How To Shift Away From A Career In Sales

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Sick of relentless targets and constant pressure? Tired of your worth being determined only by your last sale? Let's get you out of that sales job, with some practical advice and exercises...

Some people in sales will tell you about the highs of the job. They think it's fantastic. They talk about the fantastic feeling they experience when they use their people skills and powers of negotiation to close a deal.

However, several of my clients have been desperate to escape this world. Deeply unhappy, at first they thought it'd virtually impossible to change career direction. Both felt they were "stuck" in sales jobs for the rest of their working life. Can you relate to this feeling?

Stop. Rate your overall job happiness in your current job on a scale of 0-10, ten being deeply unhappy. If you score a seven or higher, this indicates that you need to take action. Are you willing to put up with working in an area that makes you incredibly unhappy? Decide right now that you deserve to have a job that gives you job satisfaction.

Complete these steps and you'll soon begin to believe that there is life after sales.

Step 1:

Write down the barriers preventing you from leaving the job. Here are some most common reasons:

Financial — you believe that another job won't give you the same salary.

Do you really know for sure that you can't earn good money in another job area? Have you actually done any research into what other options are available to you, or are you just jumping to conclusions as a way of legitimising staying put in an unfulfilling job? Could you afford to take a pay cut? You need to know exactly how much a month you need to live on, so do a financial audit. Make a list of all your outgoings. Are there any areas where you could make some cut-backs? You might have to make some financial sacrifices, but what price can you put on your own happiness?

Other barriers are: "I'm too old", "Sales is all I know" or "I'm too far down my career path to change direction". There are many other excuses, but are these obstacles a reality or just barriers that we have created in our minds?

Step 2:

Write a list of all the reasons why you dislike your current job and also all the things that you enjoy. Can you see a pattern? What does your list tell you about the type of work that'll suit you?

Step 3:

Write down the answers to the following questions:

  1. What inspires you?
  2. What would you do if you knew you couldn't fail?
  3. What did you want to do as a child when you were growing up?

Step 4:

Get to know yourself. What are your interests, personal qualities, strengths and values? Take a look at Lisa Mitchell's article, or email me at info@kayholdsworth.com for exercises to help you to learn who you are and what would be your ideal type of work.

Step 5:

Complete a skills audit. Many people who have been in the same job for a number of years feel they haven't got the necessary skills or experience to change roles. Sales people can be the worst culprits when it comes to underselling their skills! The fact is, people in sales have a wealth of skills that are easily transferable to other areas of work. Here are just a few skills and qualities of typical sales people:

Excellent communication and people skills, ambitious, able to manage and motivate individuals and teams, confidence, good understanding of the needs of customers and business, ability to build rapport, use of initiative, good at networking, negotiating and persuasion.

Brainstorm with a partner or friend all the skills that you use in your current and previous roles. Now sort your skills into one of these three categories: people, technical or data skills. Most importantly, make a separate list of all the skills that you enjoy using.

Step 6:

Explore your options and brainstorm any jobs that appeal to you.  Think about who might have a need for your skills. Be as creative and as imaginative as possible. There are no stupid ideas and this is not the time to be realistic. Brainstorming only works if you write whatever comes into your head without editing. Once you have your list of potential jobs, decide what criteria you will use to evaluate the ideas, such as genuine interest and achievability. Ask yourself, "What do I need to know about this role to know if it's right for me?"

Step 7:

Use the internet and your network of friends and colleagues to expand your knowledge of companies and organisations. Sales people often have a great number of useful contacts so you should be ahead of the game! Explore journals and newspapers about the area you are most interested in and identify relevant professional bodies for information. Good sources of information are the library and Chamber of Commerce. By talking to people, asking lots of questions and doing research, the easier it will become. Soon you will know what new area of work you want to move into.

Step 8:

Tailor your CV and cover letter to your new job role. Use the skills audit to assist you.

Step 9:

Take action and be as proactive as possible. Cold-call companies and find out as much information and knowledge about the company and role you want. Only about 25% of jobs are advertised, so you need to combine your investigative and entrepreneurial skills to discover vacancies and market yourself so you get that job!

Step 10:

Keep the faith. Henry Ford hit the nail on the head when he said, "If you believe you can, or you believe you can't, you're probably right". At times, you'll have doubts and experience setbacks. This is only natural but, if you keep plugging away, you'll get results and eventually say goodbye to sales.

If you work in sales and want to get out, what's stopping you? What transferable skills and personal attributes do you have that could help you shift into a different sector? Leave a comment below.

Kay Holdsworth is the founder and director of Career Solutions. She is a fully trained coach with 15 years experience in a range of sectors, such as people/personal development, education and sales. For over 3 years she worked for Connexions as a Personal Adviser. She gave career information and guidance, helping over 200 people into employment and training. She specialises in supporting and motivating her clients, enabling them to change career direction and find a job they love. “Find a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life.” Confucius To read her practical yet inspiring career blogs visit her website at www.kayholdsworth.com