6/21/12

I Think I Want to Become a Salesman – Should I Bother Even Considering It?

If you are thinking about such a position, then you must have heard that this is a field where big money can be made. Well, it’s partially true – big money can be made depending on what you sell (the niche you are working in) and depending on your skills.

First of all, you should know what you would be doing on such a position. Most probably you will start as an entry level salesman, be involved in some training sessions, the product or service of the company will be presented to you and then you will be asked to start selling. If you are lucky to get a job in a larger company, you will go in the field with a senior agent to observe how things are done. If not, you are on your own. Your job is to contact clients (some already existing in the company database, some brand new that you think of), convince them to meet you, present them the offer, give details and answer tons of questions and again if you are convincing enough and if they need the product or service you sell you will get to close the deal and cash a nice commission. Sounds easy? Well, don’t bet on it…

Right now you may have some native skills, but you have no experience and you have had no training. Why should they hire and pay you if they can get someone who has experience, who comes with a network of customers and who will sell for sure? Well, the first thing you need to learn how to sell is yourself.
Start preparing a strategy. You have no training – then get some: selling techniques, direct marketing, viral marketing, etc. Don’t expect your employer only to organize this for you. To show them you are interested, do some trainings on your own, read books, talk to other agents, get connected (I recommend LinkedIn), then put all these details in your CV, add your native skills if you have any that might be useful, then start applying to jobs. Get prepared to be rejected, but never give up. It’s crucial. If you give up, then you don’t have the main skill that you need for a job in sales – being perseverent, not taking rejection personally and understanding the other side’s perspective.

Some additional trainings you can get involved in besides sales techniques are communication, public speaking and negotiation skills. They will also help you during the interview. Expect a lot of role plays and get prepared before. Ask one of your friends to test you and also talk to yourself in the mirror to get used to the presentations. Good luck in getting hired and here are a few Sales FAQs that might help you decide if this is a job for you.

Is there another position I can start on?
Yes, merchandiser. This is someone who approaches clients in large stores or areas where target customers wander around and offer them free samples of products, talk to them about offers and discounts sometimes even asking them to buy something .

What’s the nasty part of sales?
Getting rejected over and over again. Don’t take it personally and don’t give up. This is going to make you stronger and help you come up with better and better presentation and arguments until one day you will realize you’ve become one of the best in your field. 

What should I sell?
Start with something you know or like even if you don’t make that much money. If you love reading, start selling books. Knowing and loving the product helps you come up with arguments that will convince the customer. Then, after you have learnt the sales techniques, you can move up to products that really bring you the big money – like luxury cars, homes, any other luxury goods. Of course moving up is not mandatory. If you like what you sell and you are satisfied with your earnings, you can stick to your initial product or service.

How should I address the potential customer?
By identifying a need they have and offering solutions to that need (your product/service of course). If the customer doesn’t have that need or if you don’t convince them that they do, your scope is lost.

How important is networking?
Crucial. Being sociable and getting to know people allows you to identify their needs. They will trust someone they have known for a while to sell them something than someone brand new. Also, try to get recommended. A satisfied customer will bring you his friends and family, so more money.

What’s a target?
It’s a number (number of products sold, amount of money cashed in, number of contracts signed, number of customers contacted) that you need to pursue on a given period of time. Achieving your target and even going above it are the things that you need to focus on in order to be a successful salesman.

How do I start finding customers?
Create a strategy in order to work organized: think of who might want/need your product/service and then prepare a list of names and contact details. Start with the people you know, then the people recommended by the ones you know and only then go to strangers. Again, don’t give up. Some customers may not even bother to answer the phone or agree to meet you. Just don’t give up, search details about them and think how you can approach them. You need to remember that your target in front of them is not to get rich, but to solve a need they have. This is how you think your presentation.

How do I present the price?
Always have a price prepared, show it to the customer when they ask about it or include it in the printed materials if you offer the client any (and you should do this for them to have something to think of otherwise they will forget all about you the second you’re out the door), but mention that you are willing to negotiate discounts, offer them additional benefits and so on.

How do I present the product/service?
Present the main features that you think would interest the client and solve his/her need first. Deciding to buy takes only a few seconds. If you’re not able to capture the attention during the first moments, the sale is lost.
Start with the need it is addressing then have a lot of arguments prepared. Always study competition before and be prepared to receive questions about the advantages you offer compared to the competition. Offer solid arguments. If your product is better, but costs more, talk about quality and its durability in time. If it’s not, be prepared to discuss lower prices and additional benefits you are offering. Sometimes you may be selling the same product as the competition so additional benefits and your relationship with the customer are key elements in the final decision.

How should I behave?
Be open, listen carefully to questions, don’t contradict openly, keep answers to questions short and precise, and try not to waste the client’s time. If the client clearly rejects you, try to understand why and try to come back in a while with something new in terms of product/service, with a new offer of discounts or simply during a period of time when the client has money or is able to buy. Again, don’t give up and don’t be aggressive and desperate to sell no matter what. You don’t only want a customer, but also want the customer in front of you to recommend you further. Agreeing with them the best time to come back is better than a sale pushed upon the client who will never want to hear about you again. Show you care about their needs too and not only your profit.

If there’s any additional question you would like to see here, please write me on my email or post a comment here.
Good luck with your careers and take care,
Geo

And one more thing - this post was part of the Carnival of HR on the 4th of July.
More details here: http://www.blogging4jobs.com/hr/its-the-shrm12-notatshrm-carnival-of-hr/ 

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6/4/12

How to Become a Project Manager

The position of Project Manager is more and more present on the job market and on job portals, so becoming Project Manager is attracting employees more and more. It sounds important and it is convincing people to specialize and follow project management courses and acquire project management certifications. But is it that simple? And are there details you should know before starting? Is there something that you should be careful about? The answer to these questions is “No”, “Yes” and “Yes” in that order. It’s not simple – it’s a long and serious process that requires lots of work and also since there’s money to be invested you must be really careful what you invest it in.

Let me start by telling you what a Project Manager does:
  1. A Project manager is assigned a project to complete  by a certain deadline – has a clear mission like build a bridge in one year;
  2. He/she then needs to start thinking what he/she needs in order to do that: how much money (this is the planned budget), how many people, how many machines and what other type of equipment and materials, what authorizations and what paperwork needs to be done; all these items are called resources;
  3. Then a clear plan needs to be made so that the large project is split is smaller activities: the materials need to be bought by this deadline, the people hired by this deadline, the machines need to clear the land by this deadline, soil structure analysis needs to be done by this deadline,  the pillars need to be built by this deadline and so on;
  4. Then risks need to be identified and addressed: what do we do if we don’t manage to hire all the necessary workers by the set deadline, what do we do if the price of materials raises suddenly and we need to increase the budget, what do we do if there’s a flood and we need to stop work for a week and so on depending on the project;
  5. Then clear tasks need to be given to the members of the team, conflicts should they appear solved, people need to be monitored and so on.
-          The Project Manager is the one responsible if the project is not delivered on time.

How should you start, then?

First step: takes a few months and allows you to acquire the basics of Project Management – learn notions like project, details of a project, start date and end date, intermediary deadlines, milestones, project resources which include both human and material resources, project risks and how to address those and the role of the project manager and of the team (because a project manager never works alone). All these notions can be acquired by trainings you do yourself, or books you read. You don’t need courses that are too advanced or a certification from first. Take your time to understand the basics and realize if this is really for you. Be really careful what trainings of Introduction to Project Management you attend. There are a lot of companies which offer them and most of the times cheap equals to poor quality, so be really careful. You may end up with the diploma you wish for but get no real knowledge you can use.      

Second step: try to develop the skills you need to be a good Project Manager – first the skills for the “project” part like organizing and prioritizing skills (these are crucial), analytical thinking, ability to say “no”, to be assertive, then the “management” part of the skills like the ability to lead a team, to solve conflicts, to efficiently split resources and tasks among team members to meet deadlines, the ability to motivate your team. Again, think carefully if this is really for you because from now on you start investing the big money and not only your time. And if you get a Project Management certification that is really expensive and don’t use it, then it has all been a waste of time and money.

Step 3: register in a Project Management training to obtain a Project Management certificationFoundations Level. Some good certifications that are accepted all over the world are Prince 2 and PMP. The prices are quite high but they look great in every Project Manager’s CV and can help you get good paid Project Management jobs. The Foundations level for Prince 2 for example costs around 1000 USD/750 Eur. This is the step when you turn professional. You no longer learn and practice Project Management by yourself, but are officially a Project Manager. Try to get involved at the same time in projects to practice what you have learnt.

Step 4: learn how to use Project Management software. You can start with the basic Microsoft Project which is part of the Office Suite. It offers a lot of functionalities from project properties, milestones, resources and budgets. You can create charts of activities, deadlines and resources. Then go online and see what’s available in this field. You will be amazed to see how much this area has developed too in the past years. 

Step 5: get more advanced Project Management certifications. You can try Prince 2 Practitioner to start with. Of course all these certifications need to be combined with practice on the job. Information on the Project Management certifications can be found online so I will not get too much into details.

So now, all I can do is hope that my article has helped you decide whether Project Management is really for you. It’s a specialized job that requires years to become really good and remember that a single course of two days in Project Management basics is not enough to give you confidence to apply to such a serious position.

Take care,
Geo

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