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Everything You Need To Know About Careers In Sales

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A career in sales can mean you’re working behind the scenes, or upfront as a representative for a company. Most businesses depend on sales representatives to spread the word about products and services to the people or organizations who need or want them most.

As companies try to recover from the recent economic downturn and also replenish their workforce to prepare for the upcoming mass Baby Boomer retirement, entry-level sales roles are and will become even more plentiful. Now is the perfect time to start your career in sales.

Inside sales

Most entry-level sales roles are “inside” sales, meaning that representatives sell products and services online or over the phone without having to travel or see customers face-to-face.

Success is often determined by the number of meaningful connections a sales representative makes with potential and/or current clients, as well as how much revenue he or she brings in through those connections.

Outside sales

Outside sales is the opposite; also known as field sales, reps sell in person. Outside sales requires a fair amount of travelling to meet potential clients or to maintain relationships with existing customers.

Essential sales skills

Reps in both inside and outside sales are expected to possess strong communication, task management and interpersonal skills. Successful salespeople are born schmoozers with winning personalities. They know when to appease their clients and also when it’s time to be tough (like in negotiations).

Above all, great sales reps turn developing and maintaining great business relationships into an art form. They make it look easy, but it’s not!

They will often work in “territories,” made up of geographical areas and sometimes segmented by customer types.

Huge earning potential

The average annual income for sales reps can vary greatly between organizations, industries and level of expertise. Most entry-level sales roles are highly commission based, meaning that all or part of your salary comes from a percentage of the sales you make.

In roles with uncapped commission, successful sales representatives—even at the entry-level—can earn much more than their peers in more traditional entry-level jobs. We’re talking six-figure incomes here!

You may already have sales experience

If you’re a student who’s thinking about sales as a future career path, you’re in luck because you probably already have some great experience under you belt.

Part-time jobs in retail sales or customer-facing food service jobs are great preparation for a career in sales, particularly if they are commission-based or involve you up-selling to customers. Keep track of those numbers because employers will want to know what you can do. Other commission-based roles, like running your own student painting business with companies like College Pro, are also great experience for a sales career.

Check out these entry-level sales job descriptions from employers on TalentEgg:

The Inside Sales Account Manager (ISAM) is responsible for managing, maintaining and growing a targeted client base. In this role, you are paired up with an Outbound Sales rep and working together to satisfy the customers’ needs. You will ascertain their needs by probing, maintaining strong relationships, proactive account management, outstanding customer service; in addition to driving sales targets.
—Inside Sales Representative, Softchoice

Reporting to the Sales Director, the Outside Sales Representative will . . . be working directly with small and medium size enterprises, in assisting them in promoting their businesses online. Your mandate is to first understand their business goals of your clients, then consult them on the various digital solutions available via weblocal.ca. . . We provide a competitive base salary, uncapped commission plan with opportunities for advancement.
—Outside Sales Representative, Weblocal.ca

The Account Manager (AM) will market the full line of Xerox products and services in a defined territory of current Xerox customers and non-customers alike. This position will be concerned with short term sales activity within an account as well as developing and implementing a longer term strategy to ensure Xerox will retain the account and continue to obtain future business.
—Account Manager (Sales), Xerox

We have a unique opportunity for you if you thrive working independently, and closing the deal. Duties include increasing volume through effective merchandising, selling and servicing of the assigned retail, corporate and independent stores. This includes ensuring distribution of all listed products, ensuring optimum product appearance and quality, servicing individual stores on a regular basis and building a strong working relationship with store management, booking seasonal/major programs when required. Some administrative work is also required – reporting on all sales call activities, submitting booking programs, maintaining accurate files, attending district and regional meetings.
—Retail Sales Representative, Hershey’s Canada

This position has responsibility for the sales (via telephone) to Yellow Pages Group customers – through effective sales techniques this position will complete sales revenue and develop accounts where possible. In addition, the position will ensure that customers’ needs are exceeded in terms of customer satisfaction.
—Inside Sales Representative, Yellow Pages Group

 

Sales and Marketing Career Guide

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About the author

Simi Pannu is TalentEgg's Fall 2010 editorial intern! She is a first-year journalism student at Ryerson University. Currently undecided on which direction to go to -- i.e. teaching english/history or continue with journalism -- she hopes to figure it out before the end of first term.