The Sales Executive is the personable person who loves to sell and engage with people.

Entering into the world of sales can be challenging. It’s a job that’s seen in two different ways – the person who is always trying to get a deal and pushing people into buying things, or the valuable asset that keeps the business afloat.

Sales isn’t easy, it requires determination, focus, and a willingness to work with other people. You need more than just a big smile, you need to be interested in what people want, in what your business offers, and you need an understanding of how people think.

Successful sales people can go on to work in high profile jobs at multi-national companies, bringing their charm and intelligence to huge deals that are worth millions. They often end up in leadership roles as they understand how to talk to people and the fundamentals of business.

There are levels to sales. You can work as a retail salesperson and this job involves a different skillset to working as a call centre salesperson or as a sales representative for a company.

Each of these roles provides you with the skills you can use to move into other roles or to further your career in sales. Where you start in sales will depend on your interests, your level of education, and your personality.

Here are some of the most common sales roles and what they require of you.

Retail sales:

  • Customer relationship management – working with people to help them find their way or find a specific item
  • Managing the till and sales
  • Knowing the store, its products and its pricing
  • Security management – you can be in charge of recognising theft or fraud

Everyone has met a great retail sales person. They make your day with their friendliness, helpfulness and complete understanding of the shop they work in. Everyone has met a bad one too – the sour expression and lack of interest can put customers off a store for good.

Sales executive:

  • Cold calling sales over the phone or in person
  • Lead generation and management
  • Customer liaison and care
  • Comprehensive understanding of the customer business and your own business
  • Challenging and demanding hours that will inspire some, but dishearten others

Sales executives have a complex and stressful job that may not be for everyone. Great sales executives will make a lot of money, build great networks and have a lot of fun doing it. Bad ones, or those who struggle with this job, will not do well either financially or in their career.

The skills that you ideally need as a sales executive include:

  • Product knowledge
  • Customer understanding
  • Strategic thinking
  • Confidence and perseverance
  • High level interpersonal skills
  • Technology and numeracy skills
  • Patience and understanding
  • Time management
  • Self-motivated and driven
  • Sociable
  • Open to learning new things

There’s no hard and fast rule book when it comes to being a brilliant sales person. There have been thousands of books and articles written on the subject and nobody quite agrees. What they do agree on, however, is that you need to be a driven, motivated and people-friendly individual with a passion for your business and your career growth.

The average salary for a sales executive is R144, 857 per year but this can rise dramatically to R533k per year if you’re good at what you do.


Boost your skills while at school

Sales is a tricky one. You can do a degree which will grant you access to more high profile and well-paid sales jobs, or you can go into sales straight from school and use courses or on-the-job training to grow your skills.

The route you take will depend on your budget and your personal preferences, but there are plenty of stories where people went from sales on the shop floor to running mega-million organisations so don’t feel disheartened if you didn’t finish matric. One such story is that of Howard Schultz, the CEO of Starbucks who started out as a sales person at Xerox.

While you’re at school considering boosting your skills using the free Vodacom e-school portal or Top Dog. Both platforms provide you with free extra lessons in specific subjects, helping you to really expand your knowledge and address problem areas. If you’d like to use these platforms to prepare for the role of sales executive, consider using it to brush up on your English and other languages, maths, computing, business science, economics, accounting, and life sciences.

Vodacom e-school does ask you to register first but the process is as simple as entering your name, a password of your choosing, and the one-time-pin that they send you. Then select your grade (you can change this at any time) and start learning. Read our comprehensive breakdown of the accountancy profession below to find out which role best suits you and your career aspirations and to help you choose the right subjects at school.


How to train to become a sales executive

There are several different roads you can take to reaching the top of sales. Here are some of the degrees, courses and steps that you can take to expand your skills in this space. Just remember, you can start in a role and invest into your training as you grow in experience and ability so the road ahead is open to your interpretation.


Education institution options:

Sales Associations: