- Sales career transitions are incredibly common. They can be challenging, but they’re also prime learning opportunities. With a wealth of sales experience, Galem Girmay is no stranger to transitions. Galem, the cofounder of RevGenius and host of the What Is Your Legacy Podcast, approaches transitions with a curious and open mindset. She sees every change as an opportunity to learn.
- By getting clear on what you most enjoy about your current role, what you want to learn next, and your definition of success, you can make your transitions intentional.
Life transitions are inevitable.
And career transitions in particular can come with a swirl of emotions. Your professional path touches so many parts of your life. So when changing positions or shifting your trajectory, you might feel excited, nervous, energized, intimidated, or daunted. (Maybe all of the above!)
If you’re taking a page out of David Bowie’s songbook and “facing the strange ch-ch-changes” of a sales career transition, you’re not alone.
Stick with us for five questions you can ask to guide a smooth and meaningful sales career transition.
1. What am I enjoying most about my current role or path?
Most of us will go through not just one but many transitions throughout our sales careers.
Our parents may have stayed at one company or in one position for decades. But that path is increasingly rare these days, especially in sales.
If you’re ready to make a change or you’re just trying to mentally prepare for one, get honest with yourself. Consider the hours in a day and the days in a week. Of that time, what tasks, roles, and responsibilities do you most enjoy?
Follow-up question: How can you make space to do more of what you enjoy?
For Galem, this was key to several of her early career transitions. She decided to start being intentional. When she realized she was ready to learn something different, she carefully considered the things that made her excited to get out of bed and go to work in the morning.
And for her path, the answer led her to revenue enablement.
But it looks different for everyone.
2. What do I want to learn next?
Let your transitions be driven not only by what you most enjoy but also by what makes you curious.
Of course, you should be thoughtful and measured in making a change. But the willingness to move through different paths within the sales field will help you grow and make you a more well-rounded candidate in the future.
As challenging as transitions can be, they are always learning opportunities. Learn to reframe transitions as collections of experiences helping you get to your ultimate goal — even if you don’t know what your ultimate goal is yet!
Galem’s willingness to explore new avenues for learning led her to a philosophy of not regretting a single transition. “There was no second-guessing because I have the mindset that there’s nothing and no one stopping me from going back to where I started,” she says.
3. What other avenues can I take to make the transition I want?
Maybe you’ve been here too: trying to break into a new field or function — and knowing you could do the job well — but experiencing rejection after rejection.
Galem found herself in the exact same spot. When applying for sales leadership positions, she felt doubt and frustration after each “no” she received.
That is, until she asked herself whether there were other ways she could shift onto this new path.
She reached out to individuals in the sales enablement space. She expressed curiosity and openness, asking them to meet with her so she could learn more.
Make sure to reach out to your network. Meet with people you know whose careers you admire, or ask for introductions to others in the space you want to go.
From there, the possibilities are endless. You might learn that you don’t actually want to go into a particular field. Or you might get confirmation that it’s your dream job!
Asking these questions led Galem to mentorship in the sales enablement space from someone with decades of experience who actually wrote the book on sales enablement.
I mean, let’s face it. Networking works. There’s a reason nothing else compares when it comes to finding new opportunities, learning which opportunities are right for you, and growing as a professional.
Networking also allows you to tap into outside voices for insights you might not have had otherwise. Plenty of people interested in career transitions assume they have to have a specific kind of experience to get from Point A to Point B. (Say, from being an individual contributor to a sales enablement role.)
Galem’s answer to this mindset? “That is your own problem. You have to get over those doubts of thinking I can’t make it into this space just because I don’t have the experience.”
When breaking into a new space, your past experiences are an asset rather than a liability.
Be the manager of your own expectations. Seek out opportunities that let you dive in and get your hands dirty to learn a new path — and gradually work your way to your ultimate goal.
4. What professional skills transfer to my personal journey?
I’ve got some bad news. Most people have a disconnect between their professional skills and the ones they apply in their personal lives.
You can and should put your sales skill set to good use in your career transitions.
Galem realized that she loved the prospecting and discovery part of sales. How could her natural curiosity and inquisitiveness not serve her in getting to each new phase of her career?
When she made the very natural shift to apply her discovery skills toward learning about new opportunities, she enjoyed the transition process more and transitioned that much better.
For bonus points: this principle goes both ways! You probably have skills you use in your personal life that you could naturally transfer to your career. Chances are, this mindset shift will make you better at all aspects of life.
So stop siloing your skill sets. Don’t confine your talents to just your professional or your personal life — and see how well-rounded you really are.
5. What does success look like for me?
We can also rephrase this question as, Why are we making the decisions we’re making?
The sales field offers its people so many potential metrics for success: promotions, salaries, recognitions, sales goal achievements, ego boosts, et cetera.
But at the end of the day, you have to define your own metrics of success.
This is part of managing our own ego — which isn’t, by the way, a bad thing!
We need to consider what offers us the greatest satisfaction and feeds our souls. Getting clear on that answer could lead to sales career transitions that aren’t driven by a salary increase or accolades. (It did for Galem!)
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what others’ motivations are. When you zero in on why you do what you do, you can pursue your own version of success and build the career you want.
And that is how you can make meaningful transitions. Reframe each change as a step toward learning, growth, and success.
Then, the sky’s the limit for you, my friend.