The Sales Industry: Jobs, Skills and Job Outlook

Sales industry jobs and careers

The term ‘sales’ describes the process by which businesses engage with potential customers for their products and services, inform them of their benefits and features, respond to their questions, negotiate prices and conclude sales deals.

Two mains areas of sales can be distinguished. Business-to-Business (or B2B) sales occur when the buyer is another business (or organization or public sector body), while in Business-to-Customer (B2C) sales, the buyer is an end consumer.

A further distinction can be made between inside sales and outside sales.

Inside sales involve salespeople or representatives, working principally from their employer's location, contacting current or potential customers by telephone or using other forms of communication, such as email, instant messaging, or even videoconferencing systems (i.e. to make virtual sales presentations).

Outside sales, on the other hand, usually involve sales agents or representatives visiting a potential buyer's location - to give a presentation or attempt to close the deal in person - or participating in a trade fair that may be attended by potential customers.

There are various other forms of sales, including telesales - i.e. the process of attempting to close sales over the telephone - and direct or door-to-door sales.

The typical remuneration of a sales agent is made up of a base salary plus commissions or bonuses for meeting or exceeding sales targets.

What types of businesses operate in the Sales industry?

Companies hiring in the Sales industry

Salespeople are essential for all types of businesses, including manufacturing and primary sector businesses, wholesalers and trading companies, and providers of services to both companies and private individuals.

Accordingly, recruitment advertisements for sales personnel are published by all types of business, including car dealerships, manufacturing companies, communications agencies, banks and insurance companies, telecommunications companies and energy and utilities companies.

By the same token, there are career prospects in the sales departments of companies operating in practically every sector, including both manufacturers of goods (e.g.machinery or food products) and service providers (e.g. advertising or insurance policies).

Companies hiring in the Sales industry:

Sales Industry - Trends and Job Outlook

Sales industry trends and job outlook

The sales industry employs millions of people, with employment opportunities tending to improve as the economy grows.

A combination of both globalization and unprecedented growth in world trade have led to an upsurge in sales jobs. The process of internationalization in particular - which has seen companies increasingly seeking to market their goods and services beyond their immediate national borders - has had an especially significant influence, with export managers now highly in demand by companies looking at international markets for new business opportunities.

But this process of increasing globalization has been accompanied in recent years by another emerging trend, towards a more personalized model of interaction with customers and an effort to provide improved customer experiences. Under this new paradigm, salespeople and account managers have seen the focus of their jobs shift towards developing and building relationships with clients, with pre- and post-sales support becoming increasingly important, in an effort to conquer higher levels of customer loyalty. Customer experience has in fact become one of the main key performance indicators used by sales teams to measure success, as part of a growing tendency to focus on obtaining long-term custom rather than making one-off sales - by offering solutions, products and services that can help a customers solve its problems and face its challenges.

What skills are required in the Sales industry?

Sales - skills and qualifications

When recruiting sales professionals, employers look for confident and determined individuals who enjoy contact with people.

Other key attributes of the perfect salesperson include:

Technical and sales skills

Strong technical skills and expertise are also crucial attributes for a successful career in sales. To be able to answer a customer’s questions convincingly, a salesperson needs extensive knowledge of the product or service being sold, its key characteristics and benefits, how it stands out from the competition, as well as familiarity with the features of the market.

Equally important is a knowledge of sales techniques. And since every customer presents a different set of challenges, that knowledge needs to be accompanied by an understanding of how and when to put those techniques into practice.

Relationship-building skills

The priority of a salesperson is to make sales and reach sales targets. To achieve this requires strong interpersonal skills, as well as the ability to build long-term relationships and to listen closely to a customer’s needs - both pre and post sales.

The success of business negotiations often depends on the degree of empathy that a sales representative or agent is able to demonstrate and their ability to come across as a trusted advisor rather than simply as a salesperson trying to close a lead.

Knowledge of CRM software

Customer Relationship Management software is the principal tool used by sales departments to manage client records and consult key sales, marketing, customer service and post sales support data.

The ability to use CRM is an essential skill for a salesperson. CRM applications allow users to manage, maintain and optimize customer relationships, consult a vast range of customer data, update contact history, view and analyse a client’s customer base and profile and optimize prospecting, sales and customer service processes.

Sales - Job Descriptions

Interested in finding out more about jobs in the Sales industry?

Take a look at the job descriptions we’ve prepared:

Most Popular Sales Jobs