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what qualifies as sales experience?
What is sales experience?
Sales experience represents your history of selling products or services to other people. Gaining sales experience also helps you develop various soft skills, such as communication, listening, negotiation and problem-solving. You can obtain this experience through various jobs where you interact with customers. For example, sales representatives work on behalf of manufacturers or businesses to sell their offerings. These professionals contact current or potential customers to discuss or demonstrate products and services, trying to convince them to make a purchase. Other examples of jobs that provide sales experience include:
- Real estate agent
- Insurance agent
- Retail sales associate
Why interviewers ask this question?
When you apply for a job, you usually submit a résumé or application that details your previous work history. During an interview, employers will use this question to learn more about your sales experience than they can from your application papers.
These details help them to evaluate your sales expertise and determine whether it qualifies you for the role’s normal activities and responsibilities.
You should include parts of your previous experience that fit with the employer’s goals and needs in your response.
How To Get Sales Experience?
The most straightforward answer to how to get sales experience is to get a sales-focused job. However, that’s not always the easiest option. Below we’ll go over some additional ways to get sales experience and begin developing your professional skills.
Be okay with starting from scratch.
Some people are natural-born sellers and entrepreneurs, so picking up the skills, charisma, and communication abilities necessary to excel at closing deals is easy for them. You may find that you’re in the opposite boat; that it’s going to take you some time to develop the skills you’ll need to succeed.
Given this, one of the most important things to consider when emerging into a new industry is being okay with starting from square one. As the saying goes, everyone has to start somewhere.
Read a sales book.
There are many experienced sales professionals eager and ready to share their advice and knowledge with the world. Many of them have written sales-related books where they explain strategies and advise how to become a successful sales professional.
These books can be centered around specific types of sales, like inbound or SNAP selling, as well as more general sales topics like the psychology of closing deals or how to build your influence.
Sign Up for a Sales Course
If you have the means to sign up for a sales course, webinar, or training program, we highly recommend doing it right away. Each option is an excellent way to get sales experience to make a good impression on the hiring manager.
A sales course or training program gives you a platform to learn the basics of effective selling and engage in various sales activities, such as role-playing and grievance handling, to become a more seasoned sales professional. You also get the opportunity to make mistakes and learn from them and build actionable skills that can help you further your career.
After completing a business to business sales training course like the Selling Made Simple Academy you’re going to better understand –
- The modern B2B sales process
- Communication skills
- How to develop customer relationships
- Specific sales tools
Another advantage here is the chance to make professional connections in the sales field that can again help you land a better sales job in the future.
Get a Sales Job
A surefire way (and most obvious) way to get sales experience is getting a sales job. You get to engage with real-life customers, learn the art of selling yourself, make contacts and have good conversations — all while getting paid.
Sounds like a pretty good deal, right?
That said, you don’t have to get a sales job at a large firm. Instead, you can start smaller in a retail position, where you can interact with customers and slowly make your way up to different positions to gain experience and skills.
How To Get B2B Sales Experience?
Business to business (B2B) sales involve transactions between two companies rather than a business to an individual consumer (B2C sales).
While B2C positions can prepare you and teach you how to sell, B2B sales are significantly more complex. They involve higher price points, a longer sales cycle, and more involved stakeholders that you need to convince instead of just one single customer standing at the register. Given this, one of the best ways to gain B2B sales experience is to be involved in a B2B sales process.
It may not be easy to just jump into such a position, so you can begin by developing the baseline skills you need to be successful in any sales position and work your way up to B2B sales.
If you’ve developed a professional network, you may consider asking connections in B2B sales if they’d let you shadow them during one of their sales cycles so you can observe, ask questions, and get hands-on experience.
How to answer “Describe your sales experience”
With this interview question, you can discuss the relevant sales experience you have that makes you a good fit for the job. Here are some steps you can take to help you answer this question:
Review the job description
When preparing for your sales job interviews, spend time reviewing the job description. Employers typically provide specific requirements or preferences regarding candidates’ experience. For example, they may ask for candidates with a particular number of years working in the field or experience using specific sales tools or software. Beyond experience qualifications, make sure to review other factors about the role. These factors may include the job’s day-to-day responsibilities or necessary skills. Reviewing the job description can help you understand the employer’s expectations and develop an answer that proves you can meet them.
Emphasize Your Sales Achievements
Did you close more deals than your peers at your previous job? Or maybe you were awarded ‘The Best Salesman ‘title many times? Perhaps got a promotion within months of joining?
Be sure to highlight your achievements in previous roles. We kid you not; tell your hiring manager everything and in detail. They want to know more about your skills to determine whether you’ll be a good fit for the job.
What’s more, you should try to quantify these experiences and achievements when possible. For example, talk about the dollar amount of sales or the rate you grew the sales within a specific period to prove their value.
Alternatively, you can mention the number of accounts you’ve worked with to showcase your ability to manage multiple clients simultaneously.
Examine professional growth opportunities.
Employers also prefer to look at your previous sales experience to see how far you’ve come in your profession. For example, you can claim that in your previous position, you started as a sales associate and soon rose to the position of manager. This development might show that you’re eager to learn new abilities and take on more responsibility.
These characteristics might demonstrate a strong work ethic, demonstrating your commitment and dedication at work. Because of these traits and the measures you’ve done to enhance your career, employers can be more interested in working with you.
Spend time rehearsing your script for answering this question after you’ve created one. Instead of remembering it word for word, concentrate on the main points you want to convey.
The more you practice, the more confident you will become in your delivery. It can also make you feel more confident and prepared.
As a result, you can find that your response comes more naturally and effortlessly throughout the interview.
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.
What counts as sales experience?
Anywhere that sells things can count as sales experience, as long as you have contact with the customers. Taking orders at a fast-food restaurant is relevant. Managers push suggestive selling, When someone orders a soda, does it come naturally for you to ask, “Was that a large?”
If you want to transition from a restaurant to sales, try this. The next shift you work, find out what your sales were. My manager used to tell me, but that was years ago. Write the number down. The next time you work the same shift, try to upsell every order. Find out how much you sold at the end. Was it five percent more? Ten? See if you can reach five or ten percent and hold it consistently.
In a restaurant with table service, the same thing works, but requires more creativity than in a fast-food joint where you order a la carte. Look over your restaurant’s menu and look for opportunities to upsell, and track how you do.
Now you have an accomplishment. When you interview for that sales job, point out how much you increased sales after some random blog suggested you try to upsell every order.
In retail, the same thing works. If you sell hardware, when someone buys a light switch, ask if they need a new unbreakable cover plate to go with it. Every store has things that go together. Sell the things that go together. A mantra in sales is “sell one more.” If you can sell one more in retail, you can do it business-to-business too.