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When I was younger, my neighborhood would hold a yard sale one Saturday each Spring. It would start at the crack of dawn, and I’d jump out of bed those mornings knowing it was my time to shine. The more things I sold, the more money I’d make. And the more money I made, the more candy I could buy! My first tactic was to get people “in the door” by yelling out that I had fresh hand-baked sticky buns for sale for $1.00 each. Turns out nothing grabs attention like the allure of breakfast in the morning. After I’d hooked folks with my food, I’d ask them what they were looking for, hunt my most similar item down for them, and bargain over the final price. That was my introduction to sales–a job function in which a person helps to sell goods and services to new or current customers.
A sales person tries to sell products, services, or facilities to people who might be interested in them. Sales is a function that can be found in nearly every organization in some form. A salesperson’s goals is to teach potential customers learn more about the product or service and help them overcome any objections they may have to making a purchasing decision. Sales jobs can range from the retail level where you convince someone to buy a particular cell phone to the enterprise level where you are hammering out multi-million dollar contracts between businesses.
There are two types of sales jobs–one is called “outside sales” and the other is referred to as “inside sales.” Outside sales representatives generally sell goods outside of the office–this could range from going door to door to flying across the world to make a pitch. People in outside sales typically focus on bringing in entirely new business or at least opening up the opportunity for a business relationship in the future. People who work in inside sales primarily close over the phone or e-mail, and their job is geared towards closing new sales with current customers. This may mean upselling, convincing a client to renew a contract, or closing a sale with a warm lead.
The day of a Sales Associate is dominated by communication with prospects–this may be over the phone, by e-mail, or in person. Depending on what is being sold, the time spent on an individual prospect could be minutes or weeks (for instance some companies will require employees to make 200 calls a day or schedule 20 meetings a week). This means that there is a lot of variance in the day to day activities of someone in sales, but the days typically consist of following up on previous interactions, searching for and researching new prospects, and reaching out to these new prospects. Some businesses provide their salespeople with leads, while others require their sales team to find new prospects on their own.
The most successful salespeople are able to understand their customers’ problems and then frame the product they are selling as the best solution. The key to selling is overcoming a customer’s objections, so people in sales typically need to excel at reading people and asking questions. Jobs in sales are heavily shaped by what is being sold, but the skills that are most important in the job span across all industries.
A sales person on average makes $52,000 per year. But that can range a bit depending upon what industry you’re selling in. For example, in advertising sales, the average person makes $43,000 per year, but in medical sales, the average sales associate makes about $67,000 per year. There are endless possibilities for growth, as you can expand across industries, or add on additional territories within your current industry to become Regional Sales Manager ($50,000-$160,000), Sales Director ($45,000-$210,000), and National Sales Manager ($50,000-$165,000). Many Sales jobs come with relatively small base salaries and significant commission structures or performance bonuses.
These hot spots have the highest salaries for salespeople:
To work in Sales you’ll need to develop specific skills like good listening, exceptional self-confidence, and persuasiveness. It’s also important that you’re self-motivated, and a real people person. On top of that, beyond a basic college degree (which isn’t always required) you’ll probably need to undergo some company specific training, so that you can learn the products you’re pitching inside and out.
If Sales still sounds like your cup of tea, here are a few things you should do to get started.
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