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Without sales there is no revenue and no profit, so it is not surprising that sales people are among the most highly paid. Able to earn not just salaries, but also bonuses and commissions based on performance. It is also an area where fast track progression is made possible because of the meritocratic nature of the role. That said you need to get the right job for you first.

Obtaining your first job in sales is unlike a lot of other industry sectors in that education is by no means the key skill requirement.

Very few people have degrees in sales, the reason being that the skill set needed is far more competency and personality based than anything else.

You do still, however, need to consider how your CV looks as this is the initial way you will go about ‘selling’ yourself to your potential employer.

Your CV

Education

Will usually be the first thing a potential employer will look for on most candidates CV’s. There are not many degrees in sales and as such most degrees are generally accepted. There are though related degrees that can provide you with a good foundation.

A business degree can indicate an understanding, and perhaps most importantly interest, in commerce and industry. Marketing related degree can help provide a knowledge of how companies market and sell their products. Although a degree is not essential within sales, education, does as always, still provide potential employers with a preconception of your potential ability.

Education is the backbone of successful employees in many sectors and sales is by no means any different.

Work experience

It’s the way you sell it that counts. Ideally a potential sales employer would look for a candidate with proven experience in sales or a phone-based role.

This could be in the form or a telesales role during summer holidays, street fundraising, call centre experience or customer services. However, any form of work experience that has involved dealing with other businesses or the public can be equally as beneficial.

Bar work involves dealing with customer’s day in day out. Retail work often involves upselling to customers and providing the best possible service.

Whatever form of sales experience you may have, the key is to highlight this as much as possible.

Profile

One of the main reasons candidates fail to achieve a job in sales is that they fail to convince potential employers that this is their sole focus. Sales can be a highly rewarding but also tough job at times and so employers will be looking to establish how committed a candidate is and hence how they will fare during any tough times. A profile at the top of your CV outlining your interests and reasons for wanting a role in sales is a simple way of;

  1. Differentiating yourself from all the other CV’s.
  2. Enabling you to seem sales focused right from the start and hence makes the interview easier later on.

The interview

If you get your CV right then you should be able to secure interviews for sales positions. This is where you real ‘skills’ are tested. Without any prior experience, the interviewer will be looking to probe a number of areas:

Preparation

Research is a key part of sales and as such you will be expected to have thoroughly researched your potential employer. With the Internet there can be no excuses these days and so checking out the companies website, competitors and perhaps industry body websites are a must.

Not only will this enable you to be better prepared, it is also shows commitment and interest in the role. No employer will recruit unless they feel the candidate really wants the job.

Understanding of the role

Sales has a reasonably high level of staff turnover and a major factor behind this is that a lot of candidates do not realise what they are letting themselves in for. Whatever form of sales you are applying for it is likely that you will have KPIs (key performance indicators) in the form of targets. This could be the number of phone calls, appointments, revenue and sales that you make.

It is imperative that you demonstrate a clear understanding that this is a targeted role and that you are able to cope with the inevitably pressures this can bring

Motivators

All sales people need to be motivated to succeed and so this will be probed heavily to see if you have the necessary desire to work within a sales environment.

Money is the obvious one in sales but when asked a lot of very successful sales people will comment on other motivators – competition amongst their peers, recognition from sales, tangible rewards, the fast pace, the autonomy of the role etc…

It is important that you think about your motivators and that these tie into a sales environment.

Long-term focus

To become a top biller will probably involve a lot of training and development from your employer. It may be quite long time before your employer sees a return on this investment and for that reason they will be looking to ensure you are committed for the longer term. They will be looking for someone that can handle the highs and lows and has the perseverance to succeed.

You will almost always be asked what your longer term plans are. You don’t actually have to know 100% but must ensure that you are convincing that it lies within sales.

Personal attributes

Strong communication skills, high levels of motivation, target orientated, driven and a competitive nature are some of the more obvious attributes employers will be probing for. They will also be looking for candidates that can demonstrate good organisation, time management, written skills and a fast paced working nature. All of these are important to succeeding in sales.

It is easy to talk the talk and say you have these skills but beware that your employer will be looking for examples on how you have used these attributes in previous roles or throughout your education.

Role plays

So you say you can do it but are you a natural sales person? Role plays are used by most employers recruiting graduates into sales. The employer will be looking at the structure of the role play and whether the candidate understands that sales is about establishing a need rather than just selling. Hence a probing style and good listening skills are essential.

They will also be looking to test the tone and nature of your approach, how you can handle objections and your levels of persistence. The key is to never give up!

Closing ability

Finally can you close? A great way of demonstrating this during your interview is to try and close the interviewer on how they feel about you. Asking enables you to firstly show that you are not afraid to close and ask the tough questions.

Secondly, if they do have some reservations then it gives you the opportunity to potentially overcome these before the interview finishes.

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