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The pros and cons of a career in sales

Sales careers have long been misrepresented, thanks largely to the ‘Del Boy’ image and the horror stories of dodgy double glazing salesmen, over-zealous estate agents and constant cold callers. However, this image is changing and today, sales is now seen as a very viable career option for graduates. 

That’s because many positions offer relatively high starting salaries with commission on top, so there are plenty of opportunities to make big bucks. There is also a relative amount of freedom and responsibility, as well as company cars, commission plans and bonus schemes which can all be part and parcel of the sales package these days. Ultimately, sales comes down to selling goods and services. It forms the core of every business; whether a company produces a physical product, such as a mobile phone or a laptop, or offers a service, such as electrical testing or psychic healing, a link between the producer and the customer is essential to ensure that the customer is aware of and has access to the product. 

There are plenty of different sales methods, styles and approaches that can be conducted in several different ways. Companies can choose between the direct sales approach or indirect, for example, or whether this will be done via a partner or channel. The most traditional form of selling is through face-to-face meetings, or if you are in a B2C environment, via shops or stalls. However, in today’s day and age, technology provides several new ways for a salesperson to peddle their goods without having to meet the customer directly. For example, via telesales, electronic mail, online stores, SMS, mobile notifications, mail order and so on. As a graduate myself, I never set out to build a career in sales but fell into it and found that I had an aptitude for the role, even more so since joining Parago Software, where I have found sales to be an incredibly rewarding career.  

I joined Parago having worked in a sales role for a couple of years at Phones 4u. Parago Software is an ambitious and fast-growing software company, serving schools and multi-academy trusts across the UK, and it has a great team of people. As a relatively small company, what struck me immediately was that I gained a lot of exposure to directors in the business who gave me support and guidance, so although the learning curve was steep and fast, in less than a year I progressed from an internal to an external role whereby I had my own area to manage. Following this, in another relatively short period of time, I was made sales support manager and put in charge of the internal sales folks. I joined the business in September 2014 so you can see that my success and development has been rapid. Commission is limitless and this was certainly a big motivator for me, however, equally motivating is the fact that we sell into the education sector and are improving the efficiencies of schools.  

Whilst I realise that sales isn’t going to be for everyone, I have certainly developed and learnt a lot in the short time that I have been at Parago. For any graduate considering a career in sales, key to success is that you must have a genuine appetite for it. So here are my five top tips to help you assess whether this is the profession for you:

One of the first decisions to make is how much you like engaging with people. If the wealth and variety of human nature never ceases to amaze you and you enjoy meeting and talking to new people, sales certainly opens the opportunity for you to do that. I spend most of my day out and about meeting customers, potential customers, talking on the phone and to my internal sales team, so not only is good verbal communications an imperative, but you can’t be a shrinking violet or afraid to have a conversation with a potential prospect. 

Are you goal oriented and do you thrive in an environment whereby you are required to meet targets and deliverables? There is a saying that you are only as good as your last sale, and every month there is a new target to hit and new sales to secure, so you need to have an aptitude and a passion for repeatedly hitting these goals.  Equally important to know is that sales careers typically start in an office on the phone all day. At Parago internal salespeople are rewarded by making appointments for consultants, but a very high percentage of people you’re calling will not even speak to you. So this takes a strong character to keep on going, particularly if you are having a bad spell. 

Are you a self-starter, do you have an entrepreneurial mind and would you generally describe yourself as a glass half full kind of person rather than half empty? Believe me, you can get knocked back 20 times a day and so you need to have the tenacity and desire to pick yourself up and start again. At Parago, you will probably spend the first year in the office making appointments, learning about the product, assisting with product installations over the school holidays so there will be other areas to focus on. 

Do you thrive in an environment where there is a high level a freedom? Working externally, I had quite a large patch to cover and this involved not only meeting people, but a lot of driving around. It can be lonely and although there is a team on hand back at the office, there will be quite a bit of time when you are on your own. This also means that you will quite often need to make independent decisions and to stand by those decisions. Parago offers an extremely supportive environment but there are still times when you are put on the spot and will need to give an answer. And finally, do you enjoy winning? As I say, nothing beats the thrill of closing a deal and knowing that you have contributed to the business by helping it to grow and evolve.

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