales development. By understanding this, it allows you to quickly recognize how good your personality aligns with this role and helps you focus on what you need to improve. The hard skills are the medium that will allow you to put your soft skills to work and provide value to a company. These hard skills are very particular to the sales development industry and the basics can be learned in as little as a month. 

Specializing your education in sales development also makes you stand out as a candidate. It is extremely rare for companies to find entry-level candidates who have a very developed set of these soft skills. It’s even rarer to find entry-level candidates who can already effectively do their job and provide value to the company on day one by having all the hard skills. Combine this with internship experience that could easily be obtained within a few months of specializing in the role and you’re in a class of your own. 

3) Why Sales Development is Great for Advancing Your Career Without a Degree 

While many people might agree with the points made above, the objections start coming when talking about long term career trajectory. In 2019, there are challenges that come with advancing your career without a degree, but sales development is definitely one of the least challenging. 

Everyone learns sales development on the job.

A benefit of there being no formal education or degree to learn sales development is that companies understand they must invest in training their employees. 

Companies often have an entire department for training and developing the sales team. It would be very hard to not learn everything there is to know about sales development and the company’s industry by working in this role. During training the company is probably also grooming their employees for internal promotions to account executive or manager positions. 

There are many great resources to continue your education.

If you specialized your education in sales development, then one of the skills you should have developed is your ability to utilize the internet to learn.

There is an endless amount of information online that you can use to learn anything you’re interested in. You can generalize your education as much as you like by learning about history or science if that’s what interests you. You can also use your modern learning skills to take courses in sales or management in combination with the company’s on the job training. 

There is actually so much self-directed career training focused on advancement nowadays that it has become the most common way to learn the required skills/knowledge to get a promotion. If there comes a time that getting formal training is important, then it’s not unheard of to get accepted into a master’s program such as an MBA or an executive training program without having a bachelor’s degree. 

Sales professionals make money and get promoted based on results.

By working in sales development, you understand that your value is directly tied to the results you bring to the company. This means that unlike other types of jobs where people with a degree have a higher salary, in sales, someone without a degree will get paid the same as someone with an MBA if they both drive the same results. 

The number one qualifier for promoting a salesperson is also based on their results. If you are booking double the number of qualified appointments or bringing in double the revenue as someone else who has a degree from Yale, you will very likely be the one who gets promoted. 

This results-driven promotion is also true for climbing the management ladder in sales. If you’re a sales manager and your team is outperforming quota significantly more than other sales managers, then you will be the first they look at when they need a sales director.

Let’s say you work your way up to a VP of Sales and want to transition to a different company as their VP of Sales. If you have a history of developing sales strategies and leading a team to ultimately triple revenue, then that is the only qualification you need. The degree will be easily overlooked if your reputation precedes you for delivering results. 

I hope this information proves to be helpful in making the decision if you should go to college or not to start a career in sales development. If you would like to learn more about breaking into sales development without a degree, then check out our free introduction to technology sales course.

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