Some people may claim to have it, but anybody who’s been in sales for a substantial amount of time knows that to prosper in sales, you must be humble and always willing to learn. All industries benefit from someone skilled in sales.
People from various backgrounds and educational attainment enter the world of sales. How far they make it is more reliant on the amount of work they put in than anything else. Drive, ambition, and persistence are all non-negotiable traits for someone who wants to succeed selling.
Having great success in other industries doesn’t automatically translate to success in sales. This is the reason why most people who enter sales start at the bottom. Whether going out in the field to get sales (and experience) or answering and making phone calls to prospects. Of course, bottom is a relative term. A lot of successful sales professionals choose to stay at the bottom because it’s what they find most rewarding, among other things.
A career in sales does not have to be linear, though. In this post, we will tackle the different sales career paths you can take, based on your skills and many other factors.
Let’s dig in.
If you’re looking to start a career in sales, chances are, the first profession you’ll be looking at is one as a field salesperson or inside sales. It may be a high-pressure job, but a lot of people are entering this profession to get the set of valuable skills and personality traits that make a salesperson successful.
Once you can sell like a pro, there’s little barrier in entering any industry.
Compensation might not always be good when you’re starting out. In fact, for most industries, the best case scenario is having a very small base salary upon which you build a sustainable income through commissions. You will have to rely on your own skill to supplement this small base salary. If you’re not growing your skills and aptitude, you’re just wasting time and losing out.
Is a commission-based job right for you? The first thing you have to ask yourself is why you’re interested in a sales position. Are you ready to be a knowledge sponge?
The great thing about sales is, in a way, when you reach a level of competence, you control the amount of money you make.
This is the reason why a lot of people—even those who have already spent a lot of time in the sales industry—reach a level where they can be hired in higher positions but still choose to be in the frontlines of field or inside sales. When you’re good, your paycheck will reflect this.
To be a successful salesperson, you have to have at least some of the traits from this list:
While this may seem like a list of buzzwords, there is no doubt that being a self-starter with a high EQ is the trait of a great salesperson. Sales professionals who receive the highest commissions are those who always seek to better themselves as people and professionals.
When you’re a sales professional, it’s not enough to just show up. You need work hard. Although some movies may show you that being sales is for the cut-throat, fast-talking braggadocios, you’ll be surprised that those who succeed in sales are the most personable and patient pros.
If you’re not willing to improve yourself and think that you’ve already hit your professional ceiling, this profession may not be right for you. You are less likely to succeed. Humility goes a long way in sales.
Of course, another non-negotiable skill is having stellar communication skills. This is essential. But being good in communication doesn’t mean knowing what to say and being good at delivering long pitches. Contrary to what most believe, being a good communicator—whether in sales or elsewhere—requires you to be a great listener. You know what questions to ask and you’re not above spending your time listening to the woes and opinions of your customer.
Do you think you can fit the bill?
Entry-level jobs: inside sales professional, outside sales professional
Some salespeople will squirm at the thought of grouping sales and marketing together. The truth is that they overlap more than you think. These days, with a lot of sales done “inside”, more and more sales professionals are doing their selling online.
Undoubtedly, sales and marketing go hand in hand. Sales pros perform marketing tasks and vice versa.
Could a career in marketing mean a career in sales?
Of course! Never have the two been as homogeneous as they are today.
Marketing is done online, so is sales. Having the pulse for good selling is definitely essential to being a great marketer. With the rise of inbound marketing, you should be able to sell yourself without selling yourself. Does that make sense to you?
If you’ve been dabbling in marketing—social media, content marketing, even telemarketing—you’ll know that the battery of skills needed to be a good marketer is almost the same in sales. The only difference, the only stark difference, is having to reach as many people as possible as opposed to sales where, at any point, your attention is directed at one target and the goal is to close that sale.
To enter the marketing world, you have to understand that marketing has moved online. It’s no longer that one-way street where you call your customer or blast a big ad in their faces, hoping that your campaign will leave a good impression and generate sales. If you’re a sales professional entering marketing, you need to equipped with the desire to bring value to your customer—much like how you nurture your prospects. Running a marketing campaign is nurturing thousands or even millions of prospects at a time.
People are bombarded by content every day. You need to be able to rise above the noise and successfully compete for the attention of your prospects.
If you’ve been in sales and want to enter marketing, remember that you’ve always been a marketer. You just have to tailor-fit your skills to the bigger plane and the new goals that you have to achieve.
Entry-level jobs: marketing associate, marketing account executive, social media manager, marketer
For those who want to be in sales but have the itch for entrepreneurship, owning a business might be the best sales career path. Keep in mind, though, that when owning a business, it’s not all about sales. You need to care about the whole picture. From marketing to selling to product development. Of course, depending on your business model and the success of it, having a business of your own also puts you in the situation where you can hire employees to help you execute
Here are some business models you might want to consider:
If you’re passionate about selling but would rather find a product that already has taken off or already has a proven business model, franchising might be a good fit. There are scores of business-types to choose from. There are franchising opportunities for every industry, mostly in the B2C field.
If you’re good with dealing with manufacturers and want to sell their goods through your own sales model, distribution could be the path for you. You can either form a business that sells a certain line of products from a sole manufacturer, meaning you will act as the middle man (or in this case, middle business) between the manufacturer and the customers.
You can either sell the products to other companies that work closer to the end-consumers or you can market and sell to the end-consumers themselves.
Consulting, in a nutshell, is selling your skills and opinion through forming a business and a brand around yourself. Consulting will not only make you flex your sales and marketing chops, it will also help you develop a long list of skills that is required to run a successful consultancy. You need the flexibility of time and understanding. Constant challenges are part of the game. You need to be able to cope with doing things that you’ve never done before. Like all businesses, offering your skills through a consultancy needs much more than desire in order to succeed.
Having the opportunity to manage people and money without absorbing all the risk is pretty much what management is about. From being a sales manager and upwards of the corporate ladder had to begin with managing a team or a business on a smaller scale. Regional managers, sales VPs, and even CEOs are all managerial positions in different tiers.
Most people who make it to the top ranks are from sales backgrounds. It’s not surprising since a lot of these positions concern themselves with revenue and hitting sales quotas.
In management, your pay is commensurate to your performance. But, getting hired or promoted to a managerial position requires a mixture of experience, track record, relationship with the company, and many other factors. The pay can be good—and for many companies, holding a managerial position often gives you the opportunity to own stock.
The obvious answer to this is that a competent salesperson has a very big chance to outearn even top tier management. Great salespeople are showered with rewards because they are a great asset to any company. They hold relationships to many A-list clients, they’ve mastered the product and the process to the point that losing them will cost a company up to years in income.