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Role of sales rep has been elevated

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Saturday, Sept. 8, 2012, 5:05 p.m.

Can you guess the one career that — regardless of the economy — always has plenty of job openings?

It's sales.

Sales is an ideal place to start a career, learn about business, enjoy a measure of independence, and — if you are good — make plenty of money. Larry Lewis, creator of Client Builder Sales Training Program in Wexford, says, “If you can sell, you will always be in high demand.” You may be thinking that you are not cut out for sales, but keep reading. Much has changed in the field of sales. Before the Internet, sales reps were often little more than walking brochures. But now, the role has been elevated.

Lewis says, “A sales rep's role has expanded to helping the customer choose the right product, customize it, save money, increase efficiency, overcome obstacles, solve problems and capture opportunities. In other words, he must create value.”

What kind of career potential is there in sales? It's certainly not a dead-end career. In fact, according to Lewis, “If you have a sales background, you develop the emotional intelligence to basically do anything. Look at any company: the people who run those companies don't do the actual work, they lead the company. Your leadership skills get you farther than your technical background.”

The financial rewards are there, too, especially for those who have technical skills to match their sales abilities. A tax expert who knows how to sell is going to make two or three times more than the tax expert who can't sell, and he'll make more money than someone who sells shoes, because selling shoes doesn't require special expertise.

What does it take to succeed in sales? Lewis says you need not be the stereotypical extrovert, and cited as an example someone he knows in financial sales.

“Aaron spends all his time trying to get people to like him, thinking that in liking him they will throw business his way. He's great for golf, always quick with a joke, but he doesn't listen or drill down to the problems he can help clients solve. I call him a professional visitor instead of a professional sales person. Being the life of the party is not going to get my business.”

Lewis says being extroverted helps when prospecting, but introverts make great listeners, which is crucial to getting the sale. Lewis described a brainy information technology professional who switched over to sales: “He's the kind of person who hesitates when he speaks, and guess what his potential clients do? They fill in the blanks. They talk about their challenges, he listens, and essentially, they sell themselves.

On top of great listening skills, he has a strong commitment to the customer, he believes in what he has to offer, and he's confident he can help people. If you have those qualities, that introversion doesn't get in the way.”

Lewis is an example of one who transitioned well into sales and beyond. In high school, he starred in plays and other local performances. Then, he got a law degree and began a career as a trial lawyer. When he realized litigation was not how he wanted to spend his life, he used his speaking and influencing skills to move into sales. Eleven years later, Lewis established his sales training and consulting firm, and today has more than 20 coaches/trainers licensed to teach his program across North America.

Lewis' advice for getting hired in sales: “Don't pick a sales job because you heard there's great money there. Instead, choose an industry you find interesting or a product that you love. That's where the magic happens. When you are excited about the value you offer, it's hard to contain it.”

Chris Posti, president of Posti & Associates in Pittsburgh, is author of “The Shortest Distance between You and Your New Job,” available on Email your questions to her at

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