Sales might seem like a strange leap for an aerospace engineer, but the idea came up when I was chatting with my ex-girlfriend about her foray into sales. After hearing how I was feeling in my current role, she suggested that I apply for sales training at her company. I was amused at first, but she explained that in her experience, there are many successful salespeople like me: people who feel at home with solving complex problems but who can manage interpersonal relationships successfully.
3 Signs That You Have the Skills to Succeed in Sales
That conversation led to the beginning of a fascinating new career, one that I’ve enjoyed and found success in for over a decade. If you're considering a career change, here are some signs that sales could be the right fit for you:
1. You’re naturally analytical.
In sales, it’s not enough to just pitch a solution. You have to be attuned to your customers’ problems in order to design and communicate a solution that works for them. Analytical thinking is crucial for this skill.
This is a quality that is sorely missing in the industry. According to the "2018 Buyers Preferences Study" by CSO Insights, executive buyers don’t see salespeople as problem solvers. In fact, salespeople aren't even in executive buyers' list of the top three resources they look to when they need to solve a problem. This perception is damaging sales and keeping salespeople out of business discussions where they could be instrumental in driving successful outcomes for customers.
Is this you? Think about how you solve problems in other real-world situations. Do you like taking data or feedback from multiple sources and then looking for a resolution? Even in your personal life, do you look to solve problems in an analytical way while still maintaining emotional alignment? You could be a great salesperson if you naturally balance analytics with understanding, showing people that they can trust you to guide them to a solution to their problem.
2. You enjoy and are proficient with technology. It’s not a stretch to see how technical ability can be a boon for salespeople in most industries. A comfort level with technical language can be especially helpful for tech sales because it enables you to build trust and rapport with clients instead of just relying on smooth talking.
Technology that's available to salespeople has also changed dramatically in the past decade. While phone, email, and customer relationship management software have been around for 20-plus years, new technologies that enable fast and strategic communication have changed the game for motivated reps. Nowadays, the amount of data available to reps to make important decisions is growing rapidly; leveraging technology to do so is more critical than ever.
Is this you? According to the 2019 "Future of Work" survey, 47% of tech employees are planning a career change within the next 10 years. If you have technical expertise but feel like you’re missing a social aspect to your work, look for a tech-related sales role. This could be at a tech company or just a company with a complex sales process — your existing tech savvy could form the critical bridge both you and the company are looking for.
3. You’re a great writer.
So much of sales communication these days involves email, social media, and other digital content in order to build out a company’s expertise and visibility online. Consumers are increasingly looking to trust the voice and the story of the brands they use.
People who are good writers tend to be some of the best overall communicators. They can clearly and concisely explain a problem and its solution in a way that reassures buyers and earns their trust. Few sales roles today rely entirely on the phone, and the difference between a good writer and a poor one can be the difference between exceeding quota and failing to achieve it.
Is this you? If you’re confident showing people in writing that you have something to say that's worth listening to, you could be great in a sales role. Look around at companies that are interesting to you, paying close attention to the people at these companies, including junior folks, frontline salespeople, and executives. Dive into what they're posting online. Can you relate? Could you do it better?
When I was working as an aerospace engineer, deep in the weeds of technical jargon and spending the day in my analytical silo, I wouldn’t have dreamed that sales would be my next playground. But it has given me the perfect space to develop my career.
Could you be uniquely suited to a new career in sales, too? Take a look at what you could offer — if you know you are naturally analytical, a born techie, or able to express yourself in words with clarity and flair, you could find yourself much happier in this fascinating space.