Sales make the world go around. Stop and think about the role of sales
in our lives. It goes way beyond what you are buying as a consumer, whether
that's a new phone or the latest fashion trends.
It's no wonder that skilled salespeople are in such high demand. It's a
somewhat risky career choice, after all. While employment opportunities exist
and excellent pay is possible, many salespeople rely heavily on their commissions
to make a good living.
"Good salespeople can expect to earn a very good living," says Rita Allen.
She is a retirement counselor who sells retirement community living. "I think
the key is to find a sales position where the commissions are substantial
per sale. Even though it's harder, it's better to make $1,000 per sale rather
than $25 per sale."
Not only are commissions an issue, potential sales representatives also
find that companies are seeking to fill very specific types of positions.
"A lot of companies are looking for business development personnel," explains
Anna Fredericks. She is with a sales assocation. She refers to these salespeople
"Hunters are focused on new business acquisition -- that's their role within
the company. It's a lot tougher to do that these days due to mergers, acquisitions
and industry consolidations. It's tougher to first find who the decision-maker
is. Chances are that you will need to talk to multiple decision-makers and
you have to show the value of what you are selling to all of them."
That doesn't mean the task is easier for "farmers," which is the term Fredericks
uses for the other type of sales representatives. Farmers must maintain accounts.
They face the same problems due to the same conditions.
"Once you have a major or key account, it takes a lot more than just a
salesperson to keep it," says Fredericks. "It takes all of the company's resources
to demonstrate the company's value to the customer."
Oh yes, the customer. That's the person who will ultimately buy -- or not
buy -- what the salesperson is trying to sell. And those customers have become
much more demanding.
"Buyers have become far more sophisticated. It's no longer a matter of
walking in with a proposal and walking out with an account," Fredericks confirms.
"They are more educated and a lot of them have business degrees. They tend
to know what is going on in the marketplace, with -- for example -- the salesperson's
competitors. So they are very savvy."
Sales used to be mostly about relationships, but salespeople say that is
no longer the case. It may be the way in the door, but the salesperson has
to work hard to continually show the value of what he or she is selling to
the client. And that often requires more education, such as a business or
You also need a specific set of skills, as outlined by Fredericks:
Communication Skills: Good communication skills are first and foremost.
Self-Direction: A lot of the sales business is about taking initiative.
Empathy: You have to be able to see the problem from the client's
Focus: You'll need to narrow down what the issues are in order to
come up with the appropriate solution.
Responsibility: You'll also need to do whatever it takes to deliver
a solution to the client and ensure that the solution is working.
Optimism: This is an absolute must-have because there can be a
lot of rejection in sales.
"You have to be able to focus on the fact that they are not rejecting you,
they are rejecting the opportunity," Fredericks explains. "That can be hard
for young people who may have had a relatively easy time with their tasks
up to that point."
Along with all of these skills, the best salespeople have a strong desire
to work hard for the best return.
"You must be very diligent," confirms Rita Allen. "You can't float. When
you work, work. Then take time off and play. But don't mix the two."
For those who have the special skills and a strong work ethic, the compensation
and lifestyle choices can be very good.
"A lot of people go into sales because of the autonomy," Fredericks says.
"As long as you deliver the results, you can set your own schedule. A lot
of sales managers are much more flexible so that you can take some time to
meet family commitments or take advantage of personal hobbies."
Experts point out that industry shortages tend to be cyclical. Currently,
salespeople with technical or scientific backgrounds are in high demand to
sell items such as scientific instruments, lab equipment, remote sensing equipment,
and monitoring, measuring and gauging equipment. Those who can knowledgably
sell oil and gas equipment and diagnostic equipment could also land a good
"A lot of companies are choosing to hire the technical knowledge and then
train for sales afterwards," explains Fredericks.
"You must be responsible for your education, which does not have to cost
much more than a library card," Allen says. "You must seek out books, videos,
free sales seminars, etc. that will add even just one or two more components
to your sales ability.
"If someone wants to sell you something, let them try. Examine their techniques
and you will learn. You should also seek out those that you know are great
salespeople. Ask anything that will give you new insights on
how to deal with people.
"Lastly, there is an old sayingâ€¦ â€˜people donâ€™t care how much you know until
they know how much you care.â€™ Find a way to genuinely move the heart of your
prospect. Trust-based selling is the easiest, most productive kind. Itâ€™s
the upside of life which produces sales, new friends and a solid base!â€
Allen also suggests attending as many networking sessions as possible
to make new contacts and watch other salespeople work. And you can be assured
that your hard work can pay off. "The best thing about this profession is
living the American dream," Allen adds. "You can make as much as you are willing
to work for!"
National Association of Sales Professionals
Find out what it takes to be certified as a professional salesperson
The Idea Site for Business
An article about the "best sales techniques in the world"
Selling Skills and Techniques
Links to articles covering various aspects of selling