Finding Success in Sales

Veteran comedian Rodney Dangerfield compared a job in sales to working in comedy in a Time Magazine interview recently. "In both fields, the most important ingredient is, you've gotta be liked. Whether you're selling aluminum siding or going onstage, you gotta make 'em like you and believe you," he quipped.

Do people say you could sell water to a drowning man? Do you have the gift of persuasion? You might be perfect for a job in sales - one of today's hot industries. Demand for salespeople spans nearly every sector from insurance and real estate to manufacturing, retail and hospitality. Salespeople are charged with finding the bigger, better deal for a company. It makes sense that they apply this concept to their own careers.

Sales is one of the fastest growing industries and, like health services, is a good area for those looking to transition skills. Many job openings will result from the need to replace workers who switch careers or leave the labor force. And, the increasing variety and number of goods and services to be sold will stimulate job growth. An industry study showed 28 percent of those hired for sales positions came from departments such as marketing, customer service, operations and purchasing. On average, there is a 30 percent turnover rate in sales in a given company, which means there are always openings. Cashiers, product promoters, real estate brokers, retail salespersons and sales reps are some of the jobs included in the sales industry.

So what does it take to land a lucrative sales job? Employers are looking for candidates who are ambitious, proactive and have a successful selling track record. They also look for someone with tenacity, problem-solving skills and the ability to listen and absorb information. Following are some questions you should ask yourself to test your potential for sales success.

Are you considered a good listener?

You have two ears and one mouth. Salespeople should use these in this same ratio by listening twice as much as they speak. One of the keys to a person's success in sales is their ability to establish client's needs. This requires good listening skills to uncover unmet needs and to identify key signals sent by prospective clients. If you find yourself interrupting friends, co-workers and clients you'll need to learn to close your mouth and open your ears to improve your listening skills.

Are you a problem solver?

Finding solutions to client needs is what closes the sale for those who are most successful. Good salespeople have the ability to relate their product or service features and benefits to solutions sought by their clients. During a sales call, they discuss the client's needs and suggest how their merchandise or services can meet those needs. They advise clients on methods to reduce costs, use their products, increase efficiencies and even increase their clients' sales.

Are you a good communicator?

While slick salespeople can be a turn-off, having good verbal communication skills are a must for sales representatives. Using proper grammar, being articulate, and communicating in a warm and personable manner will help you win a client's confidence. A firm handshake and direct gaze tell clients you know your product and are honest and forthright in selling your product.

Do you pay attention to details?

Paperwork can be the death of a salesman. It's important to keep detailed files on clients, such as past orders, potential needs, call history, contact information and even the name of their spouses. Completing order forms, organizing call schedules, weekly itineraries, and tracking sales, shipments and expenses account information are all necessary activities required of sales reps. Keeping track of these things requires an organized office, computer and mind.

Do you have a flexible lifestyle?

Succeeding in sales requires a fairly flexible, mobile lifestyle. Except for those in a retail environment, most sales representatives spend much of their time traveling to and visiting with prospective buyers and current clients. They participate in trade shows that can last from two to five days and require long hours and lots of standing and prospecting. In addition, salespeople may spend time meeting with and entertaining prospective clients during evenings and weekends. To advance in sales, many companies look for candidates who are willing to relocate sometime in the future.

Can your ego take the rejection experienced in sales?

Successful sales people have tough skins and learn to not take rejection personally. Many sales jobs require cold calling or prospecting to find potential clients in need of your product or service. Obtaining new accounts is an important part of the job. Sales representatives follow leads from other clients, track advertisements in trade journals and may visit potential clients unannounced. Ask any sales person and they'll tell you that you need to knock on a lot of doors, make a ton of phone calls and follow a number of leads before you find someone who is interested in what you are selling.

What's your financial risk tolerance?

Many sales representatives work on commission, which is either supplemented by a base salary or a monthly or bi-weekly draw against future commissions. Starting out, income can be lean. You may even find that you make nothing for the first several weeks. If you are patient and persistent, the financial rewards of making your first few sales will come. The most successful sales people are highly competitive and feed on the excitement of the hunt. They reap substantial rewards in terms of commissions and bonuses.

So here's the pitch, not everyone is cut out for a job in sales, but those who are can thrive. If you are aggressive, self-confident and proactive, chances are you'll succeed in sales.

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