7 Skills You Need for a Successful Career in Sales

See also: Transferable Skills

Sales forces make up a tremendous part of the global workforce. There is always something to be sold, from the essentials of living like food and homes to luxury services like massages and spa visits.

Developing a career in sales can be key to long-term stability and prosperity, from that first job all the way up to sales executive jobs.

If you're looking to develop a sales career, here are seven skills you'll need.

1. Positive Thinking

While the phrase "positive thinking" may seem like a buzzwordy phrase, its power cannot be underestimated.

Positive thinking influences goal setting, your outward attitude towards your job and the product or service you are selling, and wards against feeling defeated if you do not achieve your goal right away, or even at all.

Positive thinking also results in better health - physical and psychological. In addition to being important to achieving and exceeding sales goals, a sales career is fast-paced and typically fairly challenging, and so having the ability to think positively is also a move towards self-care in the context of a sales job. Pessimism can actually lower the body's immune system response, and if you're forging a career in sales, you naturally don't want to call in sick too often.

2. Interpersonal Skills

The interpersonal skills required for a sales job go far beyond the ability to simply chat someone up when they enter your storefront or office. Interpersonal skills also involve active listening, an ability essential to being successful at sales - you must really listen to what the customer or client needs or desires, and fit what you are offering to their needs.

The communication skills required for reaching the upper echelon of sales executive jobs also fall under this category. You must learn to effectively communicate with not only customers and clients, but other staff, subordinates, and superiors to maximize the efficacy of your staff and, hopefully, to lower your turnover rate. Learning to negotiate with others, both on the sales floor and behind closed doors with your team, is key to the long-term success of your company, and subsequently your own advancement in sales.

3. Confidence

Having confidence in what you are selling, from makeup to motherboards, is critical.

If you are intent on a long term career in sales, it's important to vet what you do from the very beginning. Having confidence in your company and in your product will translate well to the customer, especially if they are making a large purchase.

Adequate knowledge of your product can assist with developing confidence with sales, but it is also a personality trait that you must cultivate on your own. If your confidence is lacking, ask those you work with for resources on how you can develop this critical skill, or search for online articles or books on developing confidence and sustaining it long term.

4. Product Knowledge

No matter what company you work for, a deep and intensive knowledge of its offerings is absolutely indispensable - especially if you are working towards sales executive jobs.

You must know enough about your products and services to suggest a solution to every client or customer, and to tailor groups of products or services to their needs or desires.

Deep product knowledge is vital to making any sale, whether large or small. If a customer asks you questions about a particular product or service, and you find yourself unable to answer, your sale will very likely fall through - a dismal prospect for those who may make their principle living off commissions.

Your knowledge will help every individual sale progress as smoothly as possible, and will hallmark you as a good salesperson - and help you advance your sales career.

5. Leadership Skills

Even if you are starting at the bottom, good leadership skills are essential to cultivating a long-term career in sales.

Once you progress above sales floor staff, your ability to lead people, to make decisions, and to motivate those working beneath you will be carefully monitored and will determine how quickly you rise.

Leadership is much more than knowing how to tell others what to do. Leadership skills go hand in hand with interpersonal skills and in knowing how to motivate others to accomplish necessary tasks. Learning to lead effectively will goad your staff to work harder if you make it clear you care about them and their concerns while still making your expectations clear.

Whether you are a brand-new shift leader or a veteran store manager, developing leadership skills will help you rise higher.

6. Work Ethic

While having a solid work ethic is essential to any career, it is especially important in a career that is as fast-paced and challenging as a career in sales. It is particularly important at the early stages, and once an executive-level position is reached.

Having a solid work ethic is also dependent on the value you place on what you are doing and if you receive satisfaction from it. If your job in sales brings you satisfaction and even joy, cultivating work ethic will be a fairly simplistic task.

The Skills You Need Guide to Personal Development

Further Reading from Skills You Need

The Skills You Need Guide to Personal Development

Learn how to set yourself effective personal goals and find the motivation you need to achieve them. This is the essence of personal development, a set of skills designed to help you reach your full potential, at work, in study and in your personal life.

The second edition of or bestselling eBook is ideal for anyone who wants to improve their skills and learning potential, and it is full of easy-to-follow, practical information.

7. Learning Skills

With sales careers, there is always an incredible wealth of skills and information to learn, from product knowledge to pricing. Developing your learning skills is perhaps the most important skill you will need in sales.

To this end, you will also need to find out how you personally learn best.

  • Do you learn better with visuals or reading?
  • Do you tend to retain things you hear more than things you read?
  • Are you a kinesthetic learner - one who learns best while partaking in physical activity?

Figuring out your learning style is a good baseline for continuing to develop your learning skills and for maximizing your retention of important information relating to your job duties.

Multiple resources for developing these skills are available to sales careers aspirants, especially those looking to develop a career in sales abroad. For example Jobtome, one of the largest job sites serving a multitude of countries, provides excellent content on sales skills development, resume revamping, interview preparation, and other information relevant to any job seeker. Would you rather go and work overseas in Europe or Asia, then you can read more about recruitments on sites like Headhunter China, Indeed and ISC World.

Whether you are new to sales or are already working within the field, developing these seven skills will help you advance to the next level - and all the way to the top.

About the Author

Muse en Lystrala is an entrepreneur and creative professional living in the northeast United States.

Currently, she divides her time between upstate New York and Scandinavia, and writes extensively on business, marketing, the arts, entrepreneurship, and career development.