Sales are at the very heart of business. Every business is involved in selling a product or service. Retail is simply that aspect of sales that is directed at people through front street shops and department stores.
However, many businesses are involved in selling to other companies. This could be in the form of supplying them parts for the product they are manufacturing. It may often involve selling a service needed by the business such as marketing expertise, a cleaning service, training service or computer backup service. The sector is highly technology intensive, making significant use of information, communications and other technologies to optimise the flow of goods from producers to consumers.
More than half of the employment in all sales occupations is accounted for by sales assistants. With an employment level of 118,000, this is the most populated single occupation in the economy. These occupations include sales assistants, retail cash desk and check-out operators, as well as petrol pump forecourt attendants. People working in these occupations interact directly with the customer. They make the sale happen.
These positions are typically entry points into retail careers, though some choose to spend their professional lives here, particularly in high-end, commission-based sales areas like jewellery, appliances, and others. Frontline sales experience is highly valued and many retailers promote from within.
The level of skills required varies by individual employers but at its core people working in sales need to have a pleasant personality, lots of patience, good selling skills and a good knowledge of their products.
Retail sales jobs often form part of a career extending into Management - e.g. Customer Care, Store Supervisor, Trainee Manager, and Store/Department Manager.
The retail store manager or management team has responsibility ranging from running a department within a store to running the overall establishment. Managers at all levels supervise and assist sales assistants and other employees. Additional responsibilities, depending upon store/company size and management level, include opening and closing the store, staffing, administration, and financial functions. Promotions to management positions can be earned through experience, or a college-degree may afford direct entry to management trainee programs. A number of bodies provide certified education and training programmes aimed at people working as retail managers including DIT's school of retail and services, UCC and Dublin Business School.
Telesales is a method of selling in which a salesperson engages with possible customers to buy products or services, either over the phone or through a subsequent face to face meeting. Telesales may be done from a company office, from a call centre, or from home.
An effective telesales process often involves two or more calls. The first call (or series of calls) determines the customer’s needs. The final call (or series of calls) motivates the customer to make a purchase. Telesales staff would be required to log all call details so as to avoid any confusion with their clients.
Just as businesses depend on sales to survive they are also involved in purchasing. Buying in raw materials to help create their product is another key area for business. A Purchasing Manager is an employee within a company, business or other organisation who is responsible at some level for buying goods and services needed by the company. He/she may oversee the acquisition of materials needed for production, general supplies for offices and facilities, equipment, stock or construction contracts. A Purchasing Manager often supervises purchasing agents and buyers, but in small companies the Purchasing Manager may also be the purchasing agent or buyer.
Responsibilities may include:
- seeking reliable vendors or suppliers to provide quality goods at reasonable prices
- negotiating prices and contracts
- reviewing technical specifications for raw materials, components, equipment or buildings
- determining quantity and timing of deliveries (more commonly in small companies)
Getting into Sales
Training for a career in sales and retailing are generally provided through work experience and training on the job. FAS provide a range of courses to train people in the role of sales representative and retail sales. Most business studies courses focus on aspects of sales and marketing. DIT offer more specialised courses in retail sales and management.
Technology careers linked to retail and purchasing are numerous and varied in the retail industry. From the e-commerce websites that complement most bricks and mortar stores, to complex computer systems, from technology driven training programs delivered over satellites or the Internet to state-of-the art cash register and credit systems. Web design of on-line retail outlets is also a growing area as are computer network management systems.