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With the sales sector flooded with candidates following the events of 2020, professionals should develop and upskill themselves in the following areas to stay competitive:

1. Specialist knowledge

With so many candidates to choose from, employers are looking at whether candidates have worked in their specific industry before – those who with relevant experience will have an advantage. This comes with having niche and specialised knowledge that professionals from outside the sector would need to learn. These candidates would also bring their existing contacts to a business.

Some industries are thriving, the tech sector, for example, while others will need more help. Employers want demonstrable sales achievements on CVs to show how candidates’ contributions have driven business revenue. Any big wins secured for their previous employers will stand out.

2. Longevity

Due to economic uncertainty, employers want to hire someone who can demonstrate commitment. Those who have previously been in long-term employment with one organisation will be more likely to succeed than those with multiple short-term roles – especially if that loyalty was shown during this pandemic.

Researching a company or role will go a long way to make candidates more memorable to an employer at the interview stage. Candidates should think carefully about the role they want, and why, before they apply and ensure they ask any questions beforehand.

3. Communication

Effective communication has grown in necessity, with remote sales becoming essential for businesses now. According to Sandler Sales Training, communication is mostly non-verbal, so sales professionals may find it challenging to build a rapport or keep up with clients and prospects online. Managers will also need this skill to interact well with their own teams.

Face-to-face meetings are likely to be impossible for a while, so developing sales skills for email, phone and video calls will give professionals an advantage. Following up any applications with an email or phone call will help candidates demonstrate communication skills, personality, and dedication to the role – as well as improve their memorability to prospective employers.  

4. Customer experience

Sales candidates need to adapt further to the growing expectation of an instant response and provide a positive experience in every interaction with clients. Since the pandemic started, businesses are focusing more on keeping the clients they have and nurturing those relationships.

Taking the initiative to start conversations with them, to check in or thank them for their business, will help create loyal customers who feel appreciated. Providing them with information that would help their business and inviting them to events will help salespeople build a rapport with clients. This also provides opportunities for sales professionals to be remembered and to set the groundwork for their next sale.

5. Innovation

Businesses are looking for new ideas and ways to become more efficient and economical, as the pandemic has fundamentally changed the way most companies work. New challenges presented by the coronavirus can become opportunities, so make the most of them for long-term success. It will help candidates to develop their careers and secure the role they want.

Professionals who can come up with and help develop these ideas will be highly desirable for the foreseeable future. Creating new sales tactics and methods of engagement will help any salesperson boost their business’s revenue.

6. Technology

Those salespeople who have found ways to adapt to new technology to continue making sales, as well as honing their phone and email sales techniques, will be most in demand this year.

Using social media for engagement is becoming the norm for salespeople – it allows professionals to share interesting articles and start conversations with new prospects. Most sales professionals will need at least a basic understanding of technology to present webinars and other virtual events – these will be popular tools even after the pandemic.

7. Resilience

Handling objections and persistence have always been important soft skills for salespeople. However, this is more important now, with businesses in some sectors struggling to keep demand up and others to keep up with demand. Many people are turning down offers in other firms to stay and help their current employer endure this tumultuous time.

For any candidates struggling while working from home, resilience and optimism will be essential to hit their sales targets. However, most sales professionals are used to working independently due to the nature of the role. Those who are ready to move can still do so – it would not hurt to see what else is out there.

To learn more about what employers are looking for, download our 2024 Sales Salary Guide now.