There’s a persistent perception that sales is a “last resort” job. I don’t know where it comes from, but you hear people say, “I’m just a sales rep.”
I’m tired of it! When you choose a sales career, you’re not settling for a second-rate job. Sales is a challenging profession you can and should be proud of. And it comes with many rewards.
- “Unlimited” income. Few other jobs allow you to determine how high your income will go, often surpassing that of your boss.
- Independence. As long as you’re turning in results, most good sales managers will let you set your own goals, create your own plans and manage your own time.
- A sense of satisfaction that comes from being an expert and helping people solve problems.
- Personal growth. With markets, technology and product offerings constantly evolving, you’re always growing and learning something new.
But you probably already know all this. What you may not have thought of, however, is that sales experience is vitally important if you ever hope to have an executive level job.
I’m currently coaching a couple of professionals who are near the top of their non-sales careers and eager to move to the C-Suite. Unfortunately, they lack sales experience and that’s holding them down.
I know what you’re thinking: “What does sales have to do with being a COO or Division Vice President? Why would the head of finance or a business unit need sales experience?”
I’ll tell you. It doesn’t matter what role you have; if you’re at an executive level, you are going to have customer-facing responsibilities, and there’s no better place than sales to learn how to interact effectively with customers.
You may be called on to help resolve customer satisfaction issues or to participate in important sales calls. You may need to speak at customer events. Yes, even COOs.
As a key representative of your company, you’ll be expected to interface with your counterparts at other companies, where you’ll need to be conversant in your company’s offerings and why people need them. Again, sales is the best place to develop this knowledge, because you hear directly from customers why they like what you sell.
Even if you didn’t need customer-facing skills, you’d still need a thorough understanding of sales. Why? Because sales is the lifeblood of your business – your company exists to sell something.
As a leader in your company, you need to be able to enter into discussions and decisions about top markets, top sellers, sales strategies and so forth. If you don’t understand what’s going on in your sales organization, you don’t understand what’s going on in your business. It’s that simple.
Back to my non-sales clients who want to move to the C-Suite. We are helping them develop their missing sales skills without rerouting their entire career paths. But oh how they wish they had garnered sales experience along the way.