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Why Good Salespeople are Great in Other Roles

Published May 1, 2013


So you’re looking to hire and you have to decide whether applicants with sales experience are a good choice for your company. While the field of sales may get a bad rap, sales experience may be the golden phrase for employers that are hiring.

Starting with a career in sales, especially at an early age, can lead to life-long business success. Over 17% of leading CEOs, across all sectors, started in sales. In the food products industry it is the number one CEO background.

Why might that be? Well, here are few reasons why applicants with sales experience are often highly efficient workers in other areas:

Hidden Values in Salespeople

A recent corporate study showed that 60% of female and 51% of male salespeople were found to have a ‘farmer’ personality. In sales, this translates that they were good at both developing and maintaining customer relationships. Whether it’s with the customer or interoffice, relationship building is always a valuable skill.

At the same time, 80% of business-to-business sales come from sales relationships rather than simply low prices. This is a vital skill to possess for both B2C and B2B companies.

There are plenty of other valuable characteristics that top salespeople possess, including courage, commitment to results and growth, energy and networking skills.

Learned Skill Sets

There are plenty of jobs that are closely connected to the previous work of salespeople that don’t involve direct sales. Salespeople can be highly successful in all aspects sales training, sales consultancy, really anything from networking to bringing in new clients.

But for many other jobs, it is the transferable skills of good salespeople that make them likely to succeed. Learned skills like communication, negotiation, rapport building, listening, problem solving, and service orientation, salespeople often have in spades, that are very useful in future careers.

Business Week offered a list of suggestions for ideal jobs for salespeople. Included in this list were distributor, manufacturer’s representative, corporate management and running franchises, to name a few.

That being said, hiring ex-salespeople can come with a few pitfalls to avoid. The employer should pay attention to their possible need to focus on team rather than personal achievements, their need to coach and manage others, and the additional admin work required in other roles that isn’t always prevalent in sales positions.

With any new hire, especially those transferring from a different career, it is critical that values are assessed and areas for improvement are addressed before the work begins. Identifying the inherent abilities and transferable skills of any applicant is key to employing and retaining the top of the workforce; selecting them not from where they have been, but for who they can become.


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