I keep seeing sales roles being advertised. I have a few years of experience in the financial services sector and would like a change. What skills would I need to secure a job?
Sales jobs are plentiful at the moment, but moving into sales is not an easy option. From the outside people often associate sales roles with Del Boy-type characters. In reality sales jobs are some of the most rewarding. Sales covers a wide range. From telemarketing to channel management, sales jobs come in a wide variety of formats. They also vary across different industry sectors. A sales representative in fast-moving consumer goods is poles apart from a channel manager in software.
Typically salespeople are either 'hunters' or 'farmers'. That is they are new business developers or account managers. New business roles need people who will cold call and be persistent. Account managers typically need to have strong client management and organisational skills.
The next thing to decide is whether you want a field role or work in internal sales. Field sales positions tend to suit people who can self manage, are autonomous and who are highly organised. Regardless of the weather or traffic, you cannot let customers down. Therefore you must be resourceful and adaptable. You also need to have strong relationship management, negotiation and personal skills. It is easier to influence customers face to face if you are strong in this area.
If you prefer a more structured environment, then internal roles may suit. Here phone skills are the most important. You must be comfortable with spending most of your time on the phone. Relationship management, persistence, drive and target orientation are all required here.
Salespeople need to be hard workers. You must know your product, the sales process involved in selling it, the target market and the competition. If you get the basics right and work hard then the rest will follow.
Remember to move to sales you will have to go in at a lower level. You will more than likely have to lower your basic salary expectation but your on-target earnings should be higher. An idea might be to move internally in your current company or in financial services where you know the products. This might make the transition easier.
Frank Farrelly is sales and marketing consultant at Sigmar.