What is sales experience and how to get it

There’s more to sales than meets the eye

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If you find yourself researching these questions today, you’re likely staring at a list of sales job openings and flummoxed about how to squeeze your way into this career field. Alternatively, you may be trying to find experienced sales reps to improve your team numbers. Whatever the reasoning may be, sales experience is not as hard to come by as it may sound!

What is sales experience?

If you’ve ever successfully convinced someone to purchase a commodity in exchange for money, that’s sales in a nutshell. At a glance this is pretty simple, but sales can actually incorporate a wider range of situations than it seems.

What counts as sales experience?

Sales experience can range from the more traditional seller-customer interactions to scenarios you may not even have thought of as sales experience! Some sales experience examples are:

  • Cashier (at a retail store or in fast food, for instance)
  • Real estate broker
  • Product promoter or demonstrator
  • Insurance agent
  • Owning a childhood lemonade stand (yes, really!)
  • Convincing a friend to go on holiday with you to the caribbean (basically an informal travel agent)

Essentially, if you’ve found yourself selling any product, idea, or even just a suggestion ‒ you’ve got sales experience!

Why sales experience is important

Sales experience is necessary for improving your win rate. The more deals you push through your sales pipeline, the more you start to establish a method that works for you. For teams, the more experienced sales representatives there are, the better the sales revenue. Skills accumulated at a sales job, like communication, social, and time management skills, are useful in our personal and professional lives in general.

Sales experience in B2B selling

In general, the above examples are of B2C selling. More and more of today’s sales people, however, are working in B2B sales. B2B sales experience is different from that of B2C in that it involves selling to other businesses rather than directly to consumers. B2B sales tend to have higher value deals, longer sales cycles, and more complexity (in other words, going through more decision-makers before closing).

Delving deeper into the specifics, sales representative positions can be broken down into these two categories:

Inside sales

Inside selling is when sales reps prospect leads, build relationships with them, and convert them into customers—all from their desk. Inside sales reps use email, phones, video, virtual meetings, and social media to connect with clients. Their schedule is usually a bit more predictable, with daily goals laid out for them.

Outside sales

Outside sales reps typically travel to close deals face-to-face. However, the lines between the positions blur a bit here. You see, outside sales also involves selling remotely about half the time. A rep with outside sales experience has sold products at in-person meetings, dinners, industry events, and conferences.

When you have no sales experience

Are you looking to transition to a sales job from a completely different industry? Perhaps you’re a sales manager who feels they’ve found the right candidate that fits perfectly on the team—minus the fact that they’ve never sold a product? Not to worry; everyone has to start somewhere! Just because someone has no formal sales experience doesn’t mean they don’t have what it takes to close a deal.

How to get sales experience

Let’s look at some tips for crossing into the sales field:

  • Be open to starting at the bottom. Your first job will surely be entry-level. A perfect chance to learn the ropes.
  • Activate your network. Build connections online and at job fairs. Nowadays 85% of jobs are filled through networking.
  • Study! Go into each application and each interview with as much background knowledge as possible. Being educated on a topic can make up for a gap in experience.
  • On your resume and in interviews, highlight skills transferable to sales.

If you’re a Sales Manager hiring on new reps, there’s one thing that can help get them up to speed faster and performing at the top level—Guided Selling. What guided selling does is allow sales organizations to reinforce the training they provide, highlight important opportunities for coaching, detect where deals are slipping through the cracks, and protect against human error.

With Guided Selling, you can easily:

  • Gather complete data related to your data, prospects and engagements
  • Sync your Outlook/Gmail calendars with Salesforce and simplify scheduling and availability sharing
  • Set up contextual training reminders so that reps know exactly what to do in the moment, and training isn’t forgotten.
  • Perform AI analysis of your historical sales cycles and get recommendations on the best next steps to take with any deal at any stage.
  • Automate your playbooks execution for the whole sales team

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    Skills needed to sell

    Successful reps employ several crucial sales skills to close deals. Below are a handful of the most important to keep in mind.

    • Active listening. This means not just giving a pitch and hoping for the best, but asking probing questions to discover your prospect’s pain points and reading between the lines to understand what they need.
    • Communication. It’s not just what you say—it’s how you say it. Mirror your contact’s tone, talking style, and even sometimes their body language.
    • Lead qualification. Know how to qualify your leads to make sure they’re really possible buyers. Here is a great guide we’ve put together to aid you in this task.
    • Time management. A salesperson has no shortage of duties and the worst thing you can do is let a solid prospect fall off the radar because you forgot!
    • Product understanding. Know the product deeply and be able to explain it in a cold call or demonstrate it in person, if need be. This also enables you to handle objections with a relevant, helpful response for why it’s a good choice for the consumer.
    • Closing technique. Closing techniques will vary across industries, products, and teams, but many prospects try to push back closing. Be able to effectively illustrate the benefits of the product and don’t be afraid to push the deal to closed when the time comes.
    • Post-sale relationship management. Recognizing that your customers are your livelihood is a critical sales skill. It enables you to show them your appreciation and continue to build the relationship long after you’ve made a sale.

    Describing sales experience on a resume

    So, you have already applied most of the tips and tricks in this article and now you want to move on to the next step in your career. For many people, composing a resume or CV that makes them stand out is the most difficult part of a job hunt.

    Luckily for those of us in sales, resume writing is just another way to put sales skills to use, except in this case we’re selling ourselves as employees. Here are some important elements to have on your resume:

    • Be brief! 40% of hiring managers spend under a minute on each resume. Keep it down to the core information that recruiters want to see.
    • Include your sales numbers. Your past and current performance are key indicators of the value you’ll bring to the next company.
    • Outline sales skills like the ones touched on earlier in this article. Use them to describe yourself in your bio but also in describing your duties at previous positions.
    • Highlight other relevant sales information; this includes sales awards, certificates, knowledge of sales tools, and any other special recognition.

    Applying the methods in this article and composing a stellar resume may not be quite enough to gain sales experience, meaning you have to really want it! Sales representatives work hard, and they’re available for their clients ‘round the clock. Be tenacious, keep pushing onward, and you’ll have plenty of chances to establish yourself as a reputable seller.

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