With enticing starting salaries, huge commission-earning potential and countless lifestyle benefits, a world of opportunity awaits graduates who possess these key sales skills
1. Confidence - maintaining a positive attitude
Whether you begin your sales career by being accepted onto an employer's sales graduate programme or you land an entry-level position, there are certain traits you'll need to demonstrate from the outset.
You'll suffer all manner of rejections by prospective customers throughout your career, and so you'll require a high level of confidence, positivity and tenacity.
Having this unwavering faith in yourself and the product you're pitching, all in the face of resistance and rejection, is vital. Chet Patel, global transformation officer and president of BT Global Services for continental Europe, says the best sales people 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.
With different sales roles and areas you can work in, it's worth exploring the UK's sales industry.
3. Active listening - understanding the customers' needs
Communication is fundamental in building trust and creating a rapport with customers, believes Mark Denton, managing director of Riverside Motor Group. He says, 'It's important that salespeople are confident and knowledgeable when advising customers, but the value of listening can easily be overlooked.'
Through all business transactions, Mark explains how it's vital to avoid personal filters, assumptions, judgements, and beliefs. This is because the customer has the best understanding of their own wants and needs, and so the salesperson needs to listen carefully in order to have the greatest understanding of this.
'The best way to ensure complete coherence is to ask clarifying questions and summarise what you have been told,' suggests Mark. 'A major part of active listening is to treat others with the respect and attention you'd like to receive in a conversation, so they feel their requirements are understood, and will be adhered to.'
Claire Snell, global head of HR for the joint venture between Unilever and PepsiCo, also feels that sales graduates should be active listeners during the recruitment stage of applications.
'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 when it comes to developing your customer service skills. Coming across as authentic and engaging will endear you to others and gain their trust.
Jonathan Ball, sales executive at Lookers, 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 these attributes, 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.
Rising to challenges and possessing an appetite for self-improvement are also important. Be comfortable with critically reflecting on past experiences.
Jamie Dunning, president and general manager at Mars Retail Group, 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.'
Find out more
- Explore sales training courses to learn these advanced selling techniques.
- Search graduate sales jobs.