We’ve all met brilliant salespeople before – and we’ve all found the perfect product thanks to their amazing sales techniques. But what is it they have exactly that other salespeople don’t? In today’s competitive market place (where there are 101 choices for almost everything!) mastering the art of selling has never been so important – and most businesses employ a salesperson, or a business development manager, to help them stand out from the crowd. Sales work courses are designed to teach students the basic principles behind selling: how to profile a customer, generate ‘leads’, research a market, draw up a sales strategy and, crucially, how to ‘close’ a sale.
The art of selling
Pushy salespeople and door-to-door salesmen are fast becoming a thing of the past – thankfully! Customers today are far savvier than they used to be – price comparison websites like MoneySupermarket.com and consumer groups like Which? provide impartial advice designed to help customers make informed decisions. So selling in today’s market is a highly skilled activity that requires solid training, an understanding of the marketplace and an excellent knowledge of the product and the needs of the customer.
What to expect from a course
There’s an amazing array of sales work courses available – and it’s easy to become a little overwhelmed. Here are some useful categories to help you make sense of it all:
· HNDs/HNCs and undergraduate degrees: Higher National Diplomas (HNDs) and Higher National Certificates (HNCs) are three- and two-year courses respectively. While an undergraduate degree, if studied full-time, will usually take three years to complete. Most of these courses will teach sales skills alongside another discipline such as advertising or marketing – providing a broader learning experience.
· Specialist career courses: There’s a great variety of shorter, more specialist courses for people already in working in sales. These courses focus on areas like team management (so how to manage teams of salespeople), and have titles such as ‘Closing the sale’, High performance sales’, and ‘Negotiation Skills for Sales People’ all of which are designed to hone a salesperson’s existing skills.
· Online courses: Distance learning courses can be a more suitable and cheaper option for some people. Again, there’s plenty of variety so take your time researching and make sure you read any reviews before you book.
What happens next?
All industries need salespeople, so with some solid sales skills under your belt the world really is your oyster! If you go for a recognised diploma, like an HNC or HND, you may well find that with a little bit of experience, you’re eligible for more senior roles – even managerial positions. Once you’ve found the HNC/HND/degree you’re interested in, ask the tutors about the experiences of previous students (note, universities are now legally obliged to provide you with this information).
And if you’re already a working professional, completing a sales course should help you improve your performance at work. Many sales students find that as well as mastering and honing skills, they gain in confidence. Who knows, it could even inspire you to change careers!
Three signs you’re made for sales…
So you think you can smash a sales target? Here are three common traits lots of salespeople have in common. Recognise any?
Your glass is always half full: It may seem obvious, but being optimistic and cheerful is a must-have for all sales people – and it works three ways. Firstly, customers are more likely to be receptive towards a happy person who makes them feel good – that’s just human nature. Secondly, as a salesperson (no matter how good you are) you will get knockbacks, but it’s how you cope with these knockbacks that makes all the difference. Let one bad experience get to you and it will demotivate you, affecting your performance for the rest of the day, or even longer, so it’s vital you stay positive. Finally, during times of recession and weak economic growth, many top salespeople have remained positive and used the climate to sell more instead of settling for weaker sales.
You’re a great listener: Didn’t expect that one, did you?! In today’s market, customers are more clued-up and better informed than ever before, but their problems are often more complicated too. A good salesperson will listen closely to a customer’s needs, ask the right questions and get to grips with exactly what the client needs before trying to find the right solution.
Organisation is your middle name: It’s all very well generating a tonne of ‘leads’ (that’s sales-speak for prospective clients) but lose their details, call them at the wrong time, or confuse their issue with somebody else’s, and you’ve lost the sale. All good salespeople have clearly defined processes to help them keep track of their current clients, past clients and prospective clients. Selling is all about making the customer feel special. By keeping well-kept notes and having a strong process in place, you’ll never forget a client’s birthday and you’ll find the best solution to a customer’s problem every time.
By Rebecca Hobson