Sales is a high-pressure job, but it can be highly rewarding. Succeeding in sales takes confidence as well as the ability to convey the value of your products or services to a varied audience without giving the impression of a “hard sell.” It’s truly a people-person career choice.
While training and certification can’t teach the personality traits required for the job, they can get you noticed by hiring managers and give you an edge over others vying for the same positions. While many sales job descriptions now call for a bachelor’s degree, there are still plenty of employers that accept some combination of work experience and/or certification in lieu of a degree. Employers look for candidates who are highly productive and have the drive to increase company profits. A certification helps prove that you’re willing to go above and beyond to achieve goals.
Top five certifications, by the numbers
The following table lists the top sales-related certifications and the number of open positions on a single day that call for the certification specifically (or experience with the subject matter). This isn’t a scientific analysis in which every job description is examined – just an overall glance at the numbers. Also, keep in mind the numbers are likely low, because employers don’t specify certifications in job descriptions the same way. (Some employers might use the certification name or an abbreviated version, others use the acronym, and others simply mention the certification body.)
Job site search results
|Certified Inside Sales Professional (CISP)||10||10||20|
|Certified Professional Sales Person (CPSP)||14||16||30|
|Certified Sales Leadership Professional (CSLP)||13||6||19|
|HubSpot Inbound Sales||56||31||87|
|RISE Up Sales||55||69||124|
Let’s take a look at the top sales certifications to get an idea of requirements and costs.
Certified Inside Sales Professional (CISP)
The AA-ISP is a global association whose mission is to advance the profession of inside sales. To achieve that mission, the AA-ISP offers several certifications, including the Certified Inside Sales Professional (CISP) for sales executives and account managers. The CISP program is competency-based and rigorous: 10 courses followed by a live sales call role-play exam with a prospect.
The cost is $875 for AA-ISP members or $975 for nonmembers. Certification holders must complete at least five continuing sales education (CSE) credits every three years to maintain the credential.
Certified Professional Sales Person (CPSP)
The National Association of Sales Professionals’ (NASP) Certified Professional Sales Person (CPSP) certification is aimed at sales executives, CEOs and sales professionals. Training for the certification is part of the NASP’s 45 Day Challenge online series, which takes learners on a deep dive into developing sales habits, creating and using a “personal identity,” and developing communications and influencer skills. The cost is $595, and courses start every two weeks.
Certified Sales Leadership Professional (CSLP) (The Sales Management Association)
The Certified Sales Leadership Professional, or CSLP, is one of two certifications offered by the Sales Management Association. The other certification – CSOP – focuses on sales operations. To achieve the CSLP, you must take a series of e-learning courses or attend in-person workshops, pass an exam and meet role-related requirements. There are few details on the association’s website; you need to sign up for more information. During signup, the association asks about your current position, background, industry and career preferences.
HubSpot Inbound Sales
HubSpot is well known for its inbound marketing and sales software. The company offers a variety of training and certifications through the HubSpot Academy. One such certification is the HubSpot Inbound Sales certification, which recognizes sales professionals who identify potential buyers, create strategies for reaching those buyers and build custom presentations. You can take all five associated online courses and the exam free of charge. The exam has 60 multiple-choice questions and takes up to 75 minutes to complete.
RISE Up Sales Certifications
The National Retail Federation (NRF) Foundation is behind the RISE Up credentialing program, which offers three credentials aimed at entry-level sales job seekers or those looking to expand their skillsets.
The Retail Industry Fundamentals credential is for those who are getting started in any type of retail sales and selling. The Customer Service and Sales credential is for frontline, customer-facing associates who understand the basics of store operations, inventory control, merchandising as well as sales and customer service. The Advanced Customer Service and Sales designation is one step up, recognizing skills in closing sales and follow-up.
If you’re associated with a RISE partner, the Retail Industry Fundamentals training and exam costs $50, the Customer Service and Sales exam is $55 and the Advanced Customer Service and Sales exam is $45. Individuals not associated with a RISE partner must pay an additional $150 fee to take the exam at a third-party testing facility.
[Once you have a sales team trained and ready to close more business, make sure you have CRM software setup that can support the team.]
Other certifications of interest are the Consultative Sales Certification (CSC) by The Sales Association, and the Certified Professional Salesperson (SCPS) and Certified Sales Executive (CSE) available through the Sales and Marketing Executives International (SMEI). From an organizational angle, WorldAtWork offers several sales compensation-related certifications that recognize skills in designing, administering and managing sales compensation programs.
Most certifications mentioned in this article are vendor-neutral, meaning they recognize sales skills that apply to nearly any sales situation. Be aware that many vendors in specific verticals, such as technology, pharmaceuticals, and so on, have their own certification programs. These vendor-specific programs are tailored to each company’s products and services, and often address compliance with industry laws and regulations.