How to build a successful career in sales

5 mins

How to build a successful career in sales? Advice from someone who has placed hundreds of sa...


How to build a successful career in sales? Advice from someone who has placed hundreds of salespeople 

One of the most popular questions I am asked by my candidates at the start of their job search – "how do I make sure I am joining the right company for me?"

The thing I truly believe more than anything is that everyone has different needs and aspirations. Often these can change dramatically over the course of a lifetime and across a career. As we are witnessing currently, things are changing on a weekly basis, and whether you're still employed, have lost your job, are on furlough, or considering a move, here are some thoughts for when the market inevitably picks up. 

Arguably, a career in sales can be one of the hardest to build, as there are so many boxes you need to tick. There is no point staying somewhere for the free lunches if you can’t add value, make a difference, and ultimately make money.

To that end, here are my humble opinions on how to build a career in sales – when to move and what to look for when you do.

Make sure you are moving for the right reasons.

Sales is a highly pressurised environment. As much as we would enjoy having easier targets to hit, salespeople are the beating heart of any company, and the only way a company can grow is by growing its revenue. From time to time this can bubble to the surface and emotions and egos can come to the forefront. It goes without saying that you should never look to leave just because you had a disagreement with your manager or teammate, all good teams argue. If you don’t believe me do a bit of research into Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal at the Lakers...

Similarly, you should never move just for money. Yes, you must make sure you are compensated in line with the value you bring to an organisation, but it is much more important to be valued in other ways. If you love your job but don’t feel you are getting paid enough, ask for a raise before you think of moving.

Pick the right time to move

This is a highly debatable topic and sometimes this is going to be out of your hands. If you join a company only to find they have lied to you about every aspect of what it is like to work there, of course, you should look to leave.

I personally think that you should stay at a company until you can look back at the time you have spent a company and confirm to yourself that you have learnt something important about yourself. For me hitting targets doesn’t come into this equation, your ability to hit targets is partly down to your own performance, and partly due to elements such as market condition and luck. It may be that the thing you have found out is that you are not getting any personal development, and that is a good reason to move too.

In terms of how long you should stay, this is completely dependent on your own experience. If you can learn something profound and have developed personally in the 12 months you have spent at a company, great. If it takes longer than this, that’s brilliant too.

Back the right horse

This is probably the most difficult decision to make. It usually comes with the greatest risk, but often with the biggest rewards.

The truth is that you can never guarantee that a move to a new company is going to work out. You might join your dream company only to find out you don’t click with your boss, or you just aren’t as passionate about the product as you thought.

It is also important to realise that moving to big, established companies isn’t the only way to go. If I look at any recruiter briefing out roles at Tik Tok two years ago, I would have guaranteed that most of their candidates would have turned their noses up at it. Now everyone wants to work for them, and guess who they are all reporting into?

One of the bigger questions to ask here as a salesperson is can I make money here? If the product is great you will be able to sell it, but are the targets realistic? If not, is the hiring manager open to discussing these? Am I going to be passionate about selling this every-day? What is my role going to look like in 18 months?

I could have spoken about this for another 10 points but I feel these are the most important to start with. The truth is that nobody has the perfect formula for career success, and often you will have to work this out for yourself. I do however believe you can apply a sense of logic to it, and I hope this post will help some of you out there to make the best decisions for your career.

I would love to hear your opinions on this, what advice have you had when changing careers, similarly what advice have you given to others? Please do let me know your thoughts, and as always I am available to chat through this at any time.

I hope everyone is staying safe and continuing to get through this period with true sales spirit!

Will Bellinger
Managing Consultant - Marketing and Advertising Technology Sales

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