Career Development Plan — Why Does it Matter to Sales Reps?

BY Kathy Crosett
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Sales reps: Do you have a career development plan? If you’ve just started in the sales profession, you might think it’s too early to think about setting career development goals. 

You may still be trying to figure out the pitch you like to use on prospects and the specific strengths of the product you’re selling. Those aspects of the job take time. 

But don't forget to allocate a few hours each week to your future. Consider where you’d like to be professionally in five years or possibly ten years.

Your Career Development Plan 

A recent HubSpot article contains several helpful infographics to help you envision your career in sales. For example, the typical sales development rep may eventually become an account executive, customer service manager or business development manager. Adding the phrase manager or executive to your job title is appealing. But would you do well in those jobs?

Here’s where your manager comes in. On a regular basis, you should ask how you’re doing and ask for their input. This step is especially important if your manager doesn’t provide regular feedback.

And if your manager doesn’t seem approachable regarding the topic of career development planning, identify a mentor, either in your organization or the sales profession. Then, create a list of questions to ask your mentor about career development. 

Specifically, you should try to learn the details of various career paths. Understand how a business development manager job differs from that of a customer service manager.

Establishing Career Goals

As you consider your career prospects in sales, think about what you enjoy in your current position. Ask your manager to share the results of any psychometric assessments you may have taken during the interview process. 

These results will help in your career and professional development as they will indicate specific natural strengths you possess. These strengths may range from an innate desire to help others to enjoying communicating with people.

If you decide you want to be a sales manager eventually, volunteer for opportunities to coach and mentor new employees that join your organization.  And sign up for any offered workshops and courses that will develop your management skills.

Professional Development

One key step in your professional development is learning how to effectively communicate with people inside and outside of your organization. Much of your sales training will focus on what to say to prospects and when to say it. 

Often, what you say depends on what you hear, and that’s why listening is so important. For example, delivering the standard line about how most of your deals close in 30 days after your prospect tells you they have a 90-​day horizon will fall flat.

The lessons you learn from your interactions with prospects can also help you “influence-​up” in your organization.  Maya Hu-​Chan uses the “influence-​up” phrase in her recent Inc​.com article, pointing out that this activity ranks a step above managing up. 

If you have an interest in joining your organization’s c‑suite or leadership team, you need to do more than make your boss look great. Hu-​Chan suggests paying attention to what matters to senior leadership. Often, these people focus on revenue generation and new product development for the long term. 

Maintaining positivity about what’s going well now while pitching your ideas to help the future of the organization will get you noticed – as long as you’re also exceeding expectations in your current position. While you may be focused on credibility with your outside contacts, you need that same focus internally in developing your career to move up.

Monitoring Success

In many large organizations, the framework for career development planning exists in a formal or informal manner. In a smaller organization, you may need to identify your own path for career development planning and towards more responsibility and pay. 

These goals are too important to be left entirely to chance or to another person who will never care about your future the same way that you do. Add a recurring event to your calendar to remind yourself to analyze where you are in your career development plan. 

As a sales rep, take the time to establish career goals and envision how you will guide your future through the pipeline.

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on Pexels.