Alumni advice: Sell, sell, sell…

Sales. It feels like such a dirty word. It suggests a dishonest world of harassing people for double glazing, midnight calls about PPI and insurance policies that no one really wants to buy.

The word always makes me think of the cut-throat office in the film Glengary Glenross: “First prize is a Cadillac El Dorado. Anyone wanna see second prize? Second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize is you’re fired.”

Fortunately that doesn’t actually happen (I hope!). The reality is that every business needs good salespeople and will invest a lot into finding them and keeping them. Ultimately, a company has to sell its products or services and it’s the sales team that makes that happen.

The good news is you don’t need to sell PPI. It can be yachts, advertising space, concrete flooring – whatever you’re interested in. A passion for the business and a personal interest will be more appealing to the employer than whether your GCSEs were all A* or not.

The other good news is it is highly rewarding. A good sales person can look forward to rewards, pay rises, promotions and that feeling of satisfaction when targets are met.

Not everyone can do it. You need to be happy to cold call, quick to strike up relationships, organised, thoughtful, good at thinking on your feet, target driven and competitive.

If you have those qualities, why not consider a career in sales?

I’ve worked in sales for five years and my best advice if you’re applying for a job is this: call the company/recruitment company RATHER than email to ask about the role and what they’re looking for before you write a cover letter and your CV. You’ll already be way ahead of the competition. Don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions. Demonstrating confidence is a key trait and your potential employer will see that immediately.

I suppose the thing I love most about sales is it is such a proactive role rather than a reactive. If I had to go to work every day and wait to be told what to do I think I’d go mad. I love being in charge of my desk, making things happen and getting results.

You won’t need a first. You won’t need a particular degree discipline (unless it’s a very technical role) and you won’t need thousands of unpaid internships to be given a job.

Have I sold it to you yet?

– Helen Coston graduated in 2010 with a joint honours degree in Spanish and German and is working as a Sales Manager in the publishing industry. 

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