Potentially excellent starting salaries, sky's-the-limit commission and countless lifestyle benefits can all become a reality for graduates who possess the key sales skills

While there are lots of jobs around, there's also a lot of young talent, especially in a competitive commercial area such as sales where a range of exciting sales jobs and focused graduate programmes currently exist for the chosen few.

So if you have the following skills needed for sales, it's vital that you make yourself stand out by understanding exactly what it takes to excel. You can then make a conscious decision to hone and develop this ability and forge a successful sales career either in the office or the field.

1. Confidence - maintaining a positive attitude

To chart a long-term career in the sales industry, it's a given that you'll suffer all manner of rejections by prospective customers along the way, and so you'll certainly need to be confident, positive and tenacious from the outset.

Having this unwavering faith in yourself and the product you are pitching in the face of resistance and rejection is therefore vital. Chet Patel, president of BT Global Services for continental Europe, says the best salespeople always remain self-assured.

'You need to be able to transfer belief in yourself and your product to the customer if you're going to be successful,' he says. 'But never, ever confuse confidence with arrogance.'

2. Resilience - communicating with conviction

Chet also believes that reacting positively to knock-backs is essential. Each sale can be full of obstacles, so you must have the belief to overcome any challenges thrown your way. 'You may have put a lot of time and effort into trying to land a deal, but it didn't work out,' he adds. 'You have to be resilient and dust yourself off, and believe that you will land the next one.'

Communicating with conviction can help transmit your passion for sales in an interview. Researching the industry, the company and the role will allow you to emphasise how your strengths and experiences make you the ideal candidate.

3. Active listening - understanding the customers' needs

Listening carefully to your customer and understanding their needs is incredibly important in making the right impression from the outset. Claire Snell, talent director at Unilever Europe, says that selling revolves around asking open questions and listening actively.

'There's a common misconception among graduates at assessment centres that it's all about talking, especially in group exercises,' she says. 'But it's often the applicants who listen well, summarise and lead the group to a decision that impress us most.'

4. Rapport building - selling your personality

Unleashing your personality is equally valuable. Coming across as authentic and engaging will endear you to others and gain their trust. Jonathan Ball, sales executive at Lookers, studied MA Management and Entrepreneurship at Edge Hill University. He believes that building a strong rapport with customers is the key to success, and he sought to emphasise this ability in his job interview.

'People buy people; you've just got to convince customers that you're the best person to sell the product to them,' he says. 'An interview is the ultimate sale. You're selling your talents but, even more importantly, you're selling your personality.'

5. Entrepreneurial spirit - continual self-improvement

The top sales candidates possess genuine entrepreneurial drive and spirit, claims Claire. Something as simple as trading on eBay can go a surprisingly long way in showing you're able and agile enough to create your own breaks. 'By being able to demonstrate that you can craft opportunities where they may not obviously exist and see these through to execution and delivery, you'll show that you have a natural talent for selling,' she says.

For those with the most important salesperson skills, working for yourself and starting your own business may be something to consider either now or in the future. Explore self-employment and what it takes to become an entrepreneur, or find out how Apprentice finalist Neil Clough moved on from the popular BBC show to set up a number of successful businesses.

Rising to challenges and possessing an appetite for self-improvement are also important. Be comfortable with critically reflecting on past experiences. Jamie Dunning, sales vice president at Mars Chocolate UK, says networking is a great way to open up new doors throughout your educational and professional career. 'We look for people who can demonstrate their drive for results and a willingness to get stuck in to complex projects,' he explains. 'Development is at the heart of our culture.'

Develop the key selling methods

If you're keen to progress your career and develop your sales skills, the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) provides a number of study options, including courses that help you to learn the key sales techniques.

The one-day course in advanced selling techniques covers:

  • building relationships with customers
  • closing skills
  • dissolving objections
  • reading people
  • using persuasive language
  • value building questioning.

Its intense three-day sales bootcamp is an ideal introduction for new and inexperienced salespeople looking for a structured approach to the sales process. You can expect to learn about:

  • delivering presentations
  • effective ways of questioning and listening
  • how to negotiate and close deals
  • making sales appointments, or selling products by phone
  • what makes people buy, according to the psychology of the six powers of influence.

For more information on how to improve your selling skills, see sales training courses. You can also search the top graduate sales jobs.