In an interview with Forbes, Dave Ramsey once quipped: “We are all in the business of sales. Teachers sell students on learning, parents sell their children on making good grades and behaving, and traditional salesmen sell their products.” He’s right: Selling is pretty much a part of our everyday lives, whether we’re aware of it or not. If you’re interested in taking your sales skills to the next level, and/or making a lucrative career out of them, this is the guide for you.
What Sales Professionals Do
The best sales professionals don’t just close deals; they also build relationships with people. They understand their products and clients inside out, are good listeners as well as speakers and keep up with the latest technologies to help them do their jobs. Above all, they care about making a positive difference, by crafting each and every sales scenario as a win-win for all parties involved.
Is Sales Right for You?
You might have the impression that anyone can get into sales. Actually, if you want to excel in this field, you need to answer yes to most or all of the following questions:
- Do you have a magnetic personality? If people of all stripes flock to you like bees to honey, chances are your future clients will do the same.
- Do you have a healthy amount of self-confidence? In this field, you’ll be dealing with different kinds of people. Some of them have pleasant personalities; others, not so much. You’ll need a lot of professionalism, patience and self-assurance to handle them.
- Do you have a good understanding of how people work? If you’re the type who can take one look at a person and know exactly what to say to persuade them to your side, you’ll do well in sales.
- Are you a quick learner? In order to sell, you need to appear credible. You need to demonstrate knowledge about your product beyond what’s already written on the packaging. Authority is a weapon of influence, after all.
- Are you a good conversationalist? Selling isn’t just about rattling off reasons why someone should buy your product. It’s also about listening to the other party, understanding their needs and problems, and convincing them that your product is the best – and only – solution to those needs and problems.
- Are you competitive and ambitious? If you love being the best of the best, you’ll love sales. With quotas, rivals and pressure all around you, you’ll have plenty of motivation to close as many deals as you can.
- Are you comfortable with a flexible schedule? Sometimes, a client will try to contact you beyond your usual working hours. In this case, it’s usually best to accommodate them.
- Do you have an entrepreneurial mindset? Successful entrepreneurs are good at spotting opportunities that others miss. If you can spot and persuade a prospect faster than your competitors can, you’ll outstrip them before they even realize what’s going on.
- Is “never give up” one of your mottos? Not every deal will close the way you want it to. It’s a matter of knowing when to cut your losses, and pushing forward for that next successful sale.
- Do you see selling as a way to help others? It might sound like an overly idealistic outlook, especially with the popular opinion that salespeople are snake oil peddlers. However, if you only care about racking up commissions and not much else, you won’t be able to keep clients for long.
Anyone has the potential to become a good salesperson. Some might have it easier than others, but those who are willing to train and grow within this field can become successful too.
Salary Outlook and Job Opportunities
It’s rare for salespeople to run out of job opportunities. For one, companies always need them to get products into the hands of customers. For another, demand for sales associates is expected to grow 9 percent in the wholesale industry and 10 percent in the retail industry. They’re even capable of setting up their own successful businesses, given the skills they already have.
In any case, salespeople have a lot of potential for growth, as shown below. Base salary excludes bonuses and commissions.
- Sales Representative (Retail). If you want to break into the retail industry, this position is a good starting point. Retail salespersons handle customers, organize inventory, clean the store premises and perform other functions to keep store operations nice and smooth.
Base Salary: $23,460 – $66,573
Median Salary: $39,832
- Sales Representative (Wholesale and Manufacturing). Here, your clients are merchandisers rather than individuals. You’ll learn valuable and transferable skills such as negotiation, inventory management and teamwork. Basic computer and excellent communication skills are a must, too.
Base Salary: $27,809 – $72,738
Median Salary: $44,555
- Sales Representative (Technical and Scientific Products). If you’re interested in sales, and are a graduate of a technical field like computer science, engineering and pharmacy, this is a viable path for you. Here, you can use your knowledge to persuade experts in your field to purchase from your company.
Base Salary: $32,487 – $83,584
Median Salary: $51,541
- Real Estate Agent. As someone involved in commercial real estate services, you mediate between buyers and sellers of property. You estimate market prices, recommend purchase offers for sellers and guide buyers with their decisions.
Base Salary: $23,672 – $119,032
Median Salary: $40,806
- Account Manager. For this job, you need excellent customer support skills. You’ll have to win new clients, maintain existing ones and maximize profitability for your company all at the same time. Banks usually employ people from this line of work.
Base Salary: $34,096 – $79,380
Median Salary: $50,162
- Business Development Manager. Similar to an account manager, a business development manager creates and maintains client relationships. He or she also achieves revenue goals for the company by constantly looking for new target markets and creating strategies for such.
Base Salary: $40,611 – $120,101
Median Salary: $72,418
- Production Manager (General). Production managers can be found in almost any industry. They keep production running smoothly by supporting staff, keeping costs down and boosting overall efficiency. Companies prefer production managers who have supervisory experience, as well as excellent analytical and communication skills.
Base Salary: $34,003 – $83,161
Median Salary: $51,648
- Sales Director. As a sales director, you’ll be managing sales teams of your own. If you play your cards right, you can become the vice president of sales, before nabbing the president and/or CEO post in a company.
Base Salary: $44,769 – $144,072
Median Salary: $92,347
Generally, high school graduates and business/marketing majors work in the sales industry. If the product you’re handling requires technical knowledge such as pharmaceutical sales, though, a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field will give you an advantage.
Since most sales skills are learned on the job, the field doesn’t really require certifications. However, if you think you need more training, or you want to become more valuable to employers, you can take one or more of the following:
- NASP offers the Certified Professional Sales Person (CPSP) program, which requires completion of a six-week online course based on “20 years of modeling, interviewing and coaching the top 1 percent of sales professionals in the world.”
- On the other hand, SMEI has the SCPS for aspiring high-performance sellers and CSE for aspiring sales team managers.
- The Sales Association. Finally, the Consultative Sales Certification (CSC) addresses any existing gaps in your sales skills through self-paced online modules, personal coaching and feedback.
With excellent sales skills, you can thrive anywhere. Try being a professional salesperson at least once; who knows, you might like and pursue it as a lifelong career.
Exploring careers in business? Be sure to check out the entire series of career exploration posts!
A Career in Real Estate
A Career in Marketing
A Career in Business Law
A Career in Finance
A Career in Accounting
A Career in Insurance
A Career in Supply Chain
A Career in Human Resources
A Career in Management
A Career in Sales
A Career in Consulting