Last week I wrote about how sales is the best first job. I truly believe that. LinkedIn recently put out a study based on their data and found that sales is the career that allows for the most transitions. They state, “Because nearly every business requires a sales function, there are many instances of members transitioning into sales from a wide variety of careers.” We know that sales is a great base, but where can it lead you?
Let’s look at some examples of how sales can lead to greatness.
When you think of the pinnacle of a company’s leadership, you typically think of the CEO. A Forbes’ article stated that 20% of CEOs come directly from a sales and marketing role. Warren Buffet, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, started his career by selling, well, pretty much anything. As a child he would sell chewing gum and magazines door-to-door. As a high school student he would sell stamps, golf balls, etc. Let’s take a more recent example, Marc Benioff, the CEO of Salesforce.com. Marc essentially developed an entire new category of software and has been instrumental in creating one of the most successful SaaS companies of all time. Where did he start his career? In sales and marketing at Oracle.
Look at serial entrepreneur Robert Herjavec, one of the stars of Shark Tank. He’s pretty much the epitome of a “rags to riches” story. He started his career in various sales roles, from retail sales to selling IBM mainframe emulation boards. It was his position selling IBM mainframe emulation boards that led him to start BRAK systems, which he eventually sold to AT&T Canada. Mark Cuban, another Shark Tank star, has started a bunch of companies from pubs to large tech companies. He started doing sales for a company called “Your Business Software” which he eventually got fired from (because he cared too much about his customers!) He used the relationships he built from that company to start MicroSolutions, which was then acquired by CompuServe. Their past record of outstanding success speaks for itself, and watching them in action on Shark Tank, their quick and analytical sales savvy is clearly on display.
Growing within Sales
You can be just as successful growing a career within sales and perfecting your craft. I’m a firm believer that salespeople should be the highest paid people in the company. It’s not uncommon for a VP of Sales to be one of the highest paid (if not the highest) people at a company. Anneke Seley, who was Oracle’s 12th employee, helped design and build Oracle’s highly successful inside sales methodology. Or take Sam Blond, the VP of Sales for Zenefits. He started off as an Account Executive at EchoSign and progressively moved up the chain to become Director of Sales at Echosign and is now the VP of Sales at Zenefits.
These are just three examples of where a career in sales can take you. Of course, there are a million other opportunities where a career in sales can lead to greatness.
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