Getting Back into a Sales Career

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Things change. Go on a vacation to some Caribbean Island then return a few years later and it will be like you've never been there before. Careers change as well and often times with an even greater impact. Regardless of the reasons for the change, returning to a career field after any length of time away takes patience, a lack of ego and plenty of re-training.

Technology Changes

Depending on how long you've been away from sales, you might be very surprised at how technology has altered the day to day activities in a sales rep's life.

Many companies rely on Electronic Content Management systems to keep track of everything that surrounds their customers. Reps are expected to record their daily activities, meeting notes, upload proposals and customer correspondences and provide detailed forecasts through their chosen content management.

Reps who may be challenged with technology are now forced to rely on the Content Manager, instead of paper-based files to get all the customer information they need. Many reps who have been out of sales for an extended period of time often complain that the "old way" worked just fine and having to spend several minutes to an hour each day entering information into a Content Manager means less time in front of customers. While they may be right with their concerns, the fact is that customer information is critical to the long-term success of a company and content management systems, and their ability to prevent data loss, are here to stay.

A very common and popular Content Management System used in many companies of all sizes is SalesForce.com.

Closing a Sale

The incredible availability to information that customers have access to has changed sales drastically. If you've been out of sales for several years, you will be surprised to find out that customers are much better informed and educated than when you were hitting the streets.

The result is that your customers are better informed before you walk in their door, which heavily affects the way you close the sale.

While hard closing techniques are still employed and can still produce results, more elegant closing strategies are much more effective and used significantly more.

Today's sales professional relies on rapport to close sales. They know that their customers have more options with the Internet, and all the purchasing options it affords a customer, always but a click away.

Networking

Meeting someone face to face is a success factor that should simply never go out of style. Networking means meeting with, speaking with and establishing a relationship with people who can advance each others' professional careers. Today, much of the networking that you will do will be Internet based. Whether your networking will include building up your connections on LinkedIN, establishing a Twitter and Facebook page or a combination of these three networking staples, you need to fully expect that your networking efforts will be more than meeting people face to face.

You may also need to get comfortable and proficient at using email as your main method of customer contact. Picking up the phone and calling a customer is more often seen as a disruption when compared to the relative ease of reading and responding to an email.

Learning proper and professional email etiquette is a skill that all sales professionals should develop.

Summary

Getting back into sales after a 5 or 10 years absence is going to be a challenge. Not only has technology changed the business world but the business world, and the way sales professionals are viewed has changed as well. Sales professionals today need to present themselves as "subject matter experts" and people who can add value to a customer's business. Sales professionals are not people always trying to make a sale but are business professionals always seeking to advise, consult, assist and improve the business culture.

Critical success sales skills, like a strong work ethic and a focus on customer service, will never go out of style. These skills will always be in high demand though their expression has and will continue to change.

You may find that you have customers that you never meet face to and who do all their business with you over the Internet. While you may hold an outside sales position, outside sales can now mean outside of the country. The traditional handshake, though not fully replaced, now shares space with email confirmations in the "confirmation of a close" arena. Text messages are displacing phone calls and your Internet reputation is as important as your "down the street" reputation.

Expecting to pick up the ball and run with it after an absence is an approach that will simply not work for most. The rules have changed and so must your day to day approach in sales.

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