Early attention to sales career development leads to greater job security and higher earnings.
Sales career development is often not the main motivation cited by people applying for sales jobs. Many claim money as the primary reason for taking on a sales role.
Sales skills are in great demand. Ability to find new business opportunities and turn them into orders is amongst the most highly valued competence in commerce today.
Sales jobs have lower barriers to entry than other well paid roles. Qualifications are often less important than the ability to present a confident and persuasive manner in interviews.
Getting a job in selling is much easier than keeping one long enough to build a solid history of success. Successful salespeople can expect high earnings over the course of a career yet many fail to acquire the necessary skills.
While most businesses provide reasonable product training, few pay enough attention to sales skills and methods. Salespeople are often left to learn the soft skills by themselves. Those who learn how to consistently deliver results may find themselves quickly promoted into management.
Selling successfully is a route to the top job in businesses today. Ability to marshal sales resources to bring in the essential life blood of a business, a constant flow of new customers and profitable orders, is held in high regard.
Not all sales people aspire to take on the top job. Many fare better by remaining in a sales role while steadily increasing their business contribution. This path can lead to a fulfilling career without the need for management progression. Sales people who can remain at the top of their game, who can continually increase their productivity and corresponding results, will continue to be perceived as high performers, right up until retirement.
Those adopting this career strategy have to accept some risks. Businesses can change direction or focus in a way that makes the need for such accomplished and specialised salespeople, less important.
Top sales people often find themselves managing just a few, very important accounts. External events such as market shifts, takeovers, and macro economic swings can leave senior account managers without the accounts that have fed them and their employers so well.
As successful sales people grow their ability, experience, and record of success, they grow their income expectations and needs and eventually seem too expensive. It becomes difficult to compete for jobs with the next generation.
Not everyone can be a manager and not everyone wants to take on management responsibilities. Fortunately, sales people don't have to be in a management position to multiply their contribution.
There are other career strategies that can lead to fulfilling roles that offer more reliable employment towards the end of a sales career. Taking responsibility for coaching others leverages experience, fulfils a needed service, and adds value that justifies senior levels of compensation.
Guiding product development, providing internal consulting, and leading special projects offer opportunities to increase contribution without taking on management responsibility.
Sales career forethought, planning, and appropriate preparation lead to greater overall earnings, more satisfying roles, and a reliable income in the twilight years.
For those just starting out, thinking about career planning, development, and ultimately, retirement must seem unnecessary. So many have come to realise it's importance late in their career.
Article by Clive Miller
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