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5 Skills to Help You Succeed in a Sales Job

If you're not a salesperson, you've met a few in your lifetime. If you haven't, you've been living under a rock, stuck in an elevator for many years, or you're Moammar Gadhafi.

Working in SalesThose of us who are unfamiliar with the pressures of selling something may be the same people who find the art of selling distasteful. But in good times, good salespeople can boost a business's fortunes, and those of everyone else who works for that business.

So, today, we honor the people who "bring home the bacon" for our employers. It's the 11th annual National Salesperson's Day, when we pay tribute to those who sell their companies' products and services.

The average non-salesperson may think that working in sales is easier than their own jobs, and all you have to excel at is schmoozing and befriending would-be clients. I've never worked in sales, and I used to think that way before I worked more closely with sales teams in previous roles over the last 15 years.

Sales (getting businesses or someone to fork over their money) has a lot in common with job seeking (getting an employer to pay for your services). In fact, salespeople and job seekers need many of these same five skills:

  • Listening to Your Audience.  Salespeople need to hear their clients and potential clients address the things that keep them up at night. Job seekers need to know what challenges the employer is facing. When you know your audience’s pain, you can tailor your sales pitch to show you can offer solutions.
  • Knowing Your Product.  Salespeople need to know every detail behind what their companies sell, so they can articulate what their products and services can do for a client. Job seekers need to know their own unique qualifications and value for the same reason.
  • Flexibility.  A sales pro can plan what they’re going to do for an entire day, but must be prepared in case something more urgent mucks it up, such as a prospect  with a laundry list of questions, or a procurement manager who wants a conference call with you and his boss to review sales terms before they buy. Likewise, job seekers must be ready for whatever an interviewer might throw their way.
  • Presentation Skills.  Salespeople need to be comfortable giving live presentations, using presentation software such as PowerPoint, and answering tough questions. Ditto for job seekers trying to impress prospective employers (and yes, some people have even done presentations in their job interviews).
  • Relationship Building.  It's not enough to make the sale and go away. You need to follow up with a client to see how your product or service has helped them, and see if there's something else you and your company can do for them. Relationship building is key at every stage of the job hunt, from networking to interviewing, follow-up, and on-the-job success.

If you're looking for a sales job, it looks like a good time to land one. The U.S. economy is rebounding, which means employers need people to boost revenue and help them grow.

If you're not in sales and have some of these skills, you may have what it takes to work in a sales role—even if you don't want to admit it. In some way, there's at least a little salesperson in each of us.

Are you a salesperson, or have you worked in sales? What other skills lead to success in this role? Tell us in a comment below.

RELATED LINKS

Like It or Not, Likability is the Key to Getting Hired
Write Cold-Contact Cover Letters to Warm Up Employers
Sales 101: Be the Solution to the Employer's Problem

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