AN OVERVIEW OF THE SALES PROFESSION
The Principle behind Sales: An Everyday Thing
by Miguel Hidalgo and James Duren
Does building a career in sales make you nervous? Don’t worry. Think of it this way: nearly every day we sell ourselves. Whether it’s in a relationship with your boyfriend or girlfriend, someone you’re interested in, your job or your group friends, we tend to sell ourselves in a way that makes people like us, or, in the case of a job, hire us or promote us.
Sales jobs revolved around the same principle. You are presenting a product or service in a way that makes people want to buy it.
Joining a Sales Force
Sales jobs come in all shapes and sizes. When sales positions are combined to form a team, they become what’s known as a sales force. In general, a sales force:
• Generates the complex sales.
• Provides customer service.
• Manages product lines.
• Conducts public relations.
The boss must regularly establish the parameters for a sales force and constantly measure the return on investment, because a sales force, even one operating on commission, is an expensive proposition. This is why you need to make yourself valuable. Anyone can make the easy sale – be the salesperson that makes the tough sale.
Your Sales Force Teammates: Three Types
A myriad of different personalities make up a sales force, but they usually fall into three categories: the cash-strapped college student, the dedicated salesperson and the foreign competition.
Cash-strapped college student
These guys and gals are the ones who spent years training for another profession but failed in their endeavor and feel like they can’t get back on their feet. They never intended to be salespeople in the first place. They make a halfhearted effort to sell, all the while feeling self-pity for the career they could have had. There’s one thing you can learn from them: sales is a job for those who love it.
The dedicated salespeople have graduated in a field somewhat related to sales or have a high level of knowledge about their products. They’re interested in professional sales development and wish to reap rewards commensurate with their level of risk. This group is possessed with the right attitude: to sell, and to sell with conviction.
Foreign nationals who come to the United States for sales opportunities could be your biggest competition. They know the facts – the solar industry grew at a rate of 20 times the national employment growth rate in the United States this past year. Trained at different universities in their home country or groomed at a university in the United States, they’re ready to take the solar sales world by storm.
The Day-to-Day Job of the Sales Force
The sales force has a number of frontline responsibilities on a daily basis. Here are a few of the most important ones:
• Generate revenue by selling the company’s products and services.
• Implement the company’s strategies.
• Take calculated risks to achieve results.
• Operate with little to no direct supervision.
• Meet quotas and sales goals on a regular basis.
Your Daily Habits: The Key to Staying Strong
Their tasks are mentally and physically demanding and require creativity, persistence, discipline, plenty of mojo, a healthy diet and a couple doses of superhuman strength. Here’s a few things you should be practicing everyday to sharpen yourself physically and mentally:
• Daily exercise, since it keeps the mind and body resilient to stress
• Excellent social skills, which are essential to connecting with people and selling
• High level of motivation, akin to an entrepreneurial spirit, is a necessity
In the long run, a positive and healthy attitude keeps the dream alive.
MASTERING THE TRADE SHOW: A GUIDE TO SUCCESS
One of your most valuable venues at which to make sales are trade shows. They’re a great place for you to show your mettle as a salesperson. To become the greatest salesperson in the world, acting normal will not cut it. You must act and look fabulous!
Imagine yourself at the top of a world-class mountain, claiming bragging rights to be there. Inhale all the energy in the room. Embrace the moment. After breakfast, run back upstairs to your swanky hotel room and grab the extra boxes of business cards still hidden in your luggage. Distribute all your business cards to everyone in sight. You must be persistent if you want to succeed.
Don’t stop at business cards. Shake hands with everyone at the event. Have a 30-second, well-rehearsed variety pitch ready to deliver to everyone in sight. It’s also a good idea to have another two-minute variety script on standby. Feel free to play with the intro and conclusion to each script, but keep the body content the same so that your delivery is consistent with the presentation that follows. If you have found a better way to do this, go for it.
There are two types of people you need to connect with at your next trade show: the experienced sales executives looking to recruit the best salespeople at trade shows, and the experienced buyers ready to buy at trade shows.
Your sole objective at a trade show is to captivate and cash in with the experienced buyers. Your boss is expecting you to slice and dice the crowd. He or she has invested a lot of time and money to send you to the trade show and you’ve invested a lot of effort. No complaining. That’s what weak salespeople do. Drink your coffee. Put on your makeup. Spray on your cologne or perfume. Style your hair.
Enter the trade-show floor with purpose. If not, you will lose.
Three Things You Should Always Do
The interactions you have with buyers and recruiters need to be decisive. Do these four things in every conversation
• Use superb verbal communication skills.
• Ooze confident non-verbal cues.
• Be resilient – if you don’t have an answer to a question, don’t worry.
• Dazzle buyers with your finest sales presentation.
Three Things You Should Never Do
Nailing the things you need to do is only part of trade-show success. Here are four things you should never do at a trade show:
• Never, ever let a potential buyer slip away with nothing.
• Never ever get caught unprepared. Have your pitch and presentation ready.
• Never act like an outcast. Move from person to person.
• Don’t smoke and don’t drink in between pitches. It’s unprofessional and can be seen as insulting. Stay minty fresh.
Representing Like a Professional
You don’t just represent just yourself at a trade show. You represent your boss and your company. Conduct yourself with class. Be respectful. Be well-groomed. And remember – the clock is ticking.
Every salesperson’s goal is to sell, but only those who are prepared and serious will meet their milestones.
Take your next trade show seriously and you’ll see how sloppy your competition is: half asleep, withdrawn because of jet-lag, recovering from a hangover, full of excuses or acting just plain dumb.
THE RENEWABLE ENERGY INDUSTRY: A GOLD MINE
The renewable energy industry is booming and the solar sector is leading the way. Any salesperson serious about making money and being on the forefront of energy technology needs to do their research before entering the renewable energy market. In the event that you don’t have the skills to sell renewable energy products, consider supplying a service to the renewable energy industry. Be creative.
The renewable energy industry is emerging in a wave of incredible products and services that present an array of extremely profitable sales opportunities.
Facts about the Solar Industry
Commissions at reputable solar distribution centers typically start at $50,000 in the first year, while the average sales salary is $110,000. In the United States, it is not uncommon for salespeople to earn much higher income based on their results, commensurate with their level of risk.
Furthermore, there are thousands of jobs opening up in the solar sector in the United States. The Solar Foundation said that 31,000 new solar jobs opened in 2014, expanding the solar workforce more than 21 percent since 2013.
The United States isn’t the only market interested in harnessing the sun’s power: solar is becoming a global phenomenon in developed and developing countries all around the world.
The Competition: Motivated
Competition for these lucrative positions is intense and the rejection rate is high, even for qualified applicants. Winning a position in this industry is a matter of motivation:
The numbers speak for themselves … many times solar salespeople make more money than their bosses. Cash is a great motivator for a salesperson.
Altruistic people who truly want to change the world are motivated to sell solar products. They want more than just making money, they want to make a difference by selling renewable energy options.
Your international competition is researching harder than or just as hard as you, and they live in developing countries desperate for renewable energy. They are serious about making sales, whether abroad in their home country or here in the United States. They want the opportunity of a good career in an industry that can not only revolutionize the United States, but the whole world.
Busting Down Doors for a Career in Solar Sales
For those of you exploring opportunities in the industry, try knocking on the doors of solar installation companies in your area and find out what it takes for them to hire you. Don’t be afraid of rejection. If you counter with a polished response, you have already demonstrated that you are a cut above the rest.
The receptionist is the gatekeeper of the solar energy office. Making a good impression with him or her can pay dividends later when hiring managers are deciding between several candidates. Here are some tips for getting noticed:
• Create a professional looking business card.
• Drop off a box of donuts or a fruit and vegetable tray at the receptionist’s desk and include your business card.
• Ask the receptionist to call you when there is an opening or special training session being offered.
• Treat the receptionist with respect.
• Be prepared for a surprise meeting with a boss or hiring manager.
Getting Ahead Before You Get Started
Get your foot in the door by asking the hiring manager to enroll you in the next training event sponsored by a manufacturer at a distribution house. Offer to pay for the slot. Hiring managers look for job-seekers who take the initiative to learn on their own dime and time, because this means shorter training cycles and higher chances for success for both of you. It is expensive to train an unproven salesperson, and doubly frustrating if the trained salesperson gives notice soon after.
It’s up to you to learn as much as you can before entering the renewable energy industry. Look for training classes in your local area to acquire legitimate solar training certificates and credits. Need a lead for where to start looking? Look at all the education and training connections offered by Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc. (ABC).
Getting Formal Training
Formal sales training will provide you with plenty of additional tools which will make you a more attractive candidate for the job opening you really want. Formal training teaches you how to:
• Conduct site analyses.
• Calculate financial costs.
• Extend credit incentives.
• Dig deeper for savings on behalf of the customer.
• Monitor performance.
• Show customers how to effectively use their amazing new solar system without your help.
These additional skills provide added value, and this is how you can earn your keep as a valuable partner in the solar business. And while you are burning on all cylinders, network and get out of your comfort zone so you can meet people who can really help you. A great resource for the aspiring solar salesmen is a bonded licensed contractor. These contractors can train you to become a sales estimator, a new position opening up in the solar industry.
How to Approach Your Interview
Your hard work has paid off. You have an interview at a solar company and you’re wondering, “What’s the next step?” Great question:
Conduct research on the industry and the company before leaping into a sales interview. Find out more about their products and services. Learn all there is to know before jumping into a final decision.
Know the Competitors
Be ready for a fight. You’ll be competing against applicants with sales backgrounds. You’ll also be battling it out with applicants from other countries. These talented individuals acquire additional business skills from prestigious universities in other parts of the world. As this growing class will demonstrate, they are fearless when it comes to selling. They’ll be just as hungry as you, if not hungrier.
If you are preparing to stride through the door and demand a salary, benefits and expense account at the first interview, think again. You need to sell yourself. You need to work hard to get noticed. You don’t have time to play games. Being overconfident is a dangerous way to approach an interview.
People willing to work on commission are entrepreneurial risk-takers and, out of desperation, they position themselves ready to sell. They are determined to win a job in solar and they will not accept anything less.
Many of the applicants dream about having a chance to succeed. They have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Therefore, they conduct research on the industry, learn the company products or services and submit a proposal with realistic deadlines on how quickly they can earn their keep at the first business meeting. This is what you must do as well. You must be determined.
This mentality of determination should be the standard for getting hired for a potentially lucrative sales position at a reputable global company searching for the best talent.
The first interview can turn out to be the first business meeting if the boss wants to save time. Time is money, and money must be spent wisely. Show up with a polished presentation and be prepared to give input.
SUCCEEDING AS A SOLAR SALESMEN
Now You’re Selling Solar: Welcome to the Jungle
When you get your first job in solar, you need to come out with your guns blazing. Your international competitors know how lucrative your job is and they’re just waiting for you to fail so they can scoop up your vacant position. If failure is not an option for you, you must be determined to:
• Act like the polished salesperson that you are.
• Take charge of situations.
• Devise ways to sell products and services quickly.
• Devour your competitors.
• Beat down the doors to win customers.
If you don’t walk out of the door every day with the mentality that you are the firm’s best salesperson, someone else will.
You have one shot at this. Make it count.
Make a written plan of attack with goals and clear steps toward those goals. Be persistent with your plan. If you have your sales manager’s approval, conduct your own research to harvest leads but don’t stray too far from your primary tasks and responsibilities.
Generate your own leads to match the leads given to you. If the company does not provide you with any leads, your job is much more difficult but not impossible. Be determined. Be persistent. Be confident and go for it!
And as we said, your competition in the international market is ready to destroy you. The new hire from the other side of the world is watching your every move. They want to make sales as much as you do, if not more. They know the opportunity that lies before them and they will do whatever they can to seize it. This is not a game for the faint of heart. The moment you ease up, they’ll surge ahead and leave you behind.
Don’t Be Lazy
There are studies suggesting that most salespeople spend only two hours per day selling. The rest of the time is spent:
• Hanging around the water cooler.
• Drinking coffee.
• Gossiping about the latest news.
• Gambling at sporting events on company time.
• Sipping tea.
• Playing games on their phone or computer.
• Instant messaging.
• Using social networks.
Don’t play these types of games. The clock is ticking and you must switch your attitude to survival mode. Wake up! You must increase your output.
Invest 14 to 16 hour days until you score. And even after all of that, there are still no assurances of success. However, if you maintain the right frame of mind and make smart adjustments, there are even more exciting adventures waiting after you score a major sale.
The Sale: Taking Care of Your Customers
If you are already a solar salesperson, the eager customer is relying on your good judgment and your ability to keep promises. Even under calm blue skies, expectations are running turbulently high. Solar is an emerging energy solution and it requires a big investment. Your customers are expecting the best from you, but they’re not all doing it for the same reasons. The most popular types of customers are:
The Money Saver
This earnest customer wants a practical solution to dramatically reduce or eliminate high utility bills. It could be the primary reason you are there – to help tighten a few belts. These customers are spending a lot of money now to save in the future.
The Planet Saver
Other customers might be green-energy fans who want to save the planet, reduce carbon emissions and prevent global warming. These customers have hired you because what you’re selling fits with the way they want to live their life.
Whatever the motive may be, what’s important is the attentive service you provide to your precious customer. If you or your boss have other products to sell, offer them as an option to your customer. Perhaps a room addition or a remodeling of the entire house is just what the customer needs, rather than buying a new house. Taking care of your customer is the best way to get repeat business and referrals.
The Huge Commitment
Forget Starbucks. Cancel the holidays. Switch to a less expensive lifestyle.
Sales requires sacrifice.
The most important suggestion we can give you is to ask your family and friends for support and some cooperation before building a career in sales. You’ll need their support to succeed and they’ll need your transparency to make them feel like they are a part of what you’re doing.
If you are married with children, take care of them. Here’s a few tips we’ve learned along the way:
• Keep them in the loop and tell them exactly what you are doing on a daily basis.
• Cherish them and include them in your wildest dreams.
• Be faithful and spend time with them. Have fun!
• Count every penny spent and save the rest for a brighter future.
Your Slow Seasons
Every sales job hits highs and lows, whether it’s because of the economy in general or a slowdown in the industry itself. You’ll need to remember a few things in times like these:
• Find a buyer as fast as you can when the days are lean and mean.
• You’ll operating at peak performance during down years – remember what you learn.
• Explore religions or belief systems which give you a bigger perspective on life. Cold streaks can leave you feeling hopeless.
• Be open to magic moments. Falling in love or reconnecting with family or relatives will remind you that life isn’t just about sales.
• Make sure you want to build a career in sales. If you do, you’ll ride out the hard times.
STAYING IN THE BUSINESS: OUR TIPS
Commit to professionalism
You career in solar sales will last if you are willing to do what it takes to be a true professional. Our experience in sales taught us these principles:
• Put your positive attributes to work.
• Image is everything: learn how dress for success.
• Ooze charisma.
• Extend your customers the proper courtesies during your pitch.
• Don’t rush your sales.
• Take the time to discover your customer’s needs.
• Remember this age-old adage: “Features tell and benefits sell.”
• Reward your loyal customers.
Even seasoned professionals continue their learning about sales strategies, products and services. Never race into the sales arena – whether it’s a trade show or a pitch in a customer’s home – without a well-rehearsed script. Brush up on your solar knowledge every month. Don’t become stagnant or complacent with your expertise. Act professional!
Like a good workout, take adversity as a challenge. It’s good for you. Your toughness will guide you even if a customer comes off rather prickly. Don’t be deterred. Retain your confidence and keep your eyes on the prize, which is not only the immediate sale, but the referrals as well. Such steps to move forward help more than the most expensive marketing campaigns money can buy. Above all else, be true to yourself. If you fake it, you lose.
Do you need World-Class Solar Products at the Best Prices?
Now that you’ve been through the thick and the thin of the sales world, we ask you to consider Solarpowergetics as your reliable supplier for solar systems, solar applications and components. It’s our turn to earn your trust. Would you please talk to your boss about us?
Also, sign up for our free newsletter to get the latest about our company. Read our site for the latest solar technology news, promotions, discounts and road-show events. If you have any questions, send us an email or chat with a live operator online at our website. We are always ready. Best of luck, fame and fortune to you.