Sales Careers: The Data On the Most Common Sales Career Path

Sales is Changing

This is the data we have on the most common sales career path. People from all backgrounds and various education levels are welcome in the sales industry and we can learn a lot from the salespeople from generations before us.

How far they have progressed in their career is a usually a combination of ambition + personal drive + mentorship + a great job fit.

As the number of sales jobs diversify, more and more people will work in sales at some point in their careers. This is an overview of the most common sales career path.

Traditional Sales Career Path

Most career professionals within the industry began in a Sales Development Rep or Business Development Rep Role and worked their way up the ladder. As you progress in your sales career you may encounter a number of forks in the road. These may be role-based (Enterprise sales vs. SME) or strength-based (Sales Management vs. Complex Sales). The decision you will make will depend largely on your interest in being an individual contributor (closing bigger and bigger deals), vs. your interest in managing a team and coaching other sales executives to be successful.

With a number of unknown variables, no two sales careers will be the same, but they can follow a popular path. 

Below is a traditional career path that you can expect within the field. Emphasis on the traditional. 


So How Does This “Sales Career Progression” Actually Go Down?

  1. With this career example, after a few years of experience as an SDR, you will progress to an Account Executive.
  2. After reporting to a Sales Manager for a few years (or less) as an AE, you will generally find yourself as the next Sales Manager.
  3. From there, your career will most likely progress to key account management where you will be responsible for managing some of the company’s biggest customers or taking responsibility for key products.
  4. From here, you could expect to diverge into a senior management role as a Sr. Sales Manager, Regional Sales Manager or National Sales Manager.
  5. All these paths set you up well for a Director role.
  6. After Sales Director, your career progression has made you extremely knowledgeable and capable of holding a number of key sales roles. Should you be interested in becoming a CRO, you can expect to transition from a VP of Sales role.

And there you have it!

It Is a Great Time to Be in Sales

Employment opportunities for sales people exist across a wide spectrum of sectors, the most popular of which, in terms of the number of people employed are Media, Pharmaceutical, Technical, Financial, and FMCG (Fast-moving Consumer Goods).

According to the United States Bureau of Labor and Statistics, employment opportunities are expected to grow faster than average for all Sales careers.

Job growth will be driven in part by retiring workers, shifting of job skills toward computers and quantitative methods, a growing economy and the need for companies to operate in an increasingly competitive global marketplace.

Types of Sales Teams

Some employers are SME’s (Small and Medium-sized Enterprises) with just a handful of sales people, whereas some others will be multinational organizations with a sales force numbering in the hundreds or even thousands. Of course, each type of employer will have its benefits.

Depending on your preferred work style, corporate culture and risk tolerance, you may decide to work in a small vs large organization (or vis versa) – many people will try both at some point!

Looking for more info on sales careers? You may be interested in:

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Kayla Kozan

Kayla Kozan

Director of Marketing at Ideal
Kayla spent the last few years studying Marketing and Entrepreneurship on 3 different continents. Now covering the latest in predictive analytics, workplace diversity and big data. She has a keen interest in tech and discovering underrated brunch spots.
Kayla Kozan