To advance in a sales position and make a portable career, develop solid selling skills and keep track of your sales accomplishments. Increase your earnings by changing jobs, gaining a promotion to sales or executive management or using your sales skills to become an entrepreneur. You may consider starting a business, working as a manufacturer’s rep or distributor or possibly earning your living in real estate or another type of commission sales. With proven sales abilities, your career path is wide open.
Different career paths and education requirements
You may be able to start your sales career with a high school diploma and company-provided product and sales training. Some corporations require a bachelor’s degree and experience, particularly for technical sales positions in the pharmaceutical, medical equipment and technology industries.
No set path exists to take you up the corporate ladder, but here are a few of the more common sales roles.
Customer service representatives handle customer complaints, process orders and provide information about products and services. Some sales representatives start as customer service representatives earning a median salary of $34,710 per year in 2019. Virtually every industry employs customer service reps, and you can start your career with a high school education, basic computer skills and good communication skills. You can typically find full-time, part-time, seasonal and flexible customer service positions.
Sales representatives earned a median wage of $64,860 in 2019, with compensation often based on a salary, salary-plus-commission or salary-plus-bonus plan. You could start as an inside sales representative or sales trainee, conducting business over the phone and internet, or possibly as an outside sales representative calling on customers in person. As you gain experience, you may grow into a sales executive role and your quota, territory, responsibilities and salary will most likely increase. Top tier salespeople are often among the highest paid employees in an organization.
Sales managers are typically responsible for managing a team, setting sales goals, analyzing sales data and training and mentoring sales representatives. You may be responsible for a territory, a region or even act as a national sales manager and have a personal quota as well as your team quota. You should consider the required travel, long hours and pressure to achieve goals, but with a median $124,640 wage for sales managers in 2019, the financial rewards could be a consideration.
Sales engineers sell complex scientific and technological products or services to businesses. They typically need a bachelor’s degree, often in engineering, and must have a combination of in-depth technical knowledge and strong interpersonal skills to be successful. The median wage for sales engineers was $103,900 in 2019 and you may need to work long, irregular hours to meet your sales goals and keep customers satisfied.
Sales trainers use their selling skills through professional services – sales training, consulting, public speaking or writing and selling books. They may become part of a company’s sales team, work for a firm that sells training services, start a training organization or work independently as a consultant. Trainer salaries can vary greatly depending on location, company and industry type and services offered.
Professional organizations and networking
Join a professional organization in your chosen field to gain a better understanding of current industry practices and policies. Professional organizations are great ways to continue your education through workshops and conferences, which will add to your transferable skill set as you move. Network with other professionals in your industry to give you an edge in meeting the right people who may have the connections you need to get an interview at your new location.
If you are considering getting started in a sales career, review the Research Occupations tool on MySECO. Take the Strong Interest Explorer and Myers-Briggs self-assessments to make sure your skills and interests align with this career path. Call Military OneSource at 800-342-9647 and speak with a SECO career coach for assistance with choosing a career path, locating a school, finding scholarship funding, searching for a job or overcoming challenges. For additional guidance, use the Live Chat feature on the MySECO website.