Had enough of sales?
If you're considering moving on, leaving a sales job to pursue another career doesn't have to mean a complete recalibration of skills. Many salespeople can use sales skills to become entrepreneurs, transition into sales coaching, or move into consulting and management positions.
Here are stories of five salespeople who transitioned out of sales careers and into successful second careers.
Mike Faber: Career coaching
With 22 years of experience in financial sales, Mike Faber left Charles Schwab to become a career coach.
"Without my sales background, I would have been lost," he said. His company, Denver, Colo.-based Aloha Leadership, does leadership training and career coaching, and Faber said that it's his sales skills that have made him successful, especially when it comes to selling a client on his solution to a career dilemma. "The same skills that made me a good salesperson made me a good coach," he said. "Asking great questions, listening to what that person needs, and then selling your solution."
Key takeaway: Solution selling is a discipline applicable to many different kinds of things.
Thomas Erb: Sales Training
Thomas Erb, who used to work at staffing company Spherion in business development and account sales, left to found his own sales consulting and training company, Tallann Resources, in April. Why? "The desire to be off on my own and to be in control," he said. "You usually have the confidence to make that leap."
It was a natural transition for Erb and he used many of his old contacts to help build his new business.
The job is similar. "In both cases I'm identifying a point of need and coming up with a solution," he said. Erb continues to prospect new clients and use CRM software.
Key takeaway: The network you have built as a salesperson is especially useful when you're trying to build a company from scratch.
Katherine Grimmer: Owning a Franchise
Katherine Grimmer is a former salesperson and now franchisee at Valpak, the coupon direct-marketing company. Grimmer spent nine years at Valpak, becoming the number one salesperson for the company. Then, along with her brother, Grimmer purchased Valpak of Winchester, Va., as well as Valpak of Los Angeles. "When you're running a franchise, you're selling your business and your product," said Grimmer. "All of those skills came into play as well, how to place orders, contact people, network, ask questions."
Key takeaway: Good organization skills, from prospecting to client management, must be honed if you want to strike out on your own.
John Greene: Management
There's always the opportunity to move up the ladder and transition into a non-sales management position within the company you're working at. John Greene, president of agency distribution at Prudential Financial, said you need to cultivate certain people and skills if you want to get into management outside of sales
"A mastery of the financials is critical," said Greene, who began his career as a salesperson at the company in 1979. "Many salespeople just want to spend money but don't understand the business rationale, and that just won't work."
Another big shift is thinking long-term. "Before, as a salesperson I was just thinking about next week, or next month, and the single goal of selling to clientele. Now I have far more issues I'm dealing with in the long term." He also found a manager outside sales to help him make a transition, he said.
Key takeaway: A mentor is essential to help you improve your skills before transitioning into a management position. "Find someone who's going to throw you into the cold pond and make you do the things you're not good at," said Greene.
Glauciene Bentes: Consulting
Glauciene Bentes, a former telecom salesperson at IBM, recently transitioned into the role of consultant in the company's global business services unit. Based in Brazil, Bentes is the only one in the consulting unit with any sales experience, and said it makes all the difference.
To make the transition, Bentes was assigned a coach at the company who had worked as a consultant in the unit who was able to understand what a sales perspective would bring to the unit, and how Bentes could obtain the necessary training to round out her consulting skills.
"It's not enough to know the industry, you have to know how to sell people," said Bentes. "And that's what I bring to the table." But just like Greene, Bentes also has to grapple with a changed sales cycle. "I need to think more about the longer term relationship," she said.
Key takeaway: Know thyself. "What do you know? What don't you know?" asked Bentes. "If you're able to tell what to improve, than you are going to be able to apply what you have and be successful."
Write to Shareen Pathak