Sunday, 12 December 2010

Do you have the right skills set for Sales? - Graduate Sales

As a recent panelist for a online discussion forum for Guardian Jobs last Thursday I noticed there were a number of questions from recently qualified graduates asking about what skills were required for a career in Sales.(Click for Guardian Jobs on line )
So here are some further thoughts:-

Identifying your skills

List out all the skills you feel you have currently on a sheet of Paper or a word document.

These can be anything you think relevant. (Don't forget skills like driving.)

You're looking for particular knowledge and experience that might differentiate you from a lot of other candidates in the market.
e.g. Do you have skills in statistical analysis, report writingetc. ?

Create a skills audit to find out more about you.

Once you have exhaustive list of skills rate them on a scale strong to weak.

This will help you define your strengths and weaknesses.

It will also help you identify if there are any areas where you are particularly strong compared to your colleagues at University or college. These strong characteristics are the things which will help sell you. The weaker scores are where you can develop and create activities where you can demonstrate improvement in the weaker areas.

Highlight the areas where you are strong and other areas where you are able to improve quickly these can for the basis of your CV.

Work Experience

The purpose of work experience is it assists you in achieving a number of things:

  1. It defines what you do and often what you don't want to do
  2. It helps you gain key skills
  3. It helps you to understand the general world of work a company culture
  4. It allows you to make industry contacts and start a network for work
  5. It allows you to develop skills which can differentiate you from other candidates

Why do some employers value relevant work experience highly?

Think of the situation from the point of the employer for a moment. Recruiting people is a costly process. The time searching and advertising, interviewing costs them time ,resource and money.

When taking on Graduates they also cannot expect an instant return on their investment. There will be time and money needed to spent on training even if the learning curve for most graduates is a shorter period than average.

Depending on the size of the firm the numbers of opportunities for further advancement is limited and why 2-3 years down the road graduates move on. Will they get a return for their initial investment? Recruiting is a risk to them.

You will be less of a risk to an employer if you can demonstrate you can do the job.

A previous employer allows a potential to request a solid reference.

It will take less time to train you and therefore you are more cost effective.
Any network contacts made previously can often be transferred to a new a new employer (this can often be useful in sales roles)

The key to understanding the context of work experience is understanding what you have done to date and presenting it in a way which relates directly to a potential employer. To do this it would help to create an audit of your work experience.

Think about the company and your contribution along the lines of the following headings:

your role
- role title, duration, start date, location

the company - big / small, revenues, products, departments

the Market - how has market developed, competition, regional / global, market value, market share

how you fitted in - what you did on a day to day basis, how your role fitted in to the overall contribution, of delivery of service for example or contribution to revenue or reporting and subsequent decision making

skills required and learnt - what were the key elements learnt which would be of value to other employers?

achievements - did your or your departments actions have any impact on the overall success of the organisation or improvement in the department?

From this record of work experience you will be able to select key pieces of information and recall them in either interview or on application forms.

This exercise will also help you identify :

  1. what you're good at,

  2. what you enjoyed during your work experience up to now and

  3. what you could use as indicators to the direction you might wish to take in the future.

    " But what if I don't have any or relevant work experience?"

    Chances are you'll have had some sort of part-time job either during the summer or whilst at University.

All experience is relevant and it's easy to overlook good work, management of others and planning as 'just part of the job'. Don't go exaggerate any roles into something that they clearly weren't.

If you have none at all then get something sorted even if it's some temporary voluntary work just to demonstrate that you are keen to succeed, have a positive attitude. There are more volunteer opportunities now as the Government's initiatives to the fostering of the 'Big Society' become clearer.

Then use this expertise to demonstrate that you can perform effectively as part of a team and make a difference.

Click for free executive summary of the Buyers Views of salespeople research study

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