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From technology to education, fashion and financial services, every sector has part time jobs, even in areas like marketing. What are the flexible opportunities in sales and marketing?
By Sairee Chahal
Every business has only one objective – to serve the customer. You do that by making something or selling something. In the graph of significance, sales ranks up there in most organizations and always has a growth trajectory. Being able to pull in a customer and add to revenues is a significant function in any business and that is at the heart of having a career in sales. Working flex is a difference in terms of engagement. Most businesses like the idea of increasing revenue and decreasing costs and therefore we at Fleximoms have consistently noticed a rise in number of organisations seeking sales teams with workflex terms of engagement. The great end result is a high growth career path for performers and an opportunity to stay relevant and engaged at all times. The downside is that traditonally sales has a stereotype bias – the pushy uncouth sales man, the ‘Kahaani’ guy as one the speakers put it at the SHEROES Summit.
If you are a good communicator, can grasp and explain concepts, find meeting new people an energiser and like the high of adding to a company’s P&L, then sales is a great career option.
I would also say that one needs to be self-driven, organised and clued in to the changes in the world of business, especially the domain one is in.
Professionals who have worked in customer support roles, corporate communications, technology support, financial services operations have good chances of moving to a flex friendly sales career.
Pre-Sales: Many businesses need solicitation and advance preparation before a customer is met for a prospective sales. Pre-sales professionals assist the sales process by researching the market, preparing proposals, screening client information, fact-checking and lining up the key meetings for the customer acquisition teams. With the advent of cloud-based services and global clientele, pre-sales is easily a remote activity, especially for young growing companies for whom resource and infrastructure investment is a concern. Many young technology startups prefer to hire work from home pre-sales professionals, to support the technology sales process. This can also be applied to sectors like financial services or enterprise sales. The basic skills required include an above-average understanding of technology and business.
Corporate Sales: A lot of businesses realize that frontline account management, corporate sales isn’t a 10-12 hour job. Most meetings happen somewhere in the workday median, most of which need prior intimation and preparation. A lot of growing businesses need smart communicators, negotiators to take their concept and offering to corporate customers and realise that a good professional will be as effective in 6-7 hours. Given the suitable terms of engagement and adequate support, many companies are now hiring women professionals to line their corporate sales and account management functions.
Reseller / Affiliate Programs: There is a large pool of opportunities available as resellers, partners, which are not only highly flexible but also very rewarding. One can be a business owner pretty much without making the huge investment or finding the business model fit.
Customised sales to HNIs: There is a boutique of services available to High Networth Individuals (HNIs) and most of these are customised sales. Companies are looking for professionals on a flex basis to service this clients. Many programs require stepping out 2-3 times a week for a couple of hours.
Education: This mostly needs talking to parents and women make the best sales people in this case. There is a rising trend of women working flex in education sales and staying on a high-growth career path.
Technology: Whether it is enterprise automation software or retail cloud product, every digital business needs a cohesive sales front end. In most cases, experience of having managed customers wins and a high degree of connectedness paves way for flex.
Fashion and Consumer Retail: New models of sales, franchising and distribution led by the e-commerce boom are making way for flex sales opportunities, which are highly entrepreneurial. Rack sales, demo sales, party sales, network sales are some of the emerging formats. In other words, businesses are making the reach between a product and a customer as modular and as customer-facing as possible and that is one of the fundamentals driving workflex formats in sales. For example, a newly launched womenswear portal conducts rack sales with institutions, a financial software major employs a network of women to run demos with CXOs of the newer versions of their product, a school kids targeted brand is building a franchise of women owned networks in their local set ups and more. While the principals of servicing a sale and meeting a customer requirement are pretty much the same, technology and customisations are lending themselves to making newer models, which are flex-friendly work in sales.
Financial Services: Finally, the financial services sector is realising the value of customer trust and relationship building. There is a slow shift from high-pressure young marketing executive-led push sales to information-backed relationship sales, many a time led by women, many of them mid-career professionals.
A lot of women we talk to have never been on sales side or in a customer facing role but have the basic skills to deliver and grow. The advice to them is to approach this with a sense of openness, communicate within the organization, with customers, capitalise on your network and be armed with knowledge, of your product, sector and customer. That will help you make the leap into the most exciting side of business. Good luck!
*Photo credit: Ed Yourdon (Used under the Creative Commons Attribution License.)