Vienna, Austria – Sales drive businesses, and it is essential to hire the best sales staff. But is the sales department really such a shark tank? Last year, Conrad Pramböck (CP) said: “In difficult times, the best remain.” His advice to sales staff: “Be careful, think about what you are doing – don’t look for a quick closing, but aim for a good customer relationship.”
The following table gives some idea of the average ages and gross annual salaries in various positions:
How would you assess the labour market in sales at the moment?
CP: If you feel comfortable with the sales process, this field is probably the best area to forge a successful career, simply because your performance is so transparent. In comparison, it can be difficult to show off your skills in HR or Auditing – everyone knows that Accounting is very important, but your performance is not so clearly seen.
“In football, it is of course important to have a good goalie and coach, but most of the applause goes to a striker like Ronaldo when he scores a goal.”
Of course, not everybody is a born salesman. For sales, you must enjoy approaching people, working with people and expressing yourself. In the long run, to succeed in sales you must be able to stand behind the product or service that you are selling – otherwise you will quickly become untrustworthy and disreputable.
What is your prognosis? What are the opportunities and risks?
CP: In recent years, a lot of things have happened in sales. Things are becoming increasingly difficult because of the competition in many industries. These days, it is not enough to be good locally – you must be good internationally. The Internet and social media have brought greater transparency to international competition in many industries. For example, take IT services: If I want a website to be programmed properly, I compete directly with people from India or Southeast Asia, because their services are cheaper.
It's all about trust!
CP: In my experience, it is very important to build a sustainable relationship of trust with the customer. In many industries, it is no longer so easy to make a quick buck, because customers are now much more critical and seek comparative offers. Of course, some will make decisions based on price, but in the end, I would rather work with people who radiate a trust relationship. This sometimes causes conflict where companies are driven by quarterly results, and employees can be dismissed if they do not make the numbers. This can work in areas with a fast turnaround, for example IT sales, but I have also noticed that customers are becoming more critical when there is no continuity and a different employee is the contact person each time. There are also customers who only buy when the contact person remains the same from year to year. You are therefore well advised to maintain stability and consistency, whether as an employee or a company.
What role does the level of education play in sales?
CP: This is different for every sector. In most cases it is enough if I can sell products well, although for some sectors is very important that the job is done by a university graduate – if the customers are also university graduates, they should be on an equal footing. However, it is also possible to succeed in sales without a college degree, simply because in this field your performance is so transparent. In other words: anyone who can sell, can create a successful career.
Does training have any impact on salary?
CP: For young people, sales training relates primarily to technique, for example, telephone training on the best ways to arrange meetings or attract customers, etc. This is mainly handled in-house, although it can also be done with external trainers and consultants, when a sales coach or a telephone trainer is brought in.
A good seller is not the same as a good leader.
How quickly can you build up a career?
CP: Very quickly! Anyone who wants to make a career in sales just needs to sell more! Interestingly, this often means that the best salespeople then become executives. However, for this you need other skills. Great sales skills are the best basis for being promoted to executive positions – the higher the sales figures, the higher the bonus. However, as a manager, I don’t need to be able to sell by myself – that’s what my team does – but to lead my team members very well. If I promote my best salesperson to executive and s/he can’t hack it, I have lost an excellent salesperson and gained a bad manager. In my opinion, many companies invest too little in making young executives into better managers – and with these efforts they do not even make better salespeople.
Do you have any advice on how to get more money when working in sales?
CP: Very simple: sell more! Basically there are two ways to increase sales:
1. Better performance;
2. More responsibility.
To improve performance: Many companies have introduced a bonus system, where you can be rewarded for increasing sales or revenue.
To increase responsibilities: Sell more products, a broader product portfolio, to a larger region. If I start out responsible for West Austria, and expand to sell throughout the entire DACH region, I can reasonably ask for a salary increase and management responsibilities.
Conrad Pramböck is the Head of Compensation Consulting at Pedersen & Partners. Based in Vienna, Austria, he is responsible for consulting companies on all aspects of compensation, including providing companies with up-to-date market information on salary ranges and design of bonus systems across all industries and geographies. Prior to joining the firm, Mr. Pramböck held several senior positions in international consultancy firms. He started his career with a German Consultancy firm working in management consulting and later in the Compensation Consulting business unit based in Austria. For the following seven years he worked with one of the top Austrian Executive Search firms as the Head of Compensation Consulting. He was responsible for all international compensation consulting activities and developed and maintained an international compensation database in 40 countries.
Pedersen & Partners is a leading international Executive Search firm. We operate 56 wholly owned offices in 52 countries across Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia & the Americas. Our values Trust, Relationship and Professionalism apply to our interaction with clients as well as executives. More information about Pedersen & Partners is available at www.pedersenandpartners.com
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