Careers advice

Advancing your sales career path: 5 actionable steps

How to reach that next level.

In a fast-paced, high intensity sector like sales, it’s easy to get so wrapped up in hitting KPIs and revenue targets that you take your eye off the big picture – your overall career progression.

You can be absolutely loving the day-to-day of your job, and wake up one day to realise that you really haven’t gained much ground in terms of promotions, pay or new responsibilities.

But fear not, there are several highly actionable remedies to improve this situation that you can start implementing today. What are you waiting for? Let’s get into it.

Getting noticed at work: tips for sales professionals

1. Nail your KPIs

This sounds basic, but you need to get the basics right if you’re hoping to move further down your sales career path. Everything that comes further down in this list is based on the assumption that you’re already hitting the core objectives of your current role. After all, you were hired to perform these tasks, so if you’re not currently meeting them, your manager is unlikely to think you’re ready for the next step.

If you’re already smashing your KPIs out of the park, ka pai – you’re ready to build from this solid base.

If you aren’t, don’t worry, it’s just time to try and nail down why that is. We advise working with your people leader to establish what needs to change – it could well be that the goals themselves are unrealistic and need amending. Whatever the reason, we highly recommend getting all your ducks in a row before you start working on that career progression.

The first step is knocking your KPIs out of the park.

2. Raise your hand when a call goes out for volunteers

In every job there are fun tasks, and not so fun tasks. While getting involved in as many aspects of the business as possible is always a good thing, the people who tend to get noticed by managers and bosses are those who volunteer to do things that other people might shy away from.

It might sound like a cliche, but the people getting promotions in sales aren’t necessarily the ones bringing in the most revenue (although, as mentioned, this certainly helps!). Being a dependable team player who’s generous with their time for the benefit of the company at large is a surefire way to get higher ups talking about you, in a good way.

If, for whatever reason, your manager isn’t coming to the team looking for volunteers, don’t be afraid to approach them with ideas on how you can provide more value. In addition to all the good things we’ve already talked about, this shows initiative – especially if you’ve identified something the business could be doing differently in terms of processes or approaches.

3. Don’t go it alone

Some people hesitate about talking with their management about career progression. They worry that it will look like they’re trying to jump the queue, or that the manager simply won’t be interested.

If this is you, try to cast these thoughts aside. Any manager worth their salt should be highly invested in growing their team and helping individuals advance their careers. This is particularly true in a goal-oriented sector like sales – showing that you have objectives that you’re hungry to achieve is only going to go down well.

Among the things you could talk about with your manager are:

  • Conducting a SWOT analysis: SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. The point of this exercise is for both you and your manager to take a really honest look at you as a professional. What do you bring to the table? What could you work on? Where are there opportunities for you to grow? What might get in your way?
  • Drawing up a PDP: off the back of your SWOT test, a standard move is to create a professional development plan that involves clear goals, and the ways you’ll reach them.
  • Setting up a mentorship: depending on your specific career goals, this mentor could be your manager, or someone else senior in the business from whom you could learn valuable skills.
  • Funding for courses: this will depend on budgeting, but if there are courses that will help you grow as a professional, your manager is the best person to talk about this with.

Don't be afraid to ask for help in mapping out a professional development plan.

4. Diversify your skill set

Even if you can’t get the office to pay for them, or you’re too shy to ask, there are heaps of ways you can level up your skillset to help make your case for promotion and progression.

These include:

  • Taking on additional responsibilities: this ties in with Point 2. Not only does it send the right signals by taking on new responsibilities in the business, you’re sure to learn some useful skills along the way.
  • Online courses: there are heaps of free or cheap online courses in everything ranging from statistics to sign language that will help make you a more rounded employee. All of these can be done from the comfort of your own home.
  • In-person classes: if sitting in front of a computer isn’t how you learn best, why not take advantage of evening classes? Local colleges and community centres are great places to learn skills ranging from Te Reo Māori to marketing and design.

5. Keep your personal elevator pitch up-to-date

You never know when that big opportunity will come up, whether it’s in the company you’re already working in, or a job offer from another business.

This means it’s crucial to keep your CV, cover letter and Trade Me Jobs profile up to date with all the new skills and experience you’re gaining, so you don’t miss the boat on that next big career move.