Careers for Persuasive Types & Others Who Won't Take No for an Answer [Secure eReader]
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eBook by Jan Goldberg
eBook Category: Business
eBook Description: Careers for Persuasive Types & Others Who Won't Take No for an Answer lets career explorers look at the job market through the unique lens of their own interests. The book reveals dozens of ways to pursue a passion and make a living--including many little-known but delightful careers that will surprise readers.
eBook Publisher: McGraw-Hill Companies/McGraw-Hill, Published: 2002
Fictionwise Release Date: September 2002
HELP WANTED: RETAIL SALES
Careers in Sale
[A salesman is] an optimist who finds the world full of promising potential.
The field of sales encompasses a wide range of job settings, products, and services, as well as methods of selling. Here's a sample advertisement that captures some of the elements of a career in sales.
If you enjoy art and design, work well with people, and are looking for an interesting and challenging full-time job, we have the ideal position in our art gallery. Your schedule will include Saturday hours from 10 A.M. until 6 P.M. and Sunday noon until 5 P.M. Compensation will depend upon applicant's qualifications. If you are interested, please contact us immediately.
Sales careers can be broken into the following three primary categories:
Manufacturing and Wholesale
Several other sales categories do not exactly fit into those three and have carved their own niches. They include insurance sales, real estate sales, and travel agents.
Retail Sales Workers
Every day, millions of dollars are spent on a wide variety of merchandise -- everything from sweaters and hats to mattresses and furniture. No matter what the item, a sales worker's primary job is to interest customers in the merchandise. Aids in this process include describing the product's features, demonstrating its use, showing various models and colors, and pointing out why products will benefit the customer or client.
For some jobs, particularly those involving the selling of expensive and complex items, special knowledge or skills are needed. For example, workers who sell personal computers must be able to explain to customers the features of various brands and models, the meaning of manufacturers' specifications, and the types of software that are available.
In other jobs, selling standardized articles such as food, hardware, linens, and housewares, sales workers may often do little more than take payments and bag purchases.
Some retail sales workers also receive cash, check, and charge payments; handle returns; and give change and receipts. Depending on the hours they work, they may have to open or close the cash register. This may include counting the money in the cash register; separating charge slips, coupons, and exchange vouchers; and making deposits at the cash office. Sales workers are often held responsible for the contents of their registers, and, in many organizations, repeated shortages are cause for dismissal.
In addition, sales workers may help stock shelves or racks, arrange for mailing or delivery of a purchase, mark price tags, take inventory, and prepare displays.
Sales workers must be aware of not only the promotions their stores are sponsoring but also those that are being sponsored by competitors. Also, they often must recognize potential security risks and know how to handle such situations.
Consumers often form their impressions of a store by its sales force. The retail industry is very competitive, and, increasingly, employers are stressing the importance of providing courteous and efficient service. When a customer wants a product that is not on the sales floor, for example, the sales worker may check the stockroom and, if there are none in stock, place a special order or call another store to locate the item.
The largest employers of retail sales workers are department stores. Other types of employers include specialty shops, boutiques, independently owned stores, and large chain outlets, such as those selling hardware or office supplies.
Catalog and on-line sales are two large areas that provide additional avenues for those interested in venturing into sales as a career. In fact, the on-line sales market continues to broaden and deepen, with more products and services available on-line taking a bigger and bigger share of the total sales market.
Telemarketing is another huge industry. Everything from timeshare vacations to telephone service to credit cards are solicited by phone.
Qualifications and Training
Usually, there are no formal education requirements for this type of work. Employers look for candidates who enjoy working with people and have the tact and patience to deal with difficult customers. Among other desirable characteristics are an interest in sales work, a neat appearance, and the ability to communicate clearly and effectively.
Before hiring, some employers may conduct a background check, especially for jobs in selling high-priced items. In most small stores, an experienced employee or the proprietor instructs newly hired sales personnel in making out sales checks and operating the cash register. In larger stores, training programs are more formal and are usually conducted over several days.
As salespeople gain experience and seniority, they usually move to positions of greater responsibility and are given their choices of departments. This often means moving to areas with potentially higher earnings and commissions. The highest earning potential is usually found in selling big-ticket items. This work often requires the most knowledge of the product and the greatest talent for persuasion.
In years past, capable sales workers without college degrees could advance to management positions, but today, large retail businesses generally prefer to hire college graduates as management trainees. This makes a college education increasingly important. Despite this trend, capable employees without college degrees should still be able to advance to administrative or supervisory work in large stores.
Opportunities for advancement vary in small stores. In some establishments, advancement opportunities are limited because one person, often the owner, does most of the managerial work. In others, however, some sales workers can be promoted to assistant managers.
Retail selling experience may be an asset when applying for sales positions with larger retailers or in other industries, such as financial services, wholesale trade, or manufacturing.
The starting salary for many part-time retail sales positions is the federal minimum wage. In some areas where employers are having difficulty attracting and retaining workers, wages are much higher than the established minimum.
The following list shows average weekly earnings by class of sales worker in several industries.
Motor vehicle and boats -- $593
Radio, television, hi-fi, and appliances -- $423
Furniture and home furnishings -- $403
Hardware and building supplies -- $372
Parts -- $409
Apparel -- $265
Shoes -- $328
Compensation systems vary by type of establishment and merchandise sold. Some sales workers receive an hourly wage. Others receive a commission or a combination of wages and commissions. Under a commission system, salespeople receive a percentage of the sales they make. These systems offer sales workers the opportunity to significantly increase their earnings, but they may find their earnings depend on both their ability to sell their products and the ups and downs in the economy.
In addition, nearly all sales workers are able to buy store merchandise at a discount, often from 10 to 40 percent below regular prices. In some cases, this privilege is extended to the employee's family as well.
Services Sales Representatives
Services sales representatives sell a wide variety of services. For example, sales representatives for data processing services firms sell complex services such as inventory control, payroll processing, sales analysis, and financial reporting systems. Hotel sales representatives contact government, business, and social groups to solicit convention and conference business for the hotel. Fund-raisers plan programs to raise money for charities or other nonprofit causes. Sales representatives for temporary help services firms locate and acquire clients who will hire the firm's employees.
Telephone services sales representatives visit commercial customers to review their telephone systems, analyze their communications needs, and recommend services such as installation of additional equipment. Other representatives sell automotive leasing, public utility, burial, shipping, protective, and management consulting services.
Services sales representatives act as industry experts, consultants, and problem solvers when selling their firms' services. The sales representative, in some cases, creates demand for his or her firm's services. A prospective client who is asked to consider buying a particular service may never have used, or have even been aware of a need for, that service. For example, wholesalers might be persuaded to order a list of credit ratings for checking their customers' credit prior to making sales and discover that the list could be used to solicit new business.
There are several different categories of services sales jobs, including outside and inside sales and telemarketing. Outside sales representatives call on clients and prospects at their homes or offices. They may have an appointment, or they may practice cold calls, arriving without an appointment. Inside sales representatives work on their employers' premises, assisting individuals interested in the company's services. Telemarketing sales representatives sell exclusively over the telephone. They make large numbers of calls to prospects, attempting to sell the company's service themselves or to arrange an appointment between the prospect and an outside sales representative. Some sales representatives deal exclusively with one, or a few, major clients.
Despite the diversity of services being sold, the jobs of all services sales representatives have much in common. All sales representatives must fully understand and be able to discuss the services their companies offer.
Also, the procedures they follow are similar. Many sales representatives develop lists of prospective clients through telephone and business directories, asking business associates and customers for leads, and calling on new businesses as they cover their assigned territories. Some services sales reps acquire clients through inquiries about the company's services.
Regardless of how they first meet the client, all services sales representatives must explain how the services being offered can meet the client's needs. This often involves demonstrations of the company's services. Sales reps must answer questions about the nature and cost of the services and try to overcome objections in order to persuade potential customers to purchase the services. If they fail to make a sale on the first visit, they may follow up with more visits, letters, or phone calls. After closing a sale, services sales representatives generally follow up to see that the purchase meets the customer's needs and to determine whether additional services can be sold.
Because services sales representatives obtain many of their new accounts through referrals, success hinges on developing a satisfied clientele who will continue to use the services and will recommend them to other potential customers. Like other types of sales jobs, a services sales representative's reputation is crucial to his or her success.
Services sales work varies with the kind of service sold. Selling highly technical services, such as communications systems or computer consulting, involves complex and lengthy sales negotiations. In addition, sales of complex services may require extensive after-sale support. In these situations, sales representatives may operate as part of a team of sales representatives and experts from other departments. Sales representatives receive valuable technical assistance from these experts. For example, those who sell data processing services might work with a systems engineer or computer scientist, and those who sell telephone services might receive technical assistance from a communications consultant. Teams enhance customer service and build strong longterm relationships with customers, resulting in increased sales.
Because of the length of time between the initial contact with a customer and the actual sale, representatives who sell complex technical services generally work with several customers simultaneously. Sales representatives must be well organized and efficient in scheduling their time.
Selling less complex services, such as linen supply or exterminating services, generally involves simpler and shorter sales negotiations. A sales representative's job may likewise vary with the size of the employer. Those working for large companies generally are more specialized and are assigned territorial boundaries, a specific line of services, and their own accounts. In smaller companies, sales representatives may have broader responsibilities -- administration, marketing, public relations -- in addition to their sales duties.
Services sales representatives hold more than five hundred thousand jobs nationwide. More than half of these jobs are in firms providing business services, including computer and data processing, advertising, personnel supply, equipment rental and leasing, and mailing, reproduction, and stenographic services.
Other sales representatives work for firms that offer a wide range of other services, such as business services (advertising, computer and data processing, personnel supply, mailing), engineering and management, personal, amusement and recreation, automotive repair, membership organizations, hotels, motion pictures, health, and education.
Qualifications and Training
Many employers require services sales representatives to have college degrees, but requirements may vary depending on the industry a particular company represents. Employers who market advertising services seek individuals with degrees in advertising or marketing or master's degrees in business administration; companies that market educational services prefer individuals with advanced degrees in marketing or related fields.
Many hotels seek graduates from college hotel administration programs, and companies that sell computer services and telephone systems prefer sales representatives with a background in computer science or engineering. College courses in business, economics, communications, and marketing are helpful in obtaining other jobs as services sales representatives.
Employers may hire experienced, high-performing sales representatives who have only a high school diploma. This is particularly true for those who sell nontechnical services, such as exterminating, laundry, or funeral services.
Many firms conduct intensive training programs for their sales representatives. A sound training program covers the history of the business; origin, development, and uses of the service; effective prospecting methods; and presentation of the service. Training also covers answering customer objections, creating customer demand, closing a sale, writing an order, understanding company policies, and consulting with and coordinating the services of technical support personnel.
Services sales representatives may also attend seminars on a wide range of subjects given by in-house or outside training institutions. These sessions acquaint employees with new services and products and help them maintain and update their sales techniques. Such sessions may also include motivational or sensitivity training to make sales representatives more effective in dealing with people. Sales workers generally receive training in the use of computers and communications technology in order to increase their productivity.
In order to be successful, sales representatives should have a pleasant, outgoing personality and good rapport with people. They must be highly motivated, well organized, and efficient. Good grooming and a neat appearance are essential, as are selfconfidence, reliability, and the ability to effectively communicate. Sales representatives should be self-starters who have the ability to work under pressure to meet sales goals.
Sales representatives who have good sales records and leadership abilities may advance to supervisory and managerial positions. Frequent contact with businesspeople in other firms provides sales workers with leads about job openings and enhances advancement opportunities.
The median annual income for full-time advertising sales representatives is about $26,000. Representatives selling other types of business services earn about $30,200. Earnings of representatives who sell technical services generally are higher than earnings of those who sell nontechnical services.
The average yearly income for entry-level sales is about $36,000, ranging up to $63,000 for senior sales staff.
Earnings of experienced sales representatives depend on performance. Successful sales representatives who establish a strong customer base can earn more than managers in their firms. Some sales representatives earn well over $100,000 a year.
Sales representatives work on different types of compensation plans. Some get a straight salary; others are paid solely on a commission basis -- a percentage of the dollar value of their sales. Most firms use a combination of salary and commissions. Some services sales representatives receive a base salary plus incentive pay that adds 50 to 70 percent to the sales representative's base salary. In addition to the same benefits package received by other employees of the firm, outside sales representatives have expense accounts to cover meals and travel, and some drive a company car. Many employers offer bonuses -- including vacation time, trips, and prizes -- for sales that exceed company quotas.
In spite of all the perks, with fluctuating economic conditions and consumer and business expectations, earnings may vary widely from year to year.
Manufacturers' and Wholesale Sales Representatives and Sales Managers
Articles of clothing, books, and computers are among the thousands of products bought and sold each day. Manufacturers' and wholesale sales representatives play an important role in this process. While retail sales workers sell products directly to customers, manufacturers' representatives market the company's products to other manufacturers, wholesale and retail establishments, government agencies, and other institutions. Regardless of the type of products they sell, the primary duties of these sales representatives are to interest wholesale and retail buyers and purchasing agents in their merchandise and ensure that any questions or concerns of current clients are addressed. Sales reps also provide advice to clients on how to increase sales.
Depending on where they work, these sales representatives have different job titles. Many of those representing manufacturers are referred to as manufacturers' representatives, and those employed by wholesalers generally are called sales representatives. Those selling technical products, for both manufacturers and wholesalers, are usually called industrial sales workers or sales engineers. In addition to those employed directly by firms, manufacturers' agents are self-employed sales workers who contract their services to all types of companies.
Manufacturers' and wholesale sales representatives spend much of their time traveling to and visiting with prospective buyers and current clients. During sales calls, they discuss the customers' needs and suggest how their merchandise or services can meet those needs. They may show samples or catalogs that describe items the company stocks and inform customers about prices, availability, and how their products can save money and improve productivity. In addition, because of the vast number of manufacturers and wholesalers selling similar products, they try to beat the competition by emphasizing the unique qualities of the products and services offered by their companies. They also take orders and resolve any problems or complaints with the merchandise.
These sales representatives have additional duties as well. For example, sales engineers, who are among the most highly trained sales workers, typically sell products whose installation and optimal use require technical expertise and support products such as material handling equipment, numerical-control machinery, and computer systems.
In addition to providing information on their firms' products, these workers help prospective and current buyers with technical problems. For example, they may recommend improved materials and machinery for a firm's manufacturing process, draw up plans of proposed machinery layouts, and estimate cost savings from the use of their equipment. They present this information and negotiate the sale, a process that may take several months.
Sales engineers must also provide follow-up services, keeping close contact with the client to assure the client renews the contract. Sales engineers may work with engineers in their own companies, adapting products to a customer's special needs.
Increasingly, sales representatives who lack technical expertise work as a team with a technical expert. For example, a sales representative will make the preliminary contact with customers, introduce his or her company's product, and close the sale. However, the technically trained person will attend the sales presentation to explain and answer technical questions and concerns. In this way, the sales representative is able to spend more time maintaining and soliciting accounts and less time acquiring technical knowledge.
Obtaining new accounts is an important part of the job. Sales representatives follow leads suggested by other clients, from advertisements in trade journals, and from participation in trade shows and conferences. At times, they make unannounced visits to potential clients. In addition, they may spend a lot of time meeting with and entertaining prospective clients during evenings and weekends.
The daily activities of sales reps are tracked by supervisors -- where they have been, who they have seen, and what they have sold. Sales representatives also analyze sales statistics, prepare reports, and handle administrative duties, such as filing expense account reports, scheduling appointments, and making travel plans. They study literature about new and existing products and monitor the sales, prices, and products of their competitors.
In addition to all these duties, manufacturers' agents must manage their own businesses. As agents, they often represent several manufacturers, which requires excellent organizational skills as well as knowledge of accounting, marketing, and, if hiring assistants, management and administration.
Some manufacturers' and wholesale sales representatives have large territories and do considerable traveling. Because a sales region may cover several states, they may be away from home for several days or weeks at a time. Others work near their home bases and do most of their traveling by automobile. Because of the nature of the work and the amount of travel, sales representatives typically work more than forty hours per week.
Sales managers direct corporate sales programs. They assign sales territories and goals and establish training programs for their sales representatives. Managers advise their sales representatives on ways to improve sales performance. In large, multiproduct firms, they oversee regional and local sales managers and their staff members. Sales managers maintain contact with dealers and distributors. They analyze sales statistics gathered by their staff members to determine sales potential and inventory requirements and monitor the preferences of customers. Such information is vital to develop products and maximize profits.
Sales managers also have to go out in the field to see their sales reps. They make sure the reps are using the right techniques and handling each situation the way it should be handled in order to get the maximum sales volume. The reps can't afford to take the time to come to the office and lose sales.
Qualifications and Training
The background needed for sales jobs varies by product line and market. As the number of college graduates has increased and the job requirements have become more technical and analytical, most firms have placed a greater emphasis on a strong educational background. Nevertheless, many employers still hire individuals with previous sales experience who do not have college degrees. In fact, for some consumer products, sales ability, personality, and familiarity with brands are more important than a degree.
On the other hand, firms selling industrial products often require degrees in science or engineering in addition to some sales experience. In general, companies are looking for the best and brightest individuals who display an outgoing personality and the desire to sell.
Many companies have formal training programs for beginning sales reps that last up to two years. However, most businesses are accelerating these programs to reduce costs and expedite the return from training. In some programs, trainees rotate among jobs in plants and offices to learn all phases of product production, installation, and distribution. In others, trainees take formal classroom instruction at the plant, followed by on-the-job training under the supervision of a field sales manager.
In some firms, new workers are trained by accompanying more experienced workers on their sales calls. As these workers gain familiarity with the firm's products and clients, they are given increasing responsibility until they are eventually assigned their own territories. As businesses experience greater competition, increased pressure is placed upon sales representatives to produce faster.
These workers must stay abreast of new merchandise and the changing needs of their customers. They may attend trade shows where new products are displayed or conferences and conventions where they meet with other sales representatives and clients to discuss new product developments. In addition, many companies sponsor meetings of the entire sales force at which presentations are made on sales performance, product development, and profitability.
Sales representatives should enjoy traveling because much of their time is spent visiting current and prospective clients.
Compensation methods vary significantly by the type of firm and product sold. However, most employers use a combination of salary and commission or salary plus bonus. Commissions are usually based on the amount of sales, whereas bonuses may depend on individual performance, on the performance of all sales workers in the group or district, or on the company's performance as a whole.
Median annual earnings of full-time manufacturers' and wholesale sales representatives is about $36,000, although some might start out as low as $16,000 and range up to $62,000 or more per year. Earnings vary by experience and the type of goods or services sold.
In addition to their earnings, sales representatives are usually reimbursed for expenses such as transportation costs, meals, hotels, and entertaining customers. They often receive benefits such as health and life insurance, a pension plan, vacation and sick leave, personal use of a company car, and frequent flyer mileage. Some companies offer incentives such as free vacation trips or gifts for outstanding sales workers.
Unlike those working directly for a manufacturer or wholesaler, manufacturers' agents work strictly on commission. Depending on the types of products they are selling, their experience in the field, and the number of clients, their earnings can be significantly higher or lower than those working in direct sales. In addition, because manufacturers' agents are selfemployed, they must pay their own travel and entertainment expenses as well as provide for their own benefits, which can be a significant cost. Frequently, promotion takes the form of an assignment to a larger account or territory where commissions are likely to be greater. Experienced sales representatives may move into jobs as sales trainers who train new employees on selling techniques and company policies and procedures. Those who have good sales records and leadership ability may advance to sales supervisors or district managers.
In addition to advancement opportunities within a firm, some go into business for themselves as manufacturers' agents. Others find opportunities in buying, purchasing, advertising, or marketing research. For many sales reps, the end goal is to climb the ladder in sales and transfer into marketing.
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