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How To Transition Into a Sales Role From Another Specialty

“Sell me this pen.”

No, don’t worry. This isn’t The Wolf of Wall Street. Nor, for that matter, is this a lesson in how to make a sale. But you might still be in need of the latter.

The world of sales is a big tent under which lie a lot of really exciting—and an equal number of mind-numbing—opportunities. In some instances, you can make the leap with almost no experience: organizations just want fresh enthusiasm, and they’ll take care of the rest.

But it seems like those jobs go to all the new college graduates, don’t they? What happens if you’ve been working for years in another field or specialty? What if you never even got your business degree? Can you still take the plunge into sales?

Absolutely, unequivocally, yes. The path might not always be easy, and it’s a lot of uphill at first, but there is a path—and we’re going to help you get on it.

Remember: You’re Not The First To Do This

Let’s start with the cold, hard data. You are not the first person to transition out of one specialty and into sales. Far from it, actually.

According to a study by LinkedIn, in fact, transitioning into sales is the most common career transition people make. This is in part because, as the study points out, almost every business out there requires some sort of sales function.

Yes, even the business you currently work for. And that’s where you should start.

Start by finding someone in your office who’s already in sales, and buy them lunch. Ask them what they like about their job, how they got there, even what they don’t like. Get as much information out of them as you can—if they’re the best in your company at selling, try to figure out what it is that makes them the best.

People want to be helpful, and you’ll be amazed at how open most folks are to give some friendly guidance.

Lesson #1: Sell Me This Candidate

OK, so maybe this is a lesson in sales after all. When you’re making such a swift change from one field over into sales, you’ve probably come to think that you’re not a “conventional” candidate. You’re not the “ideal choice.”

Well here’s your first lesson: get that language out of your vocabulary.

Your first sale is always going to be convincing a hiring manager that you’re the best candidate for the job. And if you’re transitioning out of another career, that’s a sale you’ve already made! This time, you’re just a little less familiar with the material.

Study up on what makes a great sales person. Understand how your past experience can translate to some of those skills. For a given job, discover who is the key “decision maker” is, whether it’s a team manager, or an HR rep, and try to form some sort of connection with them. Raise objections about why you may or may not be the right candidate early, so that you can respond to them and adjust your strategy. Finally, go in there, make your pitch, and leave it all on the floor.

Eventually, you’re going to nail this sale. Good luck!