5 Skills You Need for a Career in Sales

Published October 07, 2017
Motley Fool

Though a sales career isn't for everyone, if you're the type of person who can get behind a product or service and aren't ashamed to peddle it to the world, you stand to make a pretty good living. That's because if you manage to work your way from sales associate to director, you can join the ranks of those who earn a median salary of $158,256 -- not too shabby.

There are other perks to working in sales, too. Not only might you get a chance to travel and see new places, but if you're a commission-based independent contractor, you'll get to write off certain costs you encounter while doing business, such as mileage on your vehicle or meals and entertainment.

If you're interested in pursuing a sales career, you should know that there are certain skills you'll need to be successful. Here are a few you should work on honing.

1. Communication

Being a good salesperson is all about connecting with customers and building relationships, which is why having strong communication skills is critical. Not only must you know how to interact with people, but you'll need to master the art of when to reach out and what avenue to take. These days, a lot of business is done over email, as opposed to face to face or over the phone. As a sales professional, you'll need to determine what's most appropriate in each situation, and then convey your message in a manner that's persuasive without being pushy. It's a fine line to draw, but if you're good at it, you're likely to excel.

2. Time management

Sales professionals often work independently, as opposed to reporting to an office on a consistent basis. That's because selling often involves traveling to visit clients, attending trade shows, or hosting meetings to promote products. It also involves logging orders, making sure those orders are filled, and addressing customer concerns that arise down the line. To be successful, therefore, you'll need to be skilled at time management, which means not only learning to set priorities but also making the most of the hours you spend on the job.

3. The ability to listen

It's easy to talk up a product or service you're passionate about. What's not as easy, however, is understanding what it is your customers are looking to get out of that product or service so that they ultimately buy more of it. As a salesperson, listening skills are just as important as knowing how to effectively communicate.

4. Patience

When you work in sales, it can take months, or even years, to build up a decent client base and start earning a respectable income. So if you're the type who tends to quit easily, sales may not be for you. Rather, you'll need to exercise a fair amount of patience as you establish your own sales pipeline and wait for the money to begin rolling in. You'll also need to exercise patience when dealing with customers. If you show your frustration when deals take longer than expected to close or contracts get delayed, you'll ruin the relationships you've worked hard to build and lose out on the revenue streams that go along with them.

5. Money management

Salespeople don't typically set prices for the products they sell or dictate production budgets. Still, to succeed in sales, you'll need to be good at managing money -- your own personal money. That's because sales professionals often work heavily on commission, and so if you enter that field, there's a good chance your income will fluctuate from month to month or quarter to quarter. You might, for example, get used to bringing home a certain income, and then experience a sudden dip that cuts your earnings in half. To combat this, you'll need some emergency savings to fall back on.

While most households are advised to have three to six months' worth of living expenses on hand at all times, if you're going to pursue a sales career, you'll want more like nine to 12 months' worth of expenses in the bank. Furthermore, you'll need to do a good job of sticking to a budget and cutting down as necessary during periods when your commissions dry up.

Though working in sales does pose its share of challenges, it can be an extremely rewarding field to enter. Boost these five skills and you'll be setting yourself up for years of success.

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