You are burnt out. You need a fresh start. Maybe you just don’t like what you are selling, but you love sales so you start looking into other verticals.
Making the transition is not always the easiest, and the road to being the performer you are now can be extensive and frustrating. If you’re considering a job change in a new industry, keep the following in mind before making the change:
- “Sales is Sales. I can sell anything.” – I hear this a lot, mostly from over-confident individuals. I had a candidate selling digital advertising for over 10 years looking to make the switch into cyber security and he gave me this famous line. He was selling to CMOs and VPs of Marketing, with an average sales size of $5K, and a sales cycle of about 2 months. Now he wanted to sell to CSOs, CTOs, and CISOs, with an average sales size of $100K+, and a sales cycle of 6 – 9 months. See the difference? You need to be educated on the industry and understand the challenges you will face before applying to every job with the notion that “I can sell anything.”
*Tip: Make sure your skill set matches the job you are applying to. Not all sales are created equal. Educate yourself on the market and talk to people in your network who may be in the industry you’re interested in. Ask about sales size and audience and see how you can draw parallels between your experience and the requirements.
- Competition – The market is hot and as a job seeker you have options. That also means that companies can be extremely selective on who they hire. Why? Because they can. I can use another example. I sent a candidate to a cyber security opportunity and he was not coming from the industry. He did, in fact, have all the intangibles: long sales cycles, big deal sizes, selling to CEOs, crushing his quota, etc. The company really liked him and brought him through the entire interview process, only to tell him he did not have the security background like the other candidates they had in their pipeline. You have to know competition will be tight and companies may be interviewing the “perfect” candidate.
*Tip: If you find yourself in a similar situation, make sure you are qualifying, re-qualifying, and closing each person you interview with. Ask them about any concerns they may have with your background, isolate and overcome each concern. Reassure them you are the candidate for the job.
- From top performer to frustration – You have been promoted 3 times at your current company. You are the #1 rep. You are making 6 figures. Deals seem to just fall into your lap. This wasn’t always this rewarding and it took a lot of blood, sweat, and tears to get to where you are now. Get ready to do it ALL OVER AGAIN and recognize that you may have to take a step back in order to change industries. When changing industries, you need to anticipate that you will most likely not be making the same money (in your first year) with the same title, and you probably won’t be given the best accounts/territories. You have to crawl before you walk, learn the product/service, and learn how to sell to a completely different decision maker. It will take a while to get ramped up and close some deals.
*Tip: If you’re really serious about the industry change, then be comfortable with a possible step back in compensation. Understand the salary you need to stay whole. Remember you’re in sales not for the base, but for the commissions.
- You have been with the same company your entire career – This is truly a great feat, that is far and few between, but it can be a daunting experience when looking for a career change. Whether your company was sold, your division was laid off, or you’re feeling burnt out, you need to embrace the change. A potential employer wants to know that you are adaptable. Your previous sales experience is important, but try not to dwell on the past. They want to know you can transition and are coachable.
*Tip: Before fully considering an industry change, start with what you know. Understand what you are looking for in a new role. Is it commute, salary, management, work-life balance? Before fully jumping ship and changing industries all together, understand the motivator for change and start there. You may be able to find a role with a company similar to your previous experience that has a lot more to offer.
Making a career change is scary and exciting. It’s not impossible, but you need to be aware of the challenges you will face. You need to anticipate the objections you will need to overcome. You will need to have a resume that is job-specific and can speak to each job you are applying to. You need to be able to pull out the intangibles and transferable skills that will get a hiring manager’s attention. You also need to educate yourself on the market, and expand your professional network. Leave your ego at the door. If you are really interested in a completely different vertical, understand that you may need to take a step back, and don’t think you are entitled to anything. If you are serious and realistic about your job search, you will find a company that will give you the opportunity to learn and grow with them.