Restarting your career as a newcomer in Canada does not necessarily mean starting from scratch. If you’re coming to Canada with several years’ worth of professional experience, many of your existing skills may be transferable to the Canadian job market. However, there may be skill gaps you need to bridge before you can find your first job in Canada.
If you’re a sales professional, this article gives an overview of key skills required for sales jobs in Canada. Education requirements and in-demand skills for sales jobs may not be the same for all industries and job levels, so we also provide tips on how to research key skills you should include on your resume to land a job in sales.
In this article:
- Educational background and experience required for sales jobs
- In-demand hard skills for sales jobs in Canada
- In-demand soft skills for sales jobs in Canada
- What skills should I put on my resume for sales jobs?
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The educational credentials required for sales jobs in Canada vary by seniority and industry. For a corporate sales manager role, you may require a degree in management or a master’s in business administration (MBA), while a secondary school diploma along with occupation-specific training may be sufficient for a sales role in retail or wholesale trade.
Technical sales specialists (including pharmaceutical, IT, and financial sales representatives) typically require at least a college or vocational diploma in a relevant field, or apprenticeship training, to build expertise for industry-focused sales. If you apply to a sales supervisor position, you’ll likely need a degree in commerce or a college diploma to qualify. However, entry-level positions in sales sometimes require no formal education, and on-the-job training will suffice.
Depending on the seniority level of the position, you may also require prior sales experience. As a newcomer, your foreign sales experience may be transferable to the Canadian market. However, there may be certain skill or knowledge gaps you need to bridge before you can land your dream job in sales.
Hard skills are technical, job-specific skills you need to have in order to do a particular job. You can generally learn these skills during the course of your education, work experience, or training. Here are some of the key hard skills that are in demand for sales jobs in Canada:
Most sales jobs in Canada require English language proficiency, so you can communicate with customers effectively. If your language skills need improvement, leverage the English as a Second Language (ESL) resources available across Canada and spend time practising.
Since most sales jobs are customer facing or involve managing employees who engage directly with customers, a proficiency in customer service is generally a requirement. According to the data presented by the Canadian Online Job Posting Dashboard, a whopping 30 to 50 per cent of sales jobs require customer service experience, with the requirement decreasing with seniority.
Usually this involves the ability to explain your products or services to the customer, make them feel valued, and handle difficult interactions with tact and professionalism. This skill is highly transferable, so if you worked in sales or customer-facing roles in your home country, be sure to include that experience in your resume.
To qualify for mid- to senior-level sales jobs, you’ll need to demonstrate you have a strong understanding of the market, including industry trends, the competitive environment, and consumer demand. This is typically the most challenging part for newcomers, as industries operate differently across geographies. However, you can familiarize yourself with the industry by networking with professionals from your sector in Canada or finding a mentor in your industry.
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Local purchase behaviour may be very different from your home country. If you’re looking for your first sales job in Canada, be sure to research buying patterns, trends, customer motivations, and the purchase decision process as you prepare for interviews. Sales strategies and tactics from other markets may not always work in Canada. You may need to adapt your selling style, so you don’t come across as pushy or rude.
If you’re applying to non-retail sales jobs, business development or lead generation is a good skill to have on your resume. In some industries, the marketing team supports lead generation and salespeople convert leads to opportunities and eventually sales, while in others, the sales role may involve cold calling or going door-to-door to get new business.
Financial and operational management
Many senior-level sales jobs require some knowledge of financial management, including pricing, budgeting, forecasting, and target-setting. You’ll also need some insight into the company’s operational aspects, including production, inventory management, and quality assurance, so you can set realistic customer expectations and manage sales targets.
Negotiation skills and business acumen
Negotiation skills are generally a requirement for sales jobs in real estate, services, technology and many other industries. Business acumen is another valuable skill to have as a salesperson. Closing deals requires agreeing on a price that works for your organization as well as for the customer, but business-savvy salespeople often include aspects like service and warranties in the negotiation as well.
The technology landscape is constantly evolving and businesses use different tools and software to manage their sales process. Mid- to senior-level sales jobs may require expertise in analytics software like Tableau, forecasting software, and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools like Salesforce or HubSpot. While nearly all sales positions require proficiency in MS Office tools like Excel, Word, and Powerpoint, you should only include these in your resume if these are specifically mentioned in the job description.
It’s a good practice to review some job descriptions to understand which hard skills are currently in demand in your industry at your level. For instance, for corporate sales manager positions, project management and an intermediate knowledge of product management may be required. If you’re looking for retail sales jobs, you may need an intermediate knowledge of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, inventory management, or visual merchandising. For sales jobs in the financial services industry, you may require knowledge of risk management or financial analysis.
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Soft skills are personality traits or attributes you need to interact with others and successfully do your job. There’s a lot of emphasis on soft skills and culture fit during the hiring process in Canada, so it’s important to include relevant ones in your resume and cover letter while applying for jobs. As a newcomer, your first step may be to adapt to Canadian culture and understand cultural differences that could impact your workplace interactions. Here are some soft skills Canadian employers typically look for in salespeople:
For sales manager or supervisor roles, or roles that require you to lead other sales staff, leadership is an essential skill to have. Sales targets are typically cumulative and managers are incentivized for their team’s performance. It’s important that you can effectively guide, coach, and motivate your team to meet targets and deliver effective customer service.
Confidence and positive attitude
Since you’ll deal with customers, confidence and a positive attitude are key skills for sales jobs. These traits are useful both while interacting with your team members and customers. From a customer’s perspective, your confidence and positivity are a reflection of your understanding and trust in the company’s product or services. Internally, these traits will portray you as knowledgeable and easy to work with, making it easier for you to progress in your career.
Communication skills are essential for almost any job, but particularly so for sales. One cultural difference that many newcomers need to adapt to is the use of small talk in the work environment. In addition, you’ll also need to understand subtle differences in body language to master communication skills. According to the Canadian Online Job Posting Dashboard, between 10 and 15 per cent job postings for sales jobs require applicants to be bilingual in English and French, so you can improve your skills by adding knowledge of French to your arsenal. Of course, if you’re looking for sales jobs in Quebec, French proficiency will likely be a requirement.
Depending on the position you apply for, effective communication can also involve other attributes, including active listening, storytelling, and presentation skills.
Employers no longer want people who’ll only do as directed. Instead, they prefer employees who demonstrate an entrepreneurial mindset, are willing to take measured risks, embrace challenges, and adapt quickly to change. Other keywords often used in job descriptions that have a similar meaning are “proactive”, “self-starter” and “self-motivated”.
Salespeople often work in fast-paced settings, so time management becomes an important skill. You may be required to coordinate, plan, undertake meetings, and meet last-minute customer requirements in a short period of time, all while working towards meeting your own performance targets.
As a sales professional, there will be many instances where you’ll be required to think on your feet and overcome challenges to convince customers and meet your objectives. Problem-solving requires a variety of skills including active communication, research, creativity, and decision-making.
Relationship management plays a role in every aspect of a sales job. You’ll need strong interpersonal skills to build relationships with customers, earn their trust, and convert them into repeat buyers. In addition, you’ll have to work as a team with other sales staff and managers to meet the company’s goals.
Not all skills belong on your resume. Remember, Canadian-style resumes are typically no longer than two pages, so your priority should be to showcase skills a particular employer is looking for. The best way to do this is to customize each resume based on the required skills and experience specified in the job description.
While the in-demand skills we’ve outlined in the sections above are typically required to perform well in sales roles, not all of them will be included in job descriptions. To identify other skills that are valued in your industry, network with established sales professionals in your field. Be sure to prepare a list of questions for your coffee chats, so you can extract all the information you need.
As a newcomer, you may need to strengthen your skillset or develop new skills that are in-demand in the Canadian job market. Canadians are open to helping newcomers adapt to the job market, so you may even be able to find someone willing to mentor you, help you build expertise in the industry, and ultimately find a suitable sales job in Canada.
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If you’re seeking a job in the sales sector in Canada, you’ll require skills that match what employers in the industry are looking for. As a newcomer in Canada, you’ll need to develop a deep understanding of the industry’s demand and customer preferences to qualify for sales jobs. This resource provides a basic overview of the skills employers seek while hiring for sales positions.
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