There are career change guides, and then there are career change guides. This is the latter, and it will help you as you transition into a role in tech sales. This guide includes links to our popular resources and downloadable assets to help keep you organized and on track. This career change guide also takes a holistic approach to change, because nothing happens in a vacuum.
It is broken down into three sections: 1. Pre Transition considers the hard questions you must ask yourself before embarking on any journey worth taking. 2. During The Transition explores what it’s like to learn sales in the modern environment, and what it will be like as you experience a lot of “firsts.” And 3. Post Transition is about closing the circle and building on this newly developed foundation for lasting success. We hope you enjoy!”
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How many different career paths will you follow over your lifetime?
Do the math, and it’s clear most of us will undergo a career 180 at some point in our working lives. We’re not just talking about a job change either, like moving up the chain on your team or progressing further in your profession. We’re talking a total pivot into something entirely new.
Almost half of employees have already made a career transition at least once, according to a recent survey by Indeed… and if you ask Workopolis, they’ll tell you that 76 percent of career-changers have done so two or more times. Employee transitions are now the norm, with employee tenure sitting anywhere between four and ten years depending on where you live, the job you hold and who you ask.
Yes, the days of one-job-for-life are officially over. But just because career changes are incredibly common (and, for most of us, expected), it doesn’t mean leaping into a new field, specialty or profession is painless or simple.
That’s why this career change guide is in front of you right now.
If you’re considering a career transition into tech sales, we’ll show you what that world is like. And if you’re hungry for sales education, we’ll give you the resources you need to build a solid foundation of knowledge and expertise. If you’re ready to take that leap but aren’t sure where to start, we’ll help you take your first step (and the next, and the next). If you’re already looking for work in the field, we’ve got tips and tricks to help you land that dream job. And if you’re already starting your new career, we’ll help you make that transition a successful one.
So enjoy – and good luck out there!
Is it time for a career change?
With almost 90 percent of career changers reporting that they feel happier in their new roles, it seems like a no-brainer: for most, the move pays off. But what sparks that desire to try something new in the first place? How do you know when it’s time to make your move?
While individual situations vary, career changers report they made their decision based on a few key driving motivations:
- Better pay: Perhaps your experience and responsibilities have grown over time, but your compensation? Not so much. Or you have a major life change on the horizon that’ll require a better salary to support. There are lots of reasons to seek out a higher earning potential, so it’s no surprise that better pay ranks highly among the most common motivators for a career change.
- New challenges: About three-quarters of career-switchers do so because they want to continue learning and developing themselves professionally. After years in their current role or field, they feel like they’re ready for a fresh start where they can learn new skills and tackle new challenges in new capacities, sectors or industries.
- Greater flexibility: Have kids at home? Moving to a new city? Dreaming of traveling the world? Can’t stand the commute? You might need flexibility in your day-to-day that your current job just can’t provide. In an era where remote work is fast becoming the norm, many people quit one career for another that is simply better suited for work on their own terms.
- Advancement opportunities: You have big plans for your future… but you’ve hit a ceiling where you are today. So where do you go? How do you move up the ladder? Sometimes the answer lies in taking an entirely different path upward, just in a new line of work.
- Job dissatisfaction: Sometimes there isn’t one big reason, but rather a bunch of little ones – a boss or coworkers you don’t like, feeling bored on-the-job, tasks that you either didn’t enjoy or weren’t especially good at – but it all boils down to a general sense of ennui that builds up until it’s clear that it’s time for a change.
Do any of these sound like you? Understanding the motivation behind your desire to change careers is an important step that sets the stage for the rest of the process. It’ll help you figure out what kind of job you want to move into next, stay focused throughout your job search, answer questions about your career change in interviews and keep the momentum going in your new position.
That said, most of the time, the decision to change careers isn’t one enlightening “Aha!” moment. It’s something that builds incrementally, over time, through a process of trial-and-error as you discover more about what you like and don’t like about the work you do. This explains why most career changes aren’t spur-of-the-moment decisions. In fact, 83 percent of career changers report they planned their career transition in advance and spent an average of 11 months mulling it over before ever taking action.
Our advice: Don’t feel pressured to jump into something new right away. Take some time to really reflect on why you’re considering a change and whether a career change could be the right answer for you. It might not be – at least, not right now – but at least you’ll have the added confidence of a decision well made. More tips to come in this career change guide!
Is tech sales the right fit?
If the word “salesperson” conjures images of annoyingly pushy reps making cold calls day-in and day-out (and sometimes resorting to dirty tricks) in constant pursuit of that sweet, sweet commission, we’ve got news for you.
In reality, tech sales is all about helping a customer – either a business or an individual – solve real-world problems with innovative technology solutions that fall into three categories:
– Hardware (physical products like computers and handheld devices)
– Software (non-physical products like operating systems and applications)
– Services (access to and support for things like data and cloud storage)
And today’s breed of sales reps is quite different from the stereotypes from 20-plus years ago. They’re ambitious yet empathetic experts who help others through their challenges. They thrive in changing environments that demand a range of valuable skills. They’re passionate about technology and how it changes the world.
Sales is also an incredibly important part of any tech company, as it’s the revenue engine that keeps innovation driving forward. It’s a fantastic way to make a meaningful impact within an organization while also helping others achieve their goals through the way you make their lives and missions easier.
Even if you’ve never considered yourself a “salesperson,” it’s a field worth looking into if you’re interested in:
1 – Connecting with people and building relationships
Whether you’re selling business-to-business or business-to-consumer, in-person or remote, your goal is the same: to listen to people and help make their lives a little better.
2 – Learning more about the tech you love
You’ll have the opportunity to learn about the specific tech you sell and all the other innovations around it. Staying up-to-date with the latest trends is part of the job!
3 – Putting your past experience to good use
No, you don’t need a computer science or engineering degree – in tech sales, a wide range of backgrounds, experiences, skills and passions makes a stronger team.
4 – Earning a good (and secure) living
Tech sales a fast-growing field always in need of great talent… and it’s one of the best-paying non-technical jobs available in the industry.
This career change guide breaks down the role of a tech sales representative, jump down to tech sales skills.
Handling career change stress
It’s easy to dream about leaving your old job behind and discovering all the possibilities out there; it’s much harder to commit to pulling the trigger.
Career changers report feeling stress from many directions, whether it’s financial fretting about funding a transition, the impact their decision will have on important relationships, burnout at a current job or the fear of failure in a new career.
But when things start to seem like too much to handle, you can always turn to:
Think back to the reasons why you want to make a change in the first place. Document it if you can – maybe it’s a list, a journal, a video or a manifesto – and keep it as a reminder of why you’re making this decision and what you hope to gain for it. Then revisit it when your motivation starts to lag or when you start to feel overwhelmed with anxiety
Your support network
Yes, it’s true that a career change has a ripple effect that can impact your friends and family – which is exactly why you should consider bringing them into the loop early and often. Not only can help provide you with added perspective while you make your decision, but they can also help keep you on course when it feels like you’re going off-track. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.
As we mentioned, a career change isn’t often a spur-of-the-moment decision. That means you can take your time and prepare, so you leave as little to chance as possible. Not sure if you’ll like your new field? Network with people in industries you’re interested in. Worried about the financial impact? Make a budget or start saving early. We can’t plan for everything, but we do gain confidence from the plans we can make.
Now take a breath… and get ready to start preparing for your transition!
Support network, assemble!
The career change dream is largely one you arrive at on your own. In fact, you might want to mull it over a little longer still before telling a partner, family, friends or coworkers, if you haven’t done so already. And that’s okay!
But at some point, you’ll appreciate having a cheerleader squad that keeps the spark burning during tough days when you’re feeling overwhelmed, anxious or unmotivated. It’s also a great source for:
- Connections: It’s tough to surround yourself with people outside of your current industry. But the friend of a friend of a family member might know someone who knows someone in tech sales who can make your transition a success!
- Advice: Do you know someone who’s made a career switch before? Consider picking their brain to get an idea of what their experience was like, how they made and executed their plan, and what they might do better next time.
- Recommendations: From the best insights and guides (like this one!) to resume services to job boards to great online sales training courses like Uvaro, your network can point you toward helpful resources you wouldn’t know about otherwise.
- Accountability: Make a promise to yourself, and it’s easy to let things slide. But share a commitment with someone else about your progress, and you’ll have to answer to them too – a good way to keep yourself disciplined and on-track!
- Feedback: We could all use a reality check now and then. While you need people who will build you up, you also need people who will keep you level and grounded with open, honest communication and outside perspectives.
- Help: Sometimes you just need a hand. Looking for a second set of eyes for that resume? Having trouble with your financial plan? Just need someone to listen? Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need, when you need it!
So where can you turn?
A career change is a big decision that impacts the people closest to you: partners, children, parents or anyone else you share your life with.While these people can be biased against “unsafe” career paths (after all, they often want what they think is best for you!) you’ll need them on board with you, at least to some degree, since a decision of this magnitude can affect their lives, too.
A healthy discussion can help them become just as invested as you are when you ask for their help and approach change as a choice you make together. Make sure you:
– Communicate clearly, honestly and from the heart why you’re doing what you’re doing. Their understanding will go a long way toward acceptance and support.
– Understand things from their point of view, too. Sure, it’s great that you’re following your dreams, but how will that affect their day-to-day life?
– Show your work. If you have early plans and milestones in place, it demonstrates that you’re serious, organized and committed.
– Try not to get defensive over disagreements. Instead, listen. Get to the root of what’s bothering them. Their concerns might be legitimate, and can help you plan a more successful transition.
– Get them involved in planning and execution. Incorporate their needs into your plan and give them roles to play, like helping with a budget, making introductions and sharing resources.
Our Advice: If you’re considering a training program, make sure it fits in with your schedule – and your family’s schedule, too. A two-hour commitment each day can be a lot, but if it’s designed to fit around your busy life (not the other way around!) you’ll have an easier time bringing your loved ones on board with your transition plan.
If you’re looking for a more objective sounding board about your decision to switch careers, consider turning to your friends. Like your family, they know you well and want the best for you. But because they aren’t directly invested in your career path, your inner circle can be a good place to feel out initial ideas, no matter how wild they are.
Before you broadcast your intention to your entire contact list, though, start by telling just one or two people who you know will be supportive yet honest in their conversations with you. They can help you work out the kinks in your plan and act as a pilot test for how to let a broader audience know about your next exciting steps!
It may be too soon to spring your career change on your coworkers, but that doesn’t mean you can’t start forging relationships, sharing your ideas and rallying support in sales networks and online communities! The beauty about these connections: they know what it takes to make it, and can give you pointers, tips and resources to help you on your own journey.
What networks should you tap into? Consider:
Social networking: join online communities through platforms like LinkedIn to start connecting with other professionals in your target industry and role.
Training programs: specifically, programs that offer direct connections with seasoned sales pros and fellow classmates, so you can both learn from the best and share your experiences with others going through a similar path.
Sales associations: check if there’s a national or local professional sales association that can provide you with additional career resources that can help you plan your next move.
Events: Whether it’s a speaker series or a casual online meet and greet, you’ll find lots of options out there for networking and professional development with others in the field.
Coaches and mentors
There’s nothing wrong with going DIY on your career path. But if you prefer to have a little more guidance and direction along the way, coaches and mentors are great options because they have a lot of experience helping people going through the same things you are.
- A coach is all about identifying skills and knowledge from past jobs, figuring out where your strengths and interests lie, building an effective brand through your resume and cover letter, practicing interviews and even tapping into “the hidden job market” – roles that aren’t advertised or posted online.
- A mentor is more focused on your long-term career goals and your development toward them over time. They’re a font of knowledge and experience who can teach you more about a specific industry, role or market, and are particularly helpful when it comes to thinking through roadblocks or solving problems that crop up along the way.
A Caveat: Not everyone will be on board with your decision. CareerShifters recommends starting small by sharing your thoughts with one person you know will be supportive, and hand-picking other supporters along the way. Hold off on broadcasting your decision until you’ve nailed down your “why” so you can help others understand where you’re coming from, and until you have more clarity into your plans so you can show them you’re serious, confident and ready to make it work.
Start doing your homework
Coming up with a solid career change plan means knowing what, exactly, you’re getting yourself into. What’s it like to take the leap? How have others navigated the path? What worked for them – and what didn’t? What should you watch out for?
And when it comes to tech sales in particular, you’ll want answers to a host of other questions about the work itself. What does a day-in-the-life of a sales rep really look like, what kinds of skills will you need to bring to the table, and what kinds of challenges and rewards come with the job?
The answers are out there – and it’s actually pretty easy to learn more on your own! Here’s how.
Take free online courses
If this is your first foray into the world of sales or tech sales, consider taking an online course to familiarize yourself with the field, build practical knowledge and cut down on your learning curve once you land your new job.
Online learning courses come in many flavours to fit your needs and preferences, from free and low-cost options to on-demand or live sessions! Because they’re online, you’ll need a little more self-discipline and self-motivation than an in-person course, but you’ll benefit from connecting with instructors and experts from around the world.
Start your search with some of our favourite courses:
– Uvaro On Demand (of course!): Our 12-week course has both breadth and depth on everything from the fundamental building blocks of sales, to the tools and technology you’ll use on-the-job, to the psychology of sales, to landing a sales job that’s right for you. We also introduce you to successful sales professionals, give you opportunities to network with classmates and get hands-on with projects that build your muscle on the most important sales skills.
– HubSpot Academy: Dive into HubSpot’s bite-sized learning sessions to build on the practical skills you’ll use every day across a range of topics that turn reps into superstar sellers. And why not get a free certification you can add to LinkedIn while you’re at it?
– LinkedIn Learning: With over 16,000 free and paid courses in their catalogue, LinkedIn Learning offers short courses and learning paths on a variety of careers. This is a great chance to learn specific skills from the experts that live and breathe sales every day.
– Udemy: You can learn almost anything on Udemy – so why not sales? With a go-at-your-own-pace approach, low prices and access to trending and highly-rated courses suited to all levels, you’ll be sure to learn something new.
Read a good book
Reading isn’t just a good way to boost your mood, keep your mind sharp or escape on a rainy day. They’re a vital tool in your transition into sales because they give you a direct window into the minds of the greatest sellers – and let you dig deep into the topics that interest you the most.
They’re surprisingly flexible, too. If you’re busy, it’s easy to squeeze in a chapter or two in between appointments. If you’re on a budget, you can check your local used book store or the library. Without a background in sales, it may also take a bit of time to bring yourself up-to-speed with the subject matter. But, little by little, you’ll find yourself building up your business acumen!
We recommend adding these titles to your reading list:
– Fanatical Prospecting by Jeb Blount: Prospecting is the most important activity in sales and business development, says Blount. That’s why he’s filled this book with the secrets, strategies and techniques top earners use to prospect successfully in the real world.
– Sales Development by Cory Bray and Hilmon Sorey: Are you looking for a sales development role? If so, this book is written just for you, with advice on how to get the job, how to perform and how to position yourself for advancement.
– The Sales Development Playbook by Trish Bertuzzi: Forget growth – this book is about high growth, explosive growth – “The kind that weather satellites can see from space” – through sales development.
– Predictable Revenue by Aaron Ross and Marylou Tyler: Did you know Salesforce.com added $100 million in recurring revenue, in just a few short years, with zero cold calls? This book will show you how they did it – and how you can do it, too.
Throw on a podcast
Whether you want to learn more about sales, career development or the process of switching careers in general, this is a great medium to build your foundation of knowledge while staying up-to-date with the latest trends. You’ll expose yourself to a variety of voices and perspectives, too.
As convenient as podcasts are, you’ll still want to avoid multitasking when you have a mentally taxing job to do – they do require some attention, after all, and it’s easy to get absorbed into something else while you have those earbuds in.
What should you add to your must-listen list?
– Repurpose Your Career: Host Marc Miller has pivoted careers not once, not twice but six times! And in this podcast, he brings his experience to the table with other career changers who have a story to tell.
– Happen to Your Career: Yes, it’s possible to find a career that’s meaningful, fulfilling and pays well. This podcast is all about giving you the inspiration, tools and roadmaps to move from your current job to a career that matters to you.
– Pivot with Jenny Blake: Let’s face it: change can be scary. So why not get better at it? Host Jenny Blake talks with authors and friends about embracing fear, imperfection, insecurity and intuition, and how they found opportunities in unexpected places.
– The Sellers Journey: A career in sales has its ups… and its downs. Uvaro’s very own podcast explores how to stay balanced and learn from your experiences as sales professionals share their journeys around perseverance, dedication and humility.
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Grab a coffee with a pro
Not all insights about a prospective career path are available online. Sometimes you need to go straight to the source to validate what you’ve learned from your own research, understand the language and get the inside scoop. And with many people working remotely, virtual chats are also easier to fit into a busy schedule, during a break at work or in between commitments at home.
As easy as it is to connect, however, informational interviews require a lot of legwork on your end. From finding the right people to making the request to preparing for the conversation to following up afterward, you’ll have to set aside a not-insignificant amount of time to get things organized.
But don’t fret – we’ve got some tips on setting up a killer informational interview:
Do your research first. It can be an uphill battle getting time on someone’s schedule, so you don’t want to waste any precious minutes going over basics you could have learned yourself with a bit of digging.
Identify people you’d like to talk to. How close is their job to the one you want, how likely are they to respond to your request? How available will they be? What are you expecting to learn from them? Make a wishlist that includes:
- Contacts you already have – or shared connections you have through others
- People working at organizations that are well-known in tech sales
- Guests you’ve heard on podcasts or authors you read in blogs
- Seasoned professionals who work in specific roles
- Top contributors in online sales communities
Reach out. You might be approaching someone out of the blue, but you’ll increase your chances of hearing back with a genuine, from-the-heart ask for help. Outline clearly what you’re looking for, why you’re contacting them out of anyone else, and be considerate of their time.
Come prepared. Set the stage with an introduction that describes who you are and what you’re looking for from your time together. Think through the questions you’d like to ask ahead of time, too – it’ll help you stay on track, make sure you get the information you need, and leave a solid impression of someone who’s both curious and organized.
Our Advice: Uvaro’s current students and alumni are happy to chat! If you want to know more about what it’s like to make a career change into sales, what they enjoy about the work, what challenges they’ve overcome and what they’re learning through our program; our admission consultants would be happy to facilitate that.
Breaking down past experiences
It’s the notorious job description catch-22: every posting asks for five-plus years of experience on the job, but you need the job to get experience. How can you successfully change careers if you’ve never worked that job before?
We’ve got good news for you, because experience isn’t the be-all-end-all it’s made out to be. In many cases, the decision to hire a candidate comes down to specific skills they’ve built or the traits that make them shine, rather than the number of years they’ve spent on the phone cold calling prospects. Reframe the question, and it turns out you really do have the years of experience they’re looking for… just in a different way.
That’s why it’s important to know what really matters on the job and what you bring to the table, so you can focus on opportunities that offer a good match between the two.
What tech sales wants
If prior sales records or quota results aren’t the most important thing on the sales job checklist, then what is? It turns out, sales teams are often most interested in what leads to great sales records and results.
After all, sales techniques and industry knowledge are highly teachable. That’s why they’re more interested in hiring for the skills that are tougher to impart, like:
- Curiosity: As a tech sales rep, you need to be hungry for information and knowledge about sales, your products, the market you’re in and your customers.
- Empathy: Nothing builds trust like understanding, and nothing builds understanding like putting yourself in someone else’s position.
- Adaptability: Tech sales is a world of constant change. The most successful reps don’t just make an effort to keep up – they revel in it.
- Initiative: Especially as more sales teams switch to remote roles, you’ll need to be comfortable self-directing much of your own day-to-day work and self-development.
- Persistence (and resilience): Sales jobs involve hearing “no” a lot. Even the best reps face days full of rejection. Do you brush it off or does it bring your day crashing down?
- Time management: Time is your most limited resource – so you need to use it well, from using smart tools to get through your day to prioritizing your most important tasks.
- Coachability: How willing are you to learn – and how quick are you to do it? Sales teams benefit from members who are open to feedback and able to become effective fast.
Our Advice: If you have a gap in these skills, don’t worry! It just takes a little time, effort, practice and guidance to get yourself up to speed. There are sales programs like Uvaro that specialize in developing your sales knowledge along with the hard and soft skills you need to close the deal with sales recruiters – and the clients you’ll be selling too soon.
Reflecting on past skills and experiences
There’s a saying we love: “Transition your experience; don’t abandon it.” Basically, it speaks to the fact that you already have a ton of relevant experience under your belt that’ll come in handy during your career change, even if you’ve never held a sales role before.
A teacher, for example, may excel at sales because they’re great at breaking down concepts and helping others understand them. A journalist might close more deals because they’re great at asking questions and listening to the answers. An athlete might be a star sales performer because of the way they play as a team and thrive under competition.
So where does your experience overlap? Start by thinking about it in six buckets:
1. Basic skills
Think about the day-to-day work you’ve done on the job before, and how the skills you used might line up in a new line of work. Things like good organization, solving problems, taking initiative and working within a team are relevant in many jobs, including a sales position.
2. People skills
People skills are the “soft skills” that describe the way we interact with others. They range from your ability to communicate and collaborate with the people you work with to how well you listen and relate to those around you. If you’ve ever worked on a collaborative team, held a customer service job or been on the front lines of a business, you’ll have lots to draw from.
3. Management experience
Have you ever held the reins on a project or initiative? Taken responsibility for a major decision? Stepped in to help a colleague solve a difficult problem? Built a strategic plan? Highlighting this kind of experience is a great way to demonstrate your upward trajectory while showing you’re always learning, even if you aren’t applying for a management position.
4. Clerical skills
Think about times when you’ve had to capture important information, keep your files organized, stay on top of calls and emails, manage a tight schedule, maintain data entry on new systems and pay attention to the details along the way to make sure mistakes don’t creep in. Sure, this stuff isn’t always sexy, but it’s important!
5. Research and planning
In sales, knowledge is power. Knowing your prospects before you ever pick up the phone or send an email. Knowing your competitive landscape, and knowing your business. All of this requires you to know where to find information, how to ask questions, how to collect data, how to organize what you know, how to analyze the outcomes and how to use it in the right ways.
6. Computers and technology
Sales reps spend time using both basic tools (think word processors, spreadsheets and presentation software) and sales-specific tools (like customer relationship management, email automation and market intelligence platforms). Even if you’ve never learned a specific platform a company uses, it’s helpful to show that you’ve dabbled in the space before, and have experience picking up new technology quickly.
Our Advice: Pay particular attention to past experiences that show you’re a quick and effective learner. If you can demonstrate that you’ve gotten up to speed quickly before, that you adeptly put training into action and that you take ownership of the learning process (for example, bringing your own 30/60/90 day plan to the table), you’ll set yourself apart from the rest of the pack.
Make the match
Now that you know what sales teams value most and what you bring to the table, it’s time to line everything up.
What’s most relevant to the role, and where are you strong? These answers will make great talking points as you put together your resume and prepare for interviews. What claims feel like a stretch, or what skills could use a little more work? These areas will provide concrete direction on what you can improve before you make your career change, so you step up to the plate ready to hit a home run.
To help you make the connection, we recommend that you:
- Look through job descriptions for sales roles that interest you. Make note of what kinds of skills and qualifications come up most often, and how closely they align with your own skills and qualifications.
- Ask someone with a sales background about their own experience, and run yours past them too. They can help you pinpoint what matters most in your work history and skills development.
- Use career support services like Uvaro’s that help you target your strengths, fill in your gaps, create job application materials and provide coaching throughout your career change journey.
During the transition
Learning The Art Of Sales
Great – your skills and interests line up nicely with tech sales. So should you jump into your career change and start applying for jobs?
Even though sales is traditionally considered a “learn-on-the-job” kind of field, it’s quickly becoming just the opposite, as today’s tech sales reps need to master targeted selling strategies alongside a toolkit that has grown dramatically, from the ability to analyze and interpret complex data to buyer psychology to communications and marketing to harnessing sales technology. There’s a lot to master.
Pursuing a sales education is one way to do that, whether you’re filling in skill or experience gaps, honing your expertise, pursuing an interest or fast-tracking your career. And here’s the kicker: the more you can learn before you change careers, the more likely you are to catch the eye of recruiters looking to fill positions… and the higher you can raise your earning potential.
But what options are out there… and what path is right for you? We won’t sit here and say Uvaro is the only way to get into a tech sales role, so what else will you find?
Sales is one of the most vital functions in any business. So it’s no surprise that more universities and colleges are expanding their course offerings in the subject – and even offering entire degree, diploma and certificate paths!
But going back to school is a big decision, especially if you’re attending as an adult learner, whether it’s in pursuit of full-time or part-time studies. Let’s break down the good along with the bad.
|– Post-secondary programs offer a chance to gain deep, up-to-date knowledge about a subject and familiarize yourself with the intricacies that might otherwise go unnoticed or untaught.||– There’s a long-term commitment involved – programs often range from two to four years of full-time study, and can require more if you’re studying part-time.|
|– College and university education is a widely recognized form of education, especially from institutions that are well-known for the quality of their programming in your field.||– It can also be difficult to set aside time for assignments, reading, class prep and studying over those years if you are currently working, have family commitments or juggle a busy schedule. You may need to rely more heavily on your support system to pick up the slack.|
|– Some schools offer flexible learning options, such as virtual or distance learning, and evening or weekend classes to help fit into a busy schedule.||– Going back to school can be financially draining, from the cost of tuition to the course materials and textbooks required to complete your studies.|
|– You can build a strong network with classmates who come from many backgrounds and who share your goals, along with instructors who have proven their worth in the field.||– While they’re becoming more popular, not every institution offers courses in sales. The courses they do offer may not be comprehensive enough to give you a well-rounded education in the field.|
Tip: While this path may be for you, we recommend that you wait until you’ve scouted other educational options that are more budget- and time-friendly while also giving you the depth of knowledge and practical expertise you need before making the commitment to pursuing post-secondary education in sales.
Alternative forms of sales education
Of course, university and college courses aren’t your only options if you’d like a formal sales education before a career change. There are other ways to build the knowledge, skills and experience you need to put you on your new career track faster while making you a desirable candidate for hiring teams.
These options share many of the benefits of a post-secondary degree, such as the opportunity to build a strong network, earn reputable qualifications and gain relevant, up-to-date experience, without the drawbacks associated with high costs and difficult time commitments.
Bootcamps: Why draw out your education when you can fast-track it through an ultra-condensed, intensive program designed to get you up-to-speed on both basic and advanced knowledge quickly but thoroughly? That’s what bootcamps are all about: spend a few weeks deeply immersed in the things that matter most for sales success, and come out the other end ready to go with all the marketable skills you need.
Night school: If you’re already juggling work and family life, or simply have a lot going on during the daylight hours, consider looking for sales courses that are offered at night when you have more time to set aside for learning.
Certificate courses: While there is no such thing as a single standard sales certification, there’s no shortage of certification programs that will teach you the ropes. Earning a certification shows potential employers that you’re committed to the profession, your own career growth and success within your career change.
Specialist courses: Of course, if there are particular skills you’d like to build, you can look for more niche courses that offer deep insight into just one or two subjects. For example, if you want to master negotiation or international prospecting, you might look for individual courses that focus only on those topics, rather than whole programs that run the gamut of sales education.
How do you decide?
Ultimately, the right answer is up to you – you know your situation best. But in order to evaluate the options in front of you, we recommend asking yourself the following questions about each:
– Will it give me an edge against my competition?
– Do I have enough time and energy to complete it?
– Do I have the budget to enrol?
– Will potential employers recognize it?
– Will it give you practical experience along with theoretical knowledge?
– Are the instructors well-trained and experienced in the field?
– Is there enough flexibility to suit your lifestyle?
– Does it lay a solid foundation of sales knowledge?
– Does it cover relevant topics you’d like to learn more about?
– Is it up-to-date with the latest practices in sales strategy and technology?
Tip: Need help finding the answers? Try contacting the provider, reading reviews online, talking with other sales professionals about their opinions and reaching out to alumni who have taken the courses you’re interested in. At Uvaro, for example, we’re always happy to speak honestly about our program and introduce you to former and current students to help you make your decision.
Looking for your first sales job
Before you complete your career change into tech sales, you’ll need to make the biggest sale of all: selling yourself to an employer.
And it’s not a spray-and-pray numbers game. Like any sale you’ll make on the job, closing this deal means carefully planning your approach, prospecting and researching opportunities, building (and leveraging) your network and targeting your pitch for each posting. In fact, it actually mirrors the sales process and uses many of the same practices!
So let’s walk through what it takes to find the right job, step-by-step.
1. Plan your job-hunt strategy
Your first impulse may be to hop on a few job boards and browse through the openings you find, maybe even firing off a few applications while you’re at it. But for a successful search – in other words, one where you get a job that fits both you and your to-be employer – the work starts much earlier with a little planning.
Set expectations for yourself: Like any good salesperson, you’ll want to give yourself a quota and process to follow. What will you accomplish each day? How many applications will you send out in a week? Hold yourself accountable, but be flexible enough to change if your initial approach seems unrealistic in practice.
Define your ideal job profile: Every product or service you sell will have an ideal customer –buyers who are the best fit or have the greatest need for what you offer. The same goes for your job search. What kinds of companies do you want to work for? What kinds of tasks do you like to do? How (and how much) do you want to be compensated? Where would you like to live? Answering these questions will help you laser-target opportunities that will benefit both sides the most.
Get your tools in order: Sure, you’ll need a resumé and a cover letter. But don’t forget about the less obvious tools. A simple business card makes it easy for people to remember you, while showing just how professional and prepared you are. Social media connects you with people and companies in every sector, around the world. An airtight pitch about yourself shows prospective employers just how persuasive you can be in 60 seconds. Written recommendations are proof-points of performance that can tip the scales in your favour.
Find services to help: Let’s be honest – planning is a lot of work and can take a lot of time! That’s why services like Uvaro offer one-on-one support from expert career coaches who not only know the career change journey inside-out, but also how to set career goals, target opportunities and prepare you from resumé to interview (and beyond).
2. Prospect, prospect, prospect
It’s time to put your plan into action! And the next action is all about identifying and researching qualified prospects – or the companies that meet your ideal job profile.
But how do you find them, and how can you tell if they’re a good fit? That means doing a little sleuthing to scope out your opportunities.
– Dive into the industry landscape. Identify the players big and small, what they sell and what sets them apart from each other.
– Listen on social. Pay attention to the trends and conversations that are happening in the industry, along with what (and how) these companies contribute.
– Ask people you know. Even if you don’t know anybody who works in the industry you’re targeting, you never know who they know.
– Immerse yourself. Read everything you can about the companies that stand out most, from their websites to their corporate reports.
– Ask an employee. An informational interview is a great way to get open and honest feedback about the company and its culture.
Keep track of the companies that look best – and add to your list as you do more research or hear of more opportunities!
3. Leverage your network
How many people do you know? Think hard – from the family and friends you see every day to the colleagues from your first job and the classmates you shared desks with in school. Hint: it’s a lot. And they’re an important part of your job search for a few reasons:
– It gives you one-on-one insight into a role, industry or company
– They unlock access to job opportunities that never get posted
– It strengthens your relationships in certain companies or industries
– They help you stand out from the competition in a large pool of applicants
To make the most of the networks you have:
Have a specific goal (and share it): Are you looking for an introduction or a referral? Do you want someone to pass on a resume to a hiring manager? Do you need more information about a company, industry or role? Make it clear that you’re looking for a job and you need help with a specific aspect of your search (though resist the urge to ask for a job outright).
Be prepared to give: While it’s certainly a tool in your career change toolbelt, networking is ultimately about relationships. You aren’t here to use people; you’re asking for help. Take the time to catch up and be ready to return a favour or two.
Follow up: Chances are, if someone has invested the time into helping you with your career change, they’re invested in your success. Consider giving them updates periodically to let them know how things are going, especially if their efforts are having a positive result on your search.
Even if you don’t know anyone who can help directly, you never know what connections they have, or who those connections know. You can also start building an industry network by attending events, contributing to online communities or taking classes like Uvaro, which opens up a world of active tech sales professionals, instructors, recruits and guest experts.
4. Make your pitch
There’s no perfect way to make a good pitch, but good pitches do share one thing in common: they’re highly tailored to the recipient and their needs. The same goes for the pitch you’re making to a prospective employer via your resumé and cover letter. (Hey, good thing you did all that research earlier!)
So what will get that hiring manager pick your application out of the hundreds they receive and say, “I want to have a conversation and get to know this person better”? What are they looking for when they read about you?
Value: What will you bring to the table? What do you want to achieve? A strong value proposition is a must-have for any salesperson, whether they’re pitching a product or service to a prospective client or pitching themselves to an employer. Plus, it’ll help personalize and differentiate you from the pack.
Keywords: Weave the important words and terms from the job posting into your resumé and cover letter. Not only does this help your application pass through an Applicant Tracking System (or ATS), but it also makes it more obvious to the hiring manager that you understand the role.
Language: Sales has its own lingo. So does the company you’re applying to. Show you know your stuff and will fit right in by adjusting the tone and flavour of your content to match theirs.
Results: Sales is all about numbers; so is a strong sales resumé. Even if you’ve never worked sales or met a quota before, you can include stats and facts from relevant accomplishments, like managing partnership deals or ranking high in customer satisfaction.
Correctness: A single typo can make or break a resumé or cover letter. Spellcheck will get you partway to an error-free application, as will services like Grammarly. Consider finding a second reader to give it a fresh set of eyes as well.
Formatting: Most hiring managers spend under ten seconds scanning a resumé before deciding whether a candidate moves on. (Yep, you read that right.) The more scannable you make yours, with clear headings, fonts and layout that highlights your most important information, the more you’ll make the most of that time.
Resumé-building tools take some of the load off when it comes to putting together a well-designed and easy-to-create application. There are lots of free options out there – for example, you might already be familiar with Canva. Just make sure the tool you use is ATS-friendly, meaning it won’t become a jumbled mess when an automated system tries to parse it.
Tip: Need a hand building your resumé and cover letter? Want a second (or third, or fourth) opinion on the ones you have? Why not attend our Career Search Masterclass or reach out to our career services for a little extra help!
Your first 90 days on the job
You’ve put in a lot of great work to get here, from the first day you decided to change careers to the soul-searching, planning and execution of your switch. So before you do anything else, take a moment. Breathe. You did it!
The work isn’t over when you sign that job offer, though – and neither is your transition. It’s no time to rest on your laurels with day one on the job coming up fast. So let’s talk about making a good first impression and keeping your success going through your first week, month, and beyond!
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Give yourself time to adjust
A career change is also a major life change. With new on-the-job lessons to learn and a new lifestyle to adjust to, the transition won’t always happen immediately or seamlessly. That’s why it’s important to set one expectation for yourself off the bat: you can’t rush it. Take time and embrace the adjustment period of your career change.
Before the job begins
If you can, give yourself a few days before your start date – especially if you’re leaving an old job. This gives you a chance to disengage from the baggage you’ve been carrying, get your thoughts in order and recharge for your first day, so you show up fresh and ready to learn.
After you start
Remember, no one expects you to know everything right away! Your new workplace is a different culture, with different schedules and obligations. On average, it takes 66 days for a new habit to stick (and, for some, it can take almost two-thirds of a year). So if you don’t get things right on the first try, it’s not a sign that you’re bad at your new job; it’s just a sign that you’re growing.
Tip: If you used Uvaro’s career services (or something like it), you’ll have access to advice and support even after you’ve landed your job. You’re not alone!
Build a strong first-week plan
Start off by coming into work prepared, even from the first day. Be ready to take ownership of your time with the company and your ramp-up period. Some ideas:
Ask questions: Make a list of questions you’d like to ask your leaders and peers ahead of time, prioritize them and bring them with you. Not only will this let you get up to speed more quickly, but it also demonstrates your curiosity – an important sales skill!
Set expectations: How will you define success in your role, and how will your manager do the same? Make sure you’re both on the same page from the get-go by hashing out how you’ll work together, from the way you’ll communicate to the particulars of your performance.
Meet co-workers: It can sometimes feel awkward making the first move, but don’t let that hold you back from introducing yourself enthusiastically to your team. You can even ask your leader and your colleagues to suggest other people you should meet! Establishing relationships early on will help you learn the company culture and grow in your role – and you never know who you’ll need to work with in the future!
Pay attention to work-life balance
We get it – it’s tempting to volunteer your extra time to finish a project or help out a colleague when you’re new. There’s nothing wrong with “going the extra mile” either, especially if work is a priority in your life right now. But the last thing you want to do early in your new job: burn out. That’s why it’s important to consider your job in the context of your other priorities.
If you start to notice any of the following in this non-exhaustive list, consider taking your foot off the gas and stop the burnout before it sets in:
– You feel tired a lot
– You have trouble falling asleep
– You’re forgetting things
– You have a hard time concentrating
– You experience increased anxiety
– You’ve become more cynical or critical
– You have a hard time getting started
– Your performance drops
– Your easily irritated
– You experience physical symptoms like headache, nausea, etc.
Close the experience gap
Although you’re not exactly starting from scratch, when you’re new on the job, there’s a large gap between where you are today and what you need to achieve to reach your full potential. Especially if you’re coming from a more senior position in your “previous life” where you were the expert, it may feel like you’re taking a step backward overnight when you’re joining your new team.
But it’s less about where you are now and more about where you can go in the future. Actually, this is a great opportunity for you to take control of your own professional development and create a plan to fill those gaps:
– Ask to shadow your peers if this isn’t already part of your onboarding program
– Seek a mentor on your team who can help bring you up-to-speed faster
– Hear from someone outside of your department how the organization functions
Tip: An internship is an excellent way to make sure you enter your first tech sales job with some of those experience gaps already filled. That’s why Uvaro offers a post-graduation internship that allows students to receive paid compensation and work as contractors on behalf of actual companies!
Dealing with failure the right way
Let’s face it: we all make mistakes. And you’re bound to make a few, especially when you’re in the learning process in a new role. A lost sale. An unsatisfied lead. A missed deadline. Coming up short on your quota. Even those rookie mistakes can feel devastating when you’re changing careers from a position of power and starting over at the bottom.
So first thing’s first: if you’re feeling embarrassed, threatened, vulnerable or even like you’re bad at your first sales job, it’s perfectly natural. The key to dealing with failure productively is to recognize that response and turn it into something positive; to be equally accountable for mistakes and the way you learn from them. After all, sales superstars aren’t made overnight. Rather, they’re forged through experiences, good and bad.
A growth mindset is your new best friend
Quick question: are you born with the talents you have today, or can they be developed through hard work and feedback from others? If you believe the first, you probably have a predominantly fixed mindset, one that believes that our traits and talents are fixed and unchangeable. You’re either good at something or you’re not.
If you believe the second, though, you’re in growth mindset territory. A growth mindset is all about self-improvement and the philosophy that, no matter your skill level right now, you can learn to be good at anything. Though we may begin at different starting points, we can all achieve some level of mastery with enough time, practice and motivation.
“Growth” and ”fixed” mindsets are terms coined by Stanford University psychology professor Carol Dweck, who studied how the way we approach our goals can affect our success across many areas of life, whether it’s school, sports, arts, relationships or your career.
So let’s break down the difference a little deeper:
|Growth mindset:||Fixed mindset:|
|– Embraces challenges|
– Persists when there are obstacles to overcome
– Openly invites feedback and criticism as an opportunity to grow
– Feels inspired by the success of others
– Focuses on improving yourself
|– Avoids challenges|
– Gives up or defers blame when there are setbacks
– Ignores or gets defensive over useful negative feedback
– Feels threatened when others succeed
– Focuses on proving yourself
In her research, Dweck found that, while we all embody a mix of both sides, people who aligned more closely with a growth mindset tended to achieve more than those who believe talents are static, innate gifts.
You’ve probably adopted or strengthened your growth mindset during your career change, but if you tend towards fixed thinking in other areas of your life, how can you make a shift in the opposite direction? “It’s not easy to attain,” she writes. “One reason why is we all have our own fixed-mindset triggers. When we face challenges, receive criticism, or fare poorly compared with others, we can easily fall into insecurity or defensiveness, a response that inhibits growth.”
But the good news is, those beliefs can change. She offers this advice to help make that transition a successful one:
– Identify what triggers set off your fixed-mindset patterns
– Pay attention to the thoughts that make you feel threatened or defensive in those situations
– Learn how to talk back to those thoughts and even collaborate with them to pursue more challenging goals
Asking “Was my transition successful?”
Success means different things to different people, especially during a career change. For some, it’s fame and fortune; for others, it’s time spent with friends and family; others yet crave new challenges and experiences.
Before we can begin a discussion about whether or not you’re successful with your career change (or anything else in life, really), though, you must first define what, exactly, success means to you. What is it that you really want to achieve?
Think back to your “why.” What were your driving motivations when you started your career change? What made this career path stand out to you as a fresh start and a good fit for your skills? You may have written these answers down earlier in the process – if so, revisit them and see how closely you measure up as you progress in your new sales job.
Compare job satisfaction and pay: No judgment here if money is what moves you. But how does it stack up next to your job satisfaction in other areas – would you be happy making less in a role that gives you more in other areas of your life?
Give it time: You might find that you achieve some goals rather quickly, while others take more time and effort than expected. If you give yourself six months for a particular achievement that, in reality, took you ten months, does that mean you’ve failed? Or does it mean you simply need to readjust your expectations and keep trying? (See also: adopting a growth mindset!)
Keep it fresh: Success in your first month will look different than success in your sixth month or your tenth year – it’s not a static, one-and-done thing. So it makes sense that your definition of success should change, too, to reflect what you’ve accomplished and what goals you want to set your sights on next.
Note what doesn’t work: Ever have a moment of success that just didn’t feel like a success? Those are just as important as the moments that make us feel happy and proud! Chances are, you were just working toward a goal that wasn’t truly your own – and now you know something new about yourself that you can apply next time.
Find a community to continue growing
Remember at the beginning of this guide when we mentioned that almost half of all employees have made a career change at some point in their life – and over three-quarters of those people have done so two or more times? There’s one more lesson to learn from those numbers that we haven’t mentioned yet: that you in good company.
With career changes being so commonplace, it doesn’t just mean that the job market is different today than it was ten years ago. It also means there’s a growing community of people around you who are going through similar things – and many who have come out the other side (unscathed or otherwise).
Like-minded people who share your experience can help you make a successful switch, give you new ideas and continue to support you as you grow in your new environment! Here’s where to find them:
Your new workplace: Has anyone else in your company recently had a career change? It doesn’t necessarily have to be in the same role as you, but it helps to connect with others who are adjusting to the same realities you are.
Social networking: There are lots of online communities out there full of people looking for advice on their career change, or find success once they’ve landed a new role. You can even go through profiles of people already in your network to see who’s recently made a change themselves, and reach out to see how things are going.
Sales school: If you attended a sales training or certification program, you may have access to students and fellow alumni. Uvaro, for instance, hosts regular workshops to help give alumni a sense of community they can tap into if they need a little advice or help, and an opportunity to support others just starting on their own journey.
Welcome to your new career!
Changing careers is one of the hardest things you’ll ever do. We aren’t just making that up – the Holmes-Rahe Stress Inventory scores changing your line of work as one of the 20 most stressful life events, ranking above taking on a mortgage or even quitting smoking.
But it’s also one of the most rewarding, with 80 percent having gone through a career change saying that they didn’t regret taking the leap – in fact, they wish they had made that leap sooner by about two years! They report feeling happier (77 percent), more satisfied (75 percent), more fulfilled (69 percent) and less stressed (65 percent). A full three-quarters even say they’d make the switch again.
We hope you experience the same in your new career, and we hope you found this career change guide helpful! And if you ever need a hand, we’re always here to help!