4 Myths About Sales Jobs…Destroyed By Data

While sales can be the best first job with some amazing benefits, it’s also a job that comes with a lot of misperceptions, stereotypes, and myths.

Let’s look at what the data tell us about 4 common sales job myths.

1. “Transactional selling is dead. You should focus on building a relationship with every customer.”

With all the emphasis on relationship building these days, what gets lost in the message is that not all customers prefer relational selling in the first place. Why?

handshake (1)

Compared to transactional selling, relational selling tends to require more resources on the salesperson and the customer resulting in higher costs for both. Customers might not want a relational sales interaction because the costs on their time may exceed the perceived benefits.

Not only that, research still finds that salespeople with a transactional focus outsell those with a customer focus, at least in the short term. That means salespeople still have to be adept at both types of selling and recognize which approach works best with each customer.

2. “The best salespeople aren’t motivated by money.”

Being passionate about your job is great, but money is still really important. A Glassdoor survey found 72% of salespeople said salary and compensation is the top reason why they’re planning on leaving their current sales job.  A LinkedIn survey found the same thing: 71% of salespeople said the most important factor when considering a job offer is excellent compensation & benefits.


A study of salespeople’s intrinsic motivation (the love of the job) and extrinsic motivation (the desire to achieve external rewards) found that the hardest working salespeople are motivated both intrinsically and extrinsically.

So if a sales job doesn’t come with competitive monetary compensation, you’re probably not going to be optimally motivated. And there’s nothing wrong with admitting it.  

3. “You don’t need to be smart to work in sales.”

While sales jobs have a reputation for requiring personality rather than brains, research has found the best performing salespeople are those high in social skills and IQ.


An analysis of salespeople at Fortune 500 companies found that salespeople tend to be well-educated: 86% completed a four-year undergraduate degree and 30% of these graduates also have a graduate degree.

As selling has become increasingly complex, salespeople need to have both emotional skills and cognitive abilities to succeed.

4. “Sales isn’t really a career. Anyone can be in sales.”

The myth that anyone can get a sales job is clearly wrong when you consider that the best salespeople have specific personality traits like conscientiousness, extraversion, and emotional intelligence.  In addition, certain personality types are a better fit for specific sales jobs such as hunters vs. farmers.

sales hunters vs. sales farmers

While LinkedIn’s data shows that sales is the most common career transition, staying in sales as a career comes with all kinds of rewards such as autonomy, career progression, and yup, compensation.

The takeaway

Common myths about sales jobs not only deter people from pursuing sales but they also hurt the performance of people already working in sales. It’s a good reminder that examining the numbers is always valuable when you want to hit your numbers.

Looking for a job in sales? Sign up for Ideal Candidate and let the employers come to you. Get matched with a top employer and make more money!

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Ji-A Min

Ji-A Min

Head Data Scientist at Ideal
Ji-A Min is the Head Data Scientist at Ideal. With a Master’s in Industrial-Organizational Psychology, Ji-A promotes best practices in data-based recruitment. She writes about research and trends in talent acquisition, recruitment tech, and people analytics.
Ji-A Min