A Career in Sales: the Foundation of Successful Entrepreneurship

BUSINESS & MANAGEMENT, CAREER ADVICE   |   2 minutes  |   July 3, 2018

University of Cape Town Sales Management online short course

University of Cape Town Sales Management online short course mobile

It’s easy to find dozens, if not hundreds, of celebrated books, videos, coaching sessions and essays, centred around becoming the ultimate entrepreneur. Many of those offer value, but none deliver the vital ‘boot camp’ for future entrepreneurs that a career in sales does. The University of Cape Town Sales Management online short course teaches you the hard and soft skills needed to succeed in a sales career, which you’ll need for your venture to become a reality.

Each entrepreneur has to forge his or her own path to success, but a sales job delivers valuable on-the-job training you can carry over to your career as an entrepreneur. Ultimately, your ability to sell will determine your ventures level of success, or failure.

Don’t Be Fooled. Raising a Business Off the Ground is All About Selling

Succeeding in sales requires flourishing in a high-pressure environment. You’ll have to meet targets and deal with an incredible amount of pressure. The sales floor is the training ground for entrepreneurship.

Just imagine the following scenario: you have inspiration for a fantastic product. You start product development, and you’re on the precipice of producing a minimum viable product. A team of Co-Founders is assembled, and you’ve attracted a great investment to push the product over the winning line. Yet your journey isn’t over. You still have to sell the product.

According to Gareth Cotten, Head Tutor on the Sales Management short course from the University of Cape Town, “A massive part of running a successful business is marketing and sales. You could have the best product or service in the world, and have all the systems in place you could dream of, but if you’re not out there selling to customers, your business will be dead in the water. Sales are the absolute lifeblood of a business, getting it off the ground, keeping it running, and growing it.”

University of Cape Town Sales Management online short course

University of Cape Town Sales Management online short course

Selling is Hard, But Can Be Mastered

As an entrepreneur, you’ll spend a lot of time developing key skills that you learn on the training ground of the sales floor. These are the skills which will prepare you for entrepreneurship, and lay the foundation for the success you envisioned for yourself:

The Art of Convincing

You’ll spend a lot of time and resources persuading others to buy into your idea, and that it should get funded. This sums up what a salesperson and an entrepreneur does, every day.


A good sales professional knows that for every “yes” received, there’ll be nine “no’s”. Despite setbacks, persevere in your hard work, and work hard to ignore the negatives to focus all your energy on the next sales call.


A successful salesperson is often a giver and taker, donning the hat of an “honest broker” between the company and customer’s interests. His or her job is to convince all parties that the product being sold advocates for the best possible outcome, which is what you’ll need to do when selling your business to investors, employees and other stakeholders.


Salespeople grasp that it’s near impossible to be effective at their work sans a dedicated support infrastructure. Because of this support, they’re able to focus on prospects to convert them into buyers, who then become satisfied, returning customers.

People Skills

People buy from people they trust. Building trust necessitates self-confidence, empathy and humility, all of which you develop on the frontline of sales. These people skills you learn during your sales years are essential in getting your business off the ground.

Never Take No for an Answer

As mentioned, salespeople receive more unenthusiastic answers before getting a positive response. Successful salespeople won’t be satisfied with the first no, instead, they’ll persevere, unless they believe any more effort pursuing the lead will waste their time and valuable company resources.

University of Cape Town Sales Management online short course

University of Cape Town Sales Management online short course

Ultimately, there’s no better training ground to gain and refine these skills than through a career in sales. Discussing the important considerations to keep in mind for people who aspire to start their own businesses, Cotten continues, “One, know that it’s probably not going to be as smooth as it might look in planning. Expect bumps, detours, and complete failure at times. Two, hard work and application can smooth over almost any issues,” Cotten continues. “Three, if you need to be able to do anything, you need to be able to push marketing and sales, and you need to manage your finances. If you’re not good at either of those, you either need to find a partner or co-founder who is, or be prepared to pay someone to do them for you. Lastly, you’ll be learning at a rate that you never thought possible.”