Sales is an exciting and financially rewarding career which you can start at any point in your life.
Starting out in sales doesn’t require specific training and is more about having the right personal skills, although some training can of course help you excel.
Most people who come into sales start in telesales or telemarketing. This is good training for getting used to matching your questions with customers’ needs and pitching products which fit these. It is hard work, but can be good fun.
If you have a particular interest, you can choose to specialise, for instance, in IT products or online media. Dionne White, Sales Director at workingmums.co.uk, says sales can be a good way into an organisation. She says: “I used to work for a publishing house. Many graduates used it as a stepping stone into journalism.”
You will need to be confident and resilient, says Dionne. “You may get one hundred nos before you get a yes”. She emphasises that sales is about building up relationships and about understanding what the customer needs. “You need to be able to understand them and empathise with them,” she says. You cannot be someone who doesn’t like speaking to clients as you will be talking to people every day. You also need to have good listening skills. “The rule is you talk 20% of the time and listen 80% of the time,” says Dionne.
“You have to want to be a sales person,” she adds, “and it helps to believe in what you are selling.” You also need to be able to anticipate and answer your clients’ questions and to know when to step back if a potential customer gives clear signals they are not interested.
Companies operate all sorts of incentives. Salaries can range from commission only to basic salaries plus commisson, depending on the industry and your starting position so you can definitely have a career in sales.
Sales is a job which can be done quite flexibly, as long as you can operate within core hours. A growing number of telesales jobs are now offered on a working from home basis, for instance.
What kind of career can you expect from sales? You can rise up the sales ladder to be sales director, but sales also offers a lot of transferable skills. Resilience and confidence are key skills for careers like marketing and human resources, for instance.
While you don’t need qualifications for a career in sales, you can build on your skills through an online course.