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When we talk about ‘working in sales’ we’re referencing a large variety of job types in a range of industries with varying opportunities for advancement. Complicating matters further is the fact that ‘salesy’ roles can go by different titles including account management, recruitment and business development. The common trait required for these positions is an outgoing, positive and self-starting attitude. Those who possess this can often start earning higher salaries in sales positions earlier than in other industries.

So how do we break down a job function that incorporates everything from selling shoes at Footlocker to multi-million-pound software in Silicon Valley? A logical first step is discussing B2B (business to business) sales versus B2C (business to consumer) sales. Our standard retail habits bring us into contact with B2C sales people every day: buying clothes, changing phone contracts, joining gyms. To understand B2B sales we imagine the rep from a chain of gyms selling corporate membership to a business of a thousand people. Because selling to individual consumers often involves lower priced items, salaries in B2C roles tend to be lower. There are exceptions of course (luxury cars, real estate) but generally B2B sales has higher salaries.

The person responsible for buying the accountancy software for a business is very different from a casual shopper on the high street. The magnitude of the decision is great enough that they’re going to spend a long time making it, have a lot of questions about it and hopefully only make it once. Once the accountancy software is installed it is immensely difficult to change it. The salesperson, therefore, needs to be an expert on the product, equipped for every question and be prepared to develop a relationship over a long period of time. Furthermore, they need the savvy, patience and research capacity to find the relatively small pool of people in the accountancy software market at the right time.

When approaching your first sales role read the job description carefully to understand the role. Perhaps you’re highly motivated by targets, love being on the phone and pumped by the opportunity of earning bonuses from selling, selling, selling! A job specifying 100 calls a day, a lowish basic salary but with an impressive OTE (commission/bonus) kicker might be for you. If, on the other hand, you’re a people person keen on sales but with a more consultative approach, it’s probably best to look to other job types like account management.

Across sales functions candidates should be well organised and manage their leads in a strategic way. They need to be comfortable on the phone and enthusiastic about what they’re selling. In sales positions you tend to see the fruits of your labour quite quickly and in an obvious way and this suits many people. Career progression tends to involve bigger deals and bigger clients. Because sales is such a vital function to almost every business, there are plenty of opportunities for people management. Depending on the route, the career progression for sales people will lead to titles like Business Development Director, Head of Growth or Sales Director which are some of the most senior and important within organisations.

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