7 steps to Changing Career from Sales

A career change can be daunting, but with the right information, it can be a success. As a salesperson, there are many great career options available to you. However, you may be wondering what you need to do to transition your career. This article discusses the practical steps you can take to transition career from a salesperson.

Let’s get started!

Step 1. Investigate Alternate Careers for Sales Representatives

If you’ve decided that you want to change careers from sales, the first thing you need to do is look for other career opportunities that you may be interested in.

But before looking at other career options available to you, it’s important to perform an assessment on yourself. Ask yourself what it is you would really like to do? A helpful way to answer this question is by asking yourself why you want to leave sales.

Answering this question is a great place to start, and your answer will help you figure out what it is you’re looking for in a new career.

Are you feeling burnt out? Do you hate having to constantly hit targets? Are you crumbling under constant pressure? Whatever your reasons are, they will help you when searching for a new career.

If you’re changing from one career path to another, it’s important to make sure you’re transitioning to a career that will address any problems you had with your old one. 

Here are some tips that are sure to help you settle on a choice that will be perfect for you.

Some things to ask yourself are;

  • What do I dislike about working in sales?
  • What do I like about working in sales?
  • What inspires you?
  • When are you at your happiest with work? And when are you most frustrated with work?

Now that you’ve asked yourself these personal questions, it’s time to ask some more career-based questions.

  • What type of work-life balance are you looking for?
  • What level of income is enough to sustain you?
  • What type of industry would you like to work in?

Highlighting your interests, values, wants, and needs will help you narrow down your list when you’re researching other career paths. You can even take a career quiz or personality test to help narrow down your list of options.

If you already have a specific career in mind, the best thing to do is see how your wants and needs will align with this career. Will you be able to have the work-life balance you want? Will it be any different from your career in sales?

 Researching the career you have in mind is the best way to find out.

On the other hand, if you don’t have a specific new career in mind and are searching for any options available to you, the best place to start out is with your basic search engine; you can search the internet for jobs that former sales agents have successfully transitioned to and decide on one that addresses your wants and needs.

Here is a list of common jobs that former sales agents have successfully transitioned into:

  • Consultant
  • Operations Manager
  • Marketing Specialist
  • Account Representatives
  • Real Estate Agents
  • Corporate Strategist
  • Customer Service Representative
  • Public Relations Strategist.

Step 2. Connect with Professionals with Similar Backgrounds.

Finding other previous salespeople who have successfully transitioned to entirely new careers is very helpful. Moreover, speaking to other professionals with a similar background to yours is a great way to network.

Learning about how other professionals in the industry you’re hoping to work in were able to get in will help you to know what the right steps to take are.

A career change is not an easy decision to make, and having someone who has already been through it and is willing to share their experiences or even mentor you can ease a lot of the burden off you.

For example, a former salesperson will have a more personal experience with the hurdles you might face as someone coming from a previous career and may be willing to mentor you.

Additionally, someone working in the field you hope to work in will have inside knowledge about the skills and requirements you’ll need to succeed in it.

Finding these professionals may not be easy for everybody, but a good place to start is with your personal and professional network.

Your professional network may include previous colleagues you may have had at one point that ended up changing careers. Your personal network is family and friends.

Professionals from any field who previously changed careers will also have a lot of relatable or common knowledge to share with you; plus, it never hurts to network; someone you know may know someone who is in a better position to help you. 

But, If you’d prefer talking to previous or even current salespeople who are in the same boat as you, then finding industry networking groups will yield the best results. Try searching for Facebook groups, discord chat rooms, or even connect with Linkedln professionals in the field willing to share experiences, advice, and probably do’s and don’ts with you.

Step 3. Build Foundational Knowledge and Get Qualified

Building foundational knowledge on the skills and traits, you’ll need to be successful in your new career should be the next step in your action plan. For example, working as a consultant requires a lot of research and trend analysis.

A person that’s interested in pursuing a consulting career should ask themselves if they are any good at either of those things and if they’re not, they need to learn these skills.

How does this apply to you and a career change?

The odds of finding a new career with requirements and experiences that exactly match those that you’re bringing from sales are limited. This is where building your foundational knowledge and getting qualified comes in.

Let’s picture it. Imagine a salesperson trying to transition into a Real Estate role. Sure the role will require soft skills, but it will also require some technical certifications or qualifications—for example, a real estate license.

The salesperson can build on their foundational knowledge by researching the requirements to be a successful Real Estate Agent (this can be done by looking through the candidate requirements for real estate agent job listings) and then set out to achieve them. 

This may be through acquiring more work experience in that particular field or by taking professional courses that will award them estate management qualifications once completed.

Getting additional degrees or qualifications requires time, energy, and some monetary investment. But, it may really be required to bridge your knowledge and experience gap depending on the career you want. Degrees, qualifications, certifications will show that you’re serious about what you want and are willing to put in the work to get it. 

Building your foundational knowledge in the field you hope to get into and aligning your skills, experience, and qualification with what is required will bring you up to date for your new career.

Step 4. Package your Transferrable Skills

Take time to identify the transferrable skills you have and can easily bring with you to a new career.

Soft skills are often overlooked by a lot of people, which is a big mistake. According to LinkedIn’s 2019 Global Talent Trends report, 89 percent of recruiters say when a hire doesn’t work out, it usually comes down to a lack of soft skills.

A lot of employers will require you to have experience and certifications, yes, but they also want to know that they’re not just hiring a robot or textbook candidate.

This is where your soft skills come in. They’ll help to show you as a “Full package” candidate and will complement your more technical skills.

These transferrable skills will show you as a fully rounded individual who will add value to an organization apart from just carrying out your job description to the tee.

Ask yourself the following questions to discover what skills and strengths you can take from sales and bring to a new profession;

  • Why did I start a career in sales?
  • What skills do I have that make me a good salesperson?
  • What were my strengths and weaknesses working in sales?

Answering these questions will highlight your talents and skills. These talents and skills of yours can easily act as selling points for other careers and can easily increase your value to potential employers as well.

Let’s look at easily transferrable skills that salespeople of all kinds can use in other professions.

  • Communication skills: Your communication skills will most likely have developed while working in sales because of having to follow up with and persuade customers to make purchases. Communication is a core skill that is needed in every industry and will give you a good foundation for your new career.
  • Problem Solving Skills:  A big part of sales also involves handling the complaints and queries that customers may have in line with products, quality, or even delivery. Problem-solving is a skill that can be transferred to any other profession. 
  • Negotiation Skills: Salespeople always use their negotiation skills in order to close deals. An example of another profession that will value this skill is real estate.
  • Multitasking and Organization Skills: Handling different tasks, following up with customers all the while trying to make it to your next meeting or appointment is an example of multitasking you’ve probably done as a salesperson. A lot of employers look for applicants that are able to multitask without cracking under pressure or making errors.
  • Teamwork, relationship building, thinking on your feet, and interpersonal skills are also transferrable skills that can be utilized in a lot of other professions.

Highlighting any of your transferrable skills alongside your technical ones in your CV when applying for a job will help to show you as a well-rounded person.

Step 5. Reframe your Work Experience

Evaluating your work experience helps to put in perspective what you learned on the job as a sales representative and how these may fit into your new career. But more importantly, it makes it easier to reframe your experience to present yourself as the perfect candidate for a job.

Try asking yourself what particular technical and interpersonal skills you have developed through your job? Will these skills benefit you in the new position you’re looking for?

For example, you may have used your negotiation skills to close a huge deal and land a big client for your organization.

Now that you’ve identified these skills and experiences, what areas of your job did they affect? For example, your good communication and relationship-building skills may mean that you always had satisfied clients and, as a result, was made team lead on a huge project.

Putting the fact that you were team lead on a huge and successful project on your resume will stand out and do wonders for you.

But even if you feel your work experience doesn’t really relate to the new role you’re looking towards, you can easily reframe your work experience to help justify and amplify your skills to make you look like a good fit for the position.

For example, if an employer is looking for a real estate agent, you may never have worked as one, but as a salesperson, you will have had experience negotiating with people in order to close deals. You can point out how your experience is similar to that of a real estate agent and show how valuable this experience will be for the role.

Step 6. Acquire New Work Experience

Previously, I spoke about building foundational knowledge. Thats great but employers are more interested in how your knowledge can add value to their business. Nobody really cares for the knowledge itself.

A great way to demonstrate you can add value is by showing employers how you’ve applied your knowledge to generate value for previous employees.

This is why acquiring new work experience in the new field you hope to work in. As a salesperson, you may already have a good network of people you keep in contact it.

After all reframing, your work experience can only do so much without actually having any relevant work experience to even reframe.

Some ways to acquire new work experience include;

  • Volunteering: One way to get more work experience is by volunteering for professionals in the new field you hope to work in. You can ask for permission to shadow them and help with any minor tasks they may have. You will be able to build your network, pad up your resume, and shadow a professional in the field you’ve chosen will give you an inside look into the industry.
  • Working on other company projects: Another way to gain more work experience is by volunteering to work and help out on related projects going on at your current company.

    For example, if you’re hoping to transition to a human resource role, you can volunteer to assist in projects the HR department of your organization may have. This will help you develop your skills and may even open an opportunity for you in the company you already work at.
  • Work on side projects: In the evenings after work or on days off, you can spend your time working on side projects that can help you pad up your work portfolio. You can even try attending local networking events, professional conferences, job fairs, or community events.

Acquiring new work experience will not only look good on your resume, but it will also give you an inner look into the industry you may be working in in the future, just in case it may actually not be the right fit for you.

Step 7. Update Your Professional Assets.

Changing your line of work will require you to update your professional brand assets to be in line with your new career. Reviewing your CV, personal websites, and Linkedln profile can go a long way in making your career change experience smoother.

Personal branding is all about marketing yourself and attracting recruiters and more job opportunities for you. Some good places to start are;

  • Your CV: Highlighting your skills and experience on your resume in a way that fits the new career options you’re looking into is important. Using a functional CV that lists your relevant skills will shift the focus to what you can offer the company and what they stand to benefit from having you fill that position.

Your CV is an effective way to show employers how you will be a great asset for the position you’re applying for.

  • Your LinkedIn Profile: 87% of recruiters use LinkedIn to check candidates. Your LinkedIn profile is one of the first places that a hiring manager will check; this means it’s important to match the information on your CV to that on your LinkedIn profile. 

When updating your CV with any new work experience or certifications you may have gotten, do not forget to update the same information to your LinkedIn profile.

Optimize the headline section of your profile by listing major skills that will be required in your new profession. Highlight your work experience, certifications, technical skills, and expertise.

  • Your Personal Websites: Your personal websites include all your social media accounts. A good tip is to make sure all your social media accounts show you in a professional light; if possible, let your social media activity reflect your interests and activities you may have carried out in relation to your new field of work. Make posts on topics that you’re passionate about and use the opportunity to connect with professionals working in your field of interest.

Bonus Tip: Take Action.

Now that you’ve drafted out an amazing action plan and gotten the planning part out of the way, the only thing left for you to do is to actually start putting in the action in an action plan. Prioritize yourself and your future by investing your time and energy into making this career transition work for you.

Even though it may be a big and scary decision to make for most people, if you’re intentional about what it is you want, and you’ve drafted out your action plan on how to achieve what you want, the only thing left to do is believe in yourself and finally put your plan into motion.

Need to build your foundational knowledge? Acquire more work experience? Great, get started right now. Look for online courses or certifications and start your journey.

Need to connect with other professionals in your field? Great start using your social media to network and reach out to people.

Identified and packaged your transferrable skills? That’s great; now incorporate those things into your CV and Linkedln profiles stat.

Do not hesitate, do not procrastinate; the best time you have to make this career change is now. Commit to putting into the work, and your efforts will definitely yield results for you.

But also, be patient. It’s important to know that no shortcuts exist; take small steps, even if they are imperfect ones. When starting out in a new career, you may need to take entry-level jobs to be able to acquire experience.

And although talking to other professionals with similar backgrounds may yield a lot of help and advice, remember that your journey is unique to you and does not need to go exactly as it went for other people.

Just think about it. The pros will definitely outweigh the cons. You’ve planned everything out; now, just trust your instincts and go!

Final thoughts

Changing careers can be difficult, but with the right tools and attitude, you can make it happen! The eight tips in this article are tested and proven when making the action plan that’ll you’ll need to make this career change a successful one for you.

Do some research into what careers best fit your experience, skills, personal needs, and wants. Network with professionals who have a similar background to you, build on your foundational knowledge by acquiring more work experience, skills, and qualifications you’ll need for your new role.

Update your professional brand assets to align with the new career you’ve decided to pursue and market yourself as a perfect candidate for roles in your new career path.

 Finally, take action and treat your career change as a job in itself. Make sure to invest your time, energy, and any other resources you require into turning this dream of yours into a whole reality.

There are many opportunities open to people with backgrounds in sales; the key is finding these opportunities and equipping yourself with all the experience, skills, and qualifications that make you a perfect “shoe-in” for the role.

Patrick is passionate about supporting other professionals to find success in their chosen career paths. So far, he has successfully navigated four career transitions and is currently a Product Manager Consultant helping businesses build products their customers love.