In some careers, there is a very clearly defined path to achieving the ultimate goal. In medicine, for example, US doctors move from interns to residents to attendings; UK doctors move from foundation to core training to speciality registrars. In the sales world, however, things aren’t quite so clear-cut.
Although sales-related degrees can be very important in securing a sales job, there is no legal necessity for businesses to only hire graduates with relevant qualifications. In fact, as there are many different skills required in sales, such as communication and marketing, sales people come from all sort of professional backgrounds. This means that the path to success isn’t linear; there are many different routes.
So let’s take a look at just some of the different career paths in sales.
The ‘Big 4’
No matter what title you’re aiming for, the majority of sales careers will typically all begin in roughly the same way: with the ‘Big 4’. During your first 10 years in sales, you’ll probably follow this sort of path:
- Trainee: Learning the ropes and getting a feel for the products, the company, and the style
- Sales Representative: Either office-based or in the field, you’ll be putting your skills to good use
- Key Account Manager: Moving onto high value clients, or high value products
- Sales Manager: You’ll be managing your own team, and be responsible for their successes
These 4 positions are designed to provide you with a comprehensive overview of the sales world, but the big question is: where do you go from here? Here’s where it’s possible to veer off in different directions.
After a good stint as a successful sales manager, the world is your oyster! The skills gained from a sales career can propel you into a range of interesting and fascinating related careers. Here are just a few:
Regional/National Sales Manager
If you’re keen to stay at the heart of the sales world, then moving into a regional, or even national sales manager role could be exactly what you’re looking for. Responsible for sales within a specified area or country, your job will be to analyse that particular market, planning and executing the best possible approach to ensure that your audience are engaging with the products. You’ll need a firm understanding of the differences between markets, and picking up some big data analytics skills certainly won’t hurt.
Sales people often shy away from marketing, and marketing people often shy away from sales. However, the two are growing closer and closer, and if you’re looking for a bit of a career change, marketing could be a natural progression away from direct sales. Not only will you have an excellent, unrivalled understanding of your products, but many of the skills gained from a sales environment are directly transferable to marketing: a metrics-driven outlook; prioritising the close; active listening and so on.
Business Owner / Corporate Management
If you have an interest in the business or corporate side of things, then sales is a great place to start. For those with entrepreneurial skills and a willingness to take risks, starting your own sales-based business is certainly one of the options. You’ll not only get to manage the sales team, but the business as a whole. If a startup isn’t quite your thing, working your way up the corporate ladder in an established sales-based business is a good alternative, moving away from sales-specific management to leadership roles.
And finally – consulting. Consulting positions are best suited to those who have gained massive professional experience in their area of expertise, have a fantastic understanding of the market, and are quickly able to identify problems and create effective and efficient solutions. If this sounds like you, then you may wish to act as a sales consultant for businesses that require a little help and guidance to take their sales teams to the next level. You’ll need to be revolutionary, bringing all-round improvements!