| James Innes

A Career in Sales


Sales teams are not only responsible for encouraging people to purchase specific products and services but are also accountable for ensuring that their customers are fully satisfied with the level of service they receive.  Depending on the nature of their role, they will be required to source and generate new customers while managing relationships with existing customers.  Various techniques are used to close a sale involving strong skills in persuasion and negotiation and the ability to turn a negative into a positive.

There are a wide variety of sales roles available in nearly all industry sectors including cold-calling, telesales, direct sales, field sales, account management and sales engineers with the majority of roles being target driven.  Some sales roles will be office based while others will involve extensive travel so hours worked will very much depend on the length of time spent on the road.  However, the majority of sales roles will involve some time away from the office to attend conferences and exhibitions.

Entry requirements

Sales is a relatively easy industry to break into with little or no academic qualifications required at entry level.  Some people enter the industry in an administrative capacity and transfer to a selling role once they have demonstrated product knowledge and the necessary skills.  Younger people entering the industry can also undertake an apprenticeship.  Personality traits are very important for a career in sales with drive and ambition being the key to success in what is invariably a competitive and target-driven environment.  Strong communication skills are important together with a polite and professional approach and a smart appearance.

There are many professional qualifications available, including NVQs in Sales and Sales Management, and the Institute of Sales and Marketing Management (ISMM) also offers professional certificates and diplomas in sales and key account management.  There are degree and post-graduate qualifications in sales and management which can improve chances of promotion within the industry.  Most companies will provide their own in-house training to ensure that their sales teams are trained in their own preferred methods and their specific product or service range.

Progression opportunities

Progression within sales can involve reaching management, area management or director level depending on the specific nature of the company and industry.  This will include greater responsibility through leading a sales team and resolving escalated issues or complaints on behalf of customers.  Managers will also be accountable for ensuring that their team achieves set targets so strong motivational skills are essential.  In general, the basic salary will be relatively low with bonuses or commission awarded in line with performance.  Some sales roles will provide a company car or include a car allowance within the salary package.

Due to the fact that there are many organisations employing sales teams, there are always vacancies available in a wide range of industry sectors.  As with roles in marketing, many companies now sell to customers overseas so international opportunities are available for those with knowledge of foreign languages.

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