How To Change Your Career to Sales – Tips From 9 Industries

Maria MunteanMaria Muntean | 17 minute read | September 8, 2022
career change to sales

In this article

It’s never been a better time to be a salesperson—and it’s easy to see why.

Sales is an exciting, challenging career with plenty of upsides. The average salary for sales managers is $79,451, and the top 10% of salespeople earn more than $135,285. That’s because sales will always be in demand, and the job satisfaction you gain from pursuing this career will be invaluable for your professional life.

However, getting into sales and changing your career can be a bit of a challenge. Sales is not easy to jump into and requires a lot of training, skills development, and relevant experience.

You might be wondering if you’re suitable for the job and if it will fit in with your lifestyle. You also might be worried about how much money you’ll make and whether or not there are any opportunities for you in the job market.

If this sounds like you, then we’re here to help. This article will share tips for transitioning into a sales career from nine industries. We’ll also explore a step-by-step framework for getting into sales and what marketable skills you need. Read on!

Is Sales a Good Career Move?

career change to sales
Source: Hubspot Blog

Absolutely! A career in sales is perfect for people who are outgoing, confident, and can naturally persuade others. The job market is filled with opportunities, so you can expect to move up quickly in this field, which means more money and responsibility over time.

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How To Switch Careers to Sales? (A Framework)

Sales can be a lucrative and rewarding career path, but it requires some effort. We’ll break down all of the steps for you below.

Determine If Sales Is The Right Career Transition For You

Sales managers must be able to listen carefully and understand their customer’s needs, balance their needs with those of others, and think on their feet.

Before you start your job search, take some time to consider whether you have what it takes. Here are some questions you can ask yourself:

  • Do I have good communication skills?
  • Do I enjoy interacting with people?
  • Can I work under pressure?
  • Can I handle rejection?

Read and Learn As Much as You Can

Sales books will teach you how the sales process works and how to identify your target market and talk to them. 

If you want to improve your knowledge, consider taking a sales course, such as the one from Springboard. These help you develop the marketable skills necessary for success in this field so that you can apply them immediately.

Tech sales bootcamp

Pick the Industry You Want To Work In

When starting, it can be challenging to know what industry you’d like to work in. Figure out what you enjoy doing and which industries you’re familiar with.

Once you’ve decided and identified your target customer base, it’s time to start building relationships with people already working there and begin your job search within familiar industries. You might also choose to work in business development, customer relationship management, sales technology, or SaaS sales.

Make a Strategic Plan for the Transition

As part of your career change plan, start by researching the average pay for entry-level salespeople, and asses whether or not this is a realistic salary for your current situation.

During your job search, ask your manager if there are any open sales positions at your company. Make sure you have a plan B. Don’t quit your job if you don’t have anything else lined up.

Assess Your Transferable Skills and Hone Other Essential Skills

career change to sale-essential skills
Source: Weebly

Evaluate your transferable skills and identify what you already know that can be applied to a sales role. To become a successful sales rep, you must learn new soft skills and take on responsibilities that will challenge you and allow you to grow professionally.

Get Familiar With the Fundamentals

To get started in sales, you’ll need to get familiar with some of the most popular sales terms:

  • Lead Generation. This is how you find your ideal customers and make them aware of your product or service. It’s the first step to getting into their pipeline.
  • Pipeline Management. This is how you track your leads as they move through the sales process.
  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Software. You’ll use these sales-specific tools to keep track of all of your clients’ information so that you can follow up on them when necessary.
  • Sales Intelligence. This is a crucial part of business development that helps you figure out what’s working and what isn’t in terms of how you sell your products and services to improve your performance.
  • Competition Analysis. This helps you understand who else is selling similar products or services in the same industry as yours so that you know whether or not there’s room for growth.
  • Analytics. Analytics help you understand what kind of return on investment (ROI) your company gets from its sales efforts.
  • Marketing and email automation. Make sure you’re getting the most out of your marketing efforts using automation for effective follow-up and lead generation.

Build Your Network

career change to sales -building network

Online communities are an excellent tool for building relationships with people already in the industry, as are conferences and meetups.

These events often have networking sessions where you can talk with other attendees about how they started as sales reps and what they’ve learned along the way.

Find a Mentor

Find the right sales mentor to help you become a successful salesperson by helping you build those marketable skills and experience.

find a sales mentor

A mentor is someone with a strong sales background who has already reached the level of success you’re striving towards and can offer advice on how they got there.

Create a Resume That Highlights Your Skills

If you have experience in marketing or advertising and want to transition into sales, emphasize this on your resume. Here’s an example of what that looks like:

create a resume that highlight your skills
Source: Beamjobs

In addition to highlighting the relevant soft skills and professional experience, make sure that you also highlight any awards related to working in sales. This will help to show potential employers that you are serious about pursuing this career path.

Start Part-Time and Then Take the Plunge

You don’t have to quit your job to become a full-time salesperson. You can take small steps toward your goal, starting with getting professional experience and building up your skillset in a part-time role. 

Transitioning to Sales: Tips From 9 Industries

It’s not easy to just walk away from what you’ve been doing for years and launch yourself into a new industry. However, certain soft skills can help you make the transition as smooth as possible.

Teaching

Teachers are used to dealing with people in a productive and mutually beneficial way. They also manage their own time and priorities, which is key for sales professionals with a lot on their plate.

Transferable Skills

  • Relationship building. Teachers build relationships with their students daily, similar to sales professionals with their clients. They know their ideal customers’ needs and can provide solutions to help them achieve their goals.
  • Effective communication. Teachers need to communicate effectively with current students and parents alike. In sales, communication is even more critical because it determines whether or not your business succeeds or fails.
  • Listening. As a teacher, you listen carefully and understand your student’s needs. This makes you great in a sales call. You’ll be able to identify their concerns and tailor your services accordingly.
  • Persuasion. This skill comes in handy when switching from teaching to sales. You’ll be able to persuade clients about why they should buy your product or service.
  • Understand individual needs and tailor solutions. Teachers understand each student’s needs and tailor their lessons accordingly. Salespeople need this ability to understand their client’s needs.
  • Presentation. Presentations are an essential part of teaching. Presentations are also key components of sales calls—you’ve got to be able to get your message across in a way that resonates with your audience.
  • Patience. As a teacher, you need to be patient with your students. The same is true with sales; your ideal customers will come around eventually if you give them time and don’t rush them through the sales process.

Top Tips

If you’re a teacher who wants to transition from teaching to sales, here are some tips for getting started:

  • Take a sales course. You’ll learn how to sell products and services, as well as how to build relationships with potential customers. Make sure it lays a solid foundation of sales knowledge and has flexible learning options.
  • Join local marketing and sales conferences. These are joined by a strong network of professionals in your field who are up-to-date on industry trends.
  • Read sales books. There are tons of books that will help you learn the ins and outs of sales, including recommended titles by top business leaders like Tony Robbins and Dale Carnegie.

Hospitality

Hospitality skills
Source: STAAH Blog

One of the greatest things about a career in hospitality is that you already have soft skills that are useful in almost any job. 

Transferable Skills

  • People skills. In hospitality, you work on customer satisfaction. Similar to sales, this means learning to deal with conflict and professionally handle complaints.
  • Problem-solving. In hospitality and sales, you’ll need to be able to solve problems on your own and help others solve their problems for a business to run smoothly.
  • Customer service. You already have excellent customer satisfaction skills and business acumen as a hospitality professional. In sales, these skills are valuable if you want customers coming back again and again.
  • Negotiation. This is also a key skill for both jobs: hotel employees must negotiate with suppliers and managers about budgets and pricing. Sales professionals must likewise negotiate with clients about prices or discounts.
  • Handling complaints. It’s important to know how to handle complaints to make your customers feel heard and respected, even if they are being unreasonable or rude. That skill will help you in any role where you’re interacting with customers—from selling cars to selling insurance policies.
  • Teamwork. Hospitality professionals know how to work well with others on their team. That ability will help you succeed in any sales position involving a group.
  • Stress management and working under pressure. The hospitality environment requires people who can think on their feet and make decisions quickly. Sales professionals also need to handle pressure as they try to close deals and win contracts.

Top Tips

Here are the three steps that will help you get there:

  • Highlight on-the-job sales experience. On your CV, include accomplishments (i.e. increased restaurant sales by 20%) or any other skills or knowledge that will be useful in a sales position.
  • Explore sales opportunities at your current job. Show prospective employers you have the skills to succeed.
  • Take a sales course. This can help you develop the skills needed to become an effective salesperson, including persuasive speaking, negotiation techniques, and more.

Healthcare

career change to sales-healthcare

Healthcare professionals are used to working with people and developing relationships with patients, which are both crucial sales components.

Transferable Skills

  • Think on your feet. In healthcare, you have to make decisions quickly and under pressure. If you can think through complex situations effectively, you’ll have no problem making decisions in sales.
  • Decision-making. It’s not always easy to know whether or not a client is interested in your product. But with practice and experience comes confidence—and the ability to trust your instincts and make quick decisions about what’s best for them and yourself. 
  • Resilience. From the healthcare industry to the sales world, it’s important to be able to bounce back after a setback.
  • Work under pressure. Working under pressure is another transferable skill from healthcare to sales. In healthcare, you’re constantly working under time constraints as you try to save lives. There are deadlines in sales.
  • Empathy. This is one of the most important skills in both industries: understanding the perspective of others and putting yourself in their shoes helps you relate better with everyone around you.

Top Tips

Here are some tips for making that transition:

  • Start networking. Getting out there and meeting people who can help you start your new career is key.
  • Consider a transition to clinical sales support first. This will let you get your feet wet without having to take the leap straight into other industries. It will also give you time to learn about the industry from an insider’s perspective.
  • Find a mentor. You’ll need someone who knows what they’re doing and can help guide you along the way.

Banking

career change to sales-banking
Source: Leverage Edu

As a finance professional, you know how to make customers feel valued. And you possess the ability to analyze data and come up with solutions. All of these skills are essential for sales success.

Transferable Skills

  • Interpersonal skills. To be successful in sales, you have to be able to communicate effectively with other people. This includes effectively listening, understanding what other people are saying, and staying calm in stressful situations.
  • Meeting targets and deadlines. Setting goals and working towards them is a crucial skill that can be transferred from the banking industry to sales.
  • Building rapport. Another important transferable skill is building rapport with others. Building rapport with customers will help you make more sales, so it’s something you’ll need to practice if you want to be successful in this field.
  • Numbers and data. People from the financial sector tend to have an affinity for numbers and data, another transferable skill for those looking for a career change. As a sales professional, you’ll need these skills as well.
  • Customer service. Customer service is the number one skill you can bring from the banking industry to sales. As a bank employee, you’ve spent years dealing with customers and figuring out what they need, how they feel about your company, and how best to help them succeed. 

Top Tips

If you’re hoping to transition from banking to sales, you can do a few things to make it happen.

  • Stay up to date with the industry. This will help keep your mind open and receptive when looking for new opportunities.
  • Consider switching to a sales-focused job at your current company. If you work for a bank with its own sales team, this could be an easy way to get your foot in the door without making significant changes to where you work.
  • Get a certification. There are many different options available online—or even at local schools.

Marketing

If you’re good at data analysis and research as a marketer, you can likely apply those skills directly when you become a salesperson.

Transferable Skills

  • Analytical mindset. Marketing professionals are experienced in data collection and analysis. Sales professionals need this skill set to understand what customers want and how to deliver it.
  • Communication. This is something you’ll constantly do as a salesperson. Sales professionals must reach out to customers and potential clients to keep them engaged. 
  • Creative and quick thinking. Both marketers and sales professionals must be able to think creatively about how they can turn negative situations into opportunities for growth.
  • Goal-oriented. Marketing professionals are motivated by goals like increasing sales or gaining more customers over time through careful planning ahead of time. Sales professionals will also find that setting goals is part of their daily routine. 
  • Ability to understand customer needs. Both in marketing and sales, you’ll need to be able to understand what customers want and need. This is an essential skill that comes with experience.

Top Tips

Here are a few things you can do to make the transition smoother and more successful:

  • Learn more about outbound and inbound marketing. You’ll need to understand how these two aspects of online sales work together to sell effectively.
  • Be persuasive. Convincing customers of the worthiness of your product is crucial when it comes to closing deals.
  • Explore existing sales opportunities at your current job. This might just be the stepping stone towards becoming a full-time salesperson.

Military Veterans

Transferable Skills

If you’re looking to move from military life into the world of sales, certain skills will help you succeed in this new career.

  • Discipline. This is perhaps the most important skill a military veteran can bring to the table. While working in a sales job, you must be able to follow through on your commitments and obligations. 
  • Teamwork. Military members work as part of teams when deployed overseas. They know how to collaborate and listen carefully when someone else has an idea or suggestion for improvement.
  • Perform under pressure. Both military veterans and sales professionals deal with stressful situations to succeed in their careers. Salespeople need patience and persistence when dealing with demanding clients.
  • Adaptability. This is an essential skill for both military veterans and sales professionals. You’ll need to adapt to your surroundings, including other people’s personalities.
  • Patience. In sales, it can be hard to stay calm and collected when things get chaotic. But being able to keep your cool in times like these make you an effective sales professional.

Top Tips

Here are some simple steps you can take to make the transition easier:

  • Take courses in sales. This will help you understand what’s expected of you in this field and allow you to practice your skills in a controlled environment.
  • Get a part-time job in sales. This will help you determine if this career path is right for you. It will also give you extra time to gain experience and build your resume with relevant skills.
  • Find a mentor. Consider getting a mentor with experience working with veterans transitioning into a career in sales. This will give you more chances for smooth career development.

Recent College Graduates

Soft skills for school leavers

College graduates often have skills transferable to sales, such as the ability to think critically and solve problems. They’re energetic, confident, and ready to make a difference.

Transferable Skills

  • Critical thinking. This is a crucial skill for working in sales. Recent college graduates who have honed their critical thinking skills will be able to demonstrate their ability to be flexible and adaptable in any situation.
  • Research. Sales professionals need to have a strong understanding of what their customers are looking for. New grads who have spent time learning about these areas can show off their knowledge during sales interviews.
  • Familiarity with the latest trends. Keeping up with the trends during college will give you an unfair advantage over other candidates during interviews, and companies will love that you’re already familiar with their industry.
  • Communication. Recent college graduates are used to communicating with people from all walks of life. This skill is essential for sales professionals who regularly interact with sales teams and clients.
  • Time management. This helps college graduates manage time effectively when working as a sales professional.

Top Tips

To start a career in sales with formal sales education, do the following:

  • Take an online sales course. This will help you get the basics down and learn how to communicate effectively with ideal customers while still pursuing full-time study. 
  • Get an internship. This is a great way to get your feet wet in the field without all the pressure of being in a full-time position. Plus, it’s good practice for getting used to working with clients—and it looks good on your resume.
  • Connect with sales professionals from college. They may be able to offer valuable advice about how to navigate your first few months on the job or even help you land your first gig. They can also grant you access to students who pursue a sales career.

Customer Service

career change to sales-customer service
Source: The Balance Careers

If you’ve ever held a customer service job, you have transferrable sales skills, which are key to success in any role.

Many top-performing salespeople have practical experience in customer service.

Transferable Skills

  • Customer focus. Both roles serve customers and require an understanding of how to solve their problems or meet their needs.
  • Negotiate and handle objections. In customer service, you may have to negotiate with customers over their concerns about using your product or service. In sales, the negotiation might be between you and a prospect as they decide whether or not to buy from you.
  • Build rapport and relationships. This refers to responding quickly and professionally when someone reaches out; in sales, it means building trust with prospects so they know they can rely on you as a resource. 
  • Persuasion. Whether you’re communicating with customers over the phone or face-to-face with potential clients, persuasion is one of the most important skills in sales.
  • Positive attitude. Customer service requires a great deal of patience, a skill that will translate well into sales. As a sales professional, you’ll need to listen carefully and respond with positive energy to be effective.
  • Active listening. You’ll need to pay close attention to what your customers are saying so that you can fully understand their needs.
  • People skills. These are essential when it comes to working with other people—and they’re also essential if you hope to succeed within the sales industry.

Top Tips

If you want to make the leap from customer service to sales, here’s what you need to do:

  • Get the proper training. Interactive courses will teach you to identify your ideal customers’ needs. You will also interact with a community of people with the same interests.
  • Consider a part-time sales job. This can be a great way to get hands-on experience in sales and see if it’s really for you.
  • Explore any sales role at your current company. If you’re still unsure about taking the leap but want some more experience in sales nonetheless, consider exploring any existing opportunities within your current company.

Prior Sales Experience

If you have a background in sales, then you’ve already got quite a few transferable skills that can help you.

Transferable Skills

  • Sales strategies. The best sales teams know how to get their customers’ attention and get them to buy. If you want to be successful in sales, you need to be able to think on your feet and adapt your pitch for each customer.
  • Product knowledge. Salespeople understand what makes that product unique and why it’s worth buying. They can explain how the product will solve your customer’s problems and make their lives easier.
  • Motivation. Great salespeople are motivated by more than just money—they want to help people! They believe in what they’re selling and have a genuine desire to see others succeed.
  • Interpersonal skills. As a salesperson, you need to empathize with their customer’s needs and concerns before responding with an offer or solution that meets those needs.
  • Ability to close a deal. Sales professionals should make customers feel comfortable enough to purchase the product. They need to be able to explain the product’s benefits and convince their customers that they are making a good investment by buying it.
  • Persuasion and negotiation. These soft skills are crucial for closing a deal and helping a client understand the value of what you’re offering.

Top Tips

You’ve got a background in sales, but you want to transition from your prior role to another industry. Here’s how you can do it:

  • Get a certification. Many options are available, so spend time researching which suits your career goals and what skills would be most impressive to hiring managers.
  • Keep up with the latest trends. Do some research on current industry news and trends so that you can stay up-to-date with everything going on in your field. 
  • Perfect your resume. Highlight any relevant sales-related experience on your resume so potential employers know exactly why they should hire you over someone else.

FAQs About a Career Change to Sales

We answer your most frequently asked questions.

Is Sales a Profitable Career?

Yes. Salespeople can make six figures or more with just a few years of experience and hard work. Besides being paid well, there’s always the potential for high commissions and bonuses.
Source: Small Business Trends

Is Sales a Stressful Job?

Sales can be a stressful job, but it can also be very rewarding for your professional development. Here are a few ways to help you manage stress in your sales career:

1. Set goals for yourself
2. Look for opportunities for growth and improvement
3. Keep a journal of your progress
4. Find a mentor or coach
5. Reach out to hiring managers

Is There Career Progression in Sales?

Sales is a field that offers plenty of opportunities for career progression. To ensure career advancement, work on projects which help you develop new hard and soft skills that will impress potential employers.

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Maria Muntean

About Maria Muntean

Maria-Cristina is a content marketer with 7 years of experience in SEO and content strategy for SaaS and technology brands. She holds an MA thesis on the effects of emotions in written and video content. She loves to spend time near the ocean and watch horror movies.