Sales still a great career

Steven Eichmeier
By Steven H. Eichmeier
Standard-Examiner contributor

Someone once said, “No one makes any money until a sales person sells the product or service to the ultimate consumer.” You may agree or disagree with this statement, however, the fact remains that the salesperson is a critical step in moving the product from the manufacturing assembly line to the end user.

The purpose of this article is not to argue this statement, but to review the career options available to an individual interested in making sales their full-time career.

First, let’s break down the career of sales into the two most common and acceptable categories i.e. inside sales and outside sales. Traditionally, inside sales is the format where the sales person stays in their office and contacts the customer via telephone, email, or other new social media options. Outside sales has always involved the sales person contacting a customer or potential customer by setting an appointment and/or traveling to the customer’s physical location to make a sales call. The advantage of an outside sales call is meeting face to face with the customer in their office or facility. Disadvantages, are the expenses of travel, hotel, the cost of food, plus, it’s a very time consuming endeavor.

On the other hand, inside sales is much more cost effective relating to time, travel, food and other expenses. A new hybrid format has emerged allowing the sales person and customer to interact via teleconferencing, webinars, skyping and related technology options that are evolving daily.

Some people in sales, indicate that today’s technology is affecting the outside sales function by eliminating the frequency the sales person needs to physically go to the customer’s place of business. The outcome, obviously, cuts cost and time for both the customers and the salesperson. Will the direct outside sales position go away, maybe someday, but not in the near future? Some products and services will best be presented by a real person answering questions and placing the product in the customer’s hands.

There are five major types of sales positions from which a person in sales can select to pursue as a career.

The first type is when a sales person contacts a large number of already established customers to service the account. Grocery, variety, clothing and discount stores would be common examples. Minimal pressure is applied by the salesperson because the business has already committed to carrying the product line.

The second type of selling is referred to as a “Detail Sale Function” where the sales person performs promotional activities and new product introduction. These positions are found in the medical health care industries such as pharmaceutical and medical device sales. Frequently, the sale is made through a wholesaler or pharmacist in the case of pharmaceutical products.

The third type of sales is when a sales professional’s expertise is needed to analyze and solve a customer’s problem due to the technical nature of the product. If this is the case, a sales engineer will be contacted. Chemical, machinery, and heavy equipment are examples of industries that would fit under this category.

A fourth group consisting of industrial products has sales people who sell tangible industrial and commercial products such as office supplies or packaging materials to industries. No special or high degree of technical knowledge is required.

Sales people who sell intangibles, such as insurance and advertising, fall into the fifth group referred to as service sales professionals. A critical skill set required for this category is the ability to present the benefits of intangibles. Some sales professionals believe it requires more special skill sets to sell intangibles rather than tangible. This item sounds like a good discussion for another day and time. If you want a high income, be rewarded for your effort, control your own work schedule, and always have a job, sales may be a good fit for you. A more in depth discussion can be found in the “Occupational Outlook Handbook 2010-11 Edition 2800.”

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Steven H. Eichmeier is a professor of professional sales at Weber State University.