A career in sales is often seen as little more than selling your soul, as the job title frequently conjures up images of cold callers trying to sell products that no-one really wants. Of course, there is much more to working in sales than this.
Working in sales can be a very exiting and rewarding employment, where earnings are only limited by your own abilities and determination. The reality is sometimes far from this; however genuine opportunities do exist for salespeople willing to prove that they are the best at their chosen field.
Skills, experience and qualifications needed
To work in sales, you will invariably need prior knowledge of how the industry works, and have good sales skills. Being able to interact with other people in a friendly and professional manner is also a key part of the job. Good “people” skills include the ability to discuss your product(s) in a way that maintains the interest of the customer. The most successful sales workers strike a balance between sales skills and “people” skills, so that they can achieve their objectives without being too overbearing. Strong organisation and computer skills are also preferable, especially in trainee or entry-level positions.
Working in media sales involves selling advertising space in magazines and newspapers, or on websites and the radio. This may be done via the telephone, but face-to-face contact is becoming an increasingly important way to sell advertising space. Both require you to have good “people” skills, including negotiation skills, patience, self-motivation, competitiveness, good team skills, strong communication skills, and the ability to develop good working relationships. These are valuable skills in many careers, but they are especially beneficial when working in media sales.
Employers looking for sales staff do not tend to be impressed by qualifications as there are not really any which are relevant to working in sales. Field Sales staff are working in one of the few industries where appearance is still considered as important as ability, therefore the way a candidate is dressed for an interview will definitely be a deciding factor. This is less important for telesales but sales managers do tend to think alike so it is always worth being well presented if going for these rolls. Sales is a skill in it’s own right, and can only be learnt on the job, so the better paying jobs will always go to people with experience, and a proven track record of success.
There are always more sales jobs than able candidates and there are always employers willing to give inexperienced staff a try. A lot of the time these are companies in the industries where competition to sell products is the most fierce, such as advertising, low value consumables and utilities.
The most important characteristic for an inexperienced sales person to have is confidence and this will be looked for in an interview. Many employers will ask a potential candidate to role play a sales call or presentation during an interview to see how the candidate reacts to this kind of pressure. After confidence the ability to think quickly is also very important as sales people often have to come up with answers to questions very quickly.
Telesales vs Field Sales
In the UK there is a large distinction between telesales and field sales. Telesales staff are office based, and conduct their business by ringing customers to sell products to them, whereas field salespeople meet customers face to face to conduct business.
Working in telesales requires strong telephone skills. It will usually involve the cold calling that many people traditionally associate with working in sales. It can be very frustrating, as people are often rude to cold callers. If you can make sales though, you stand to earn commission on top of your basic salary. The rate of commission varies, but it is usually a respectable amount of money. Many of the sales that you are aiming for will be one-off sales. You can get away with being more direct and confident for these, as you are not relying on the repeated loyalty of the customer. If it is repeat sales that you need to secure, it is important to build a good relationship with the customer so that he or she will want to do business with your company again. In either case, building a rapport with the customer will often result in a sale.
Basic salaries in any sales job tend to be low, however bonuses can be unlimited. Most jobs will be advertised as OTE, which stands for On Target Earnings, and is an indication of what a candidate meeting expectations could expect to earn in total. Some employers will offer additional bonuses and gifts for hitting daily or even hourly targets.
Telesales tends to be lower paying than field sales, both in terms of basic salary and bonuses, and does not offer the same perks, such as cars and mobile phones. Telesales staff tend to have better hours of work as many field sales staff end up travelling in their own time.
If you can prove yourself in the sales industry (and this will be evident from the number of sales that you close out, and the amount of commission that you earn over the course of a year), there are excellent career prospects on offer. You may have to start in an entry-level position to start with (particularly if you have no previous experience of working in sales), but you can become a far more prestigious Sales Manager further down the line. There is a lot more responsibility involved in this position, but the average salary reflects this. Sales Managers lead teams in the sales department, and are responsible for keeping them motivated and on target.
Anyone considering a career in sales needs to be a strong and resilient character. Salespeople are often looked down on, and rejection is a massive part of a sales person’s day. Telesales staff in particular will have to deal with rude and even abusive customers on a fairly regular basis, for no reason other than people feel it is acceptable to be rude to telemarketers. Even when customers are polite most of them will not want to purchase anything, and it is important never to take this rejection personally.