So, you’re ready to shake things up a little. You’re contemplating a career change to sales, and you’re wondering how to sell yourself to hiring managers in a field that’s completely new to you.

The good news is, in the same way that jobs in sales tend to equip you with skills that are transferable to everyday life, everyday life, and other industries, also equip you with skills that are transferable to sales. And it’s these types of skills — the softer, transmittable sort — that employers most care about.

Making a successful switch to sales, then, is about selling your potential by putting the spotlight on the relevant abilities you already have. But first, you need to identify what these skills are, and you need to know how to write a resume that both incorporates and emphasizes them. (And if you’re having trouble with this part, try out an online resume builder for help).

Let’s take a look at five key skills that would help you transfer into a sales role. If you have these, then you have what it takes to take the leap — no sales-specific qualifications required.

1. Communication

To sell a product, service or concept, you need to be a talented conversationalist. You need to be able to express yourself clearly, paint detailed pictures with words, put together persuasive arguments and deliver eloquent presentations. You must talk the language of the prospect and keep communication flowing.

But sales reps need to be more than just good talkers. They need to be brilliant, active listeners. To close deals, you need to have a good understanding of buyers’ needs, wants and concerns. The only way to truly understand is to switch off your own inner dialogue, listen intently and sincerely, and ask the right questions.

So, if your previous career taught you how to navigate both sides of the communication street effectively, you’re that much closer to making a successful career change to sales.

2. Empathy and Relationship Building

Most people will tell you that customer service skills are vital for success in sales. They’re right. Sales reps need to be patient, polite, friendly and helpful. But it goes beyond that. A positive, truly meaningful interaction relies on empathy — the ability to tune into prospects’ thoughts and feelings, put yourself in their shoes and consider the scenario from their frame of reference. It’s the only way to build real trust and connection.

Your focus as a sales rep should be on building value for the customer by following the mantra Always Be Helping. How do you help — truly, genuinely help — if you’re preoccupied with your own agenda and oblivious to what’s important to the customer? You can’t. Customer-centric selling is the only way to win. And that requires a real capacity for both social awareness and self-awareness, two empathy-related skills that you might already have and that you can use to transfer into a sales career.

3. Resilience and Self-Motivation

HubSpot Sales Leader David Shepherd argues that your first job needs to be in sales because it helps you build resilience. By the same logic, if you’ve already learned to be adaptable and persevere through difficulties, you’ll probably do well in sales. Why? Because working every day to move prospects through the funnel can be exhausting, frustrating and seriously emotionally strenuous. You’ll hear “no” a lot. You’ll be ignored and brushed aside. And you’ll just have to keep your chin up and persist.

Sales reps also have to know how to work really hard and really smart. There’s no room for coasting in this field. If you keep your head down and put in the grind, you’ll see results. If you don’t, you won’t. A strong work ethic is critical, so if you can prove you consistently displayed diligence and determination in previous roles, you’ll impress a sales recruiter.

4. Problem-Solving

If you’re considering a career change to sales, it’ll help tremendously if you’re comfortable with solving problems. That’s what you’ll essentially be doing for customers. They’ll come to you with problems, and you’ll work with them to find solutions, ideally in the form of your product or service.

Inevitably, snags will arise, and prospects will likely throw all sorts of curveballs and objections your way. You’ll have to handle these effectively and efficiently. Ideally, you should be able to anticipate complications and brainstorm solutions before issues even rear their heads. That way, you’ll always stay ahead of the game. Of course, troubleshooting is required in many other fields too, so this is a skill you could easily bring over from a former role.

5. Planning and Organization

Many industries require employees to be meticulous and focused on structure, but being incredibly well organized is absolutely essential in sales. Reps struggle to move forward and climb the ladder if they don’t plan carefully, prepare adequately and put processes in place to ensure that goals are met and deadlines aren’t missed.

Think about it: To be successful in sales, you’ll find yourself having to compile daily reports, draw up comprehensive work plans, maintain records and generate regular analyses. How effective do you think you’ll be at doing the above if you’re not a meticulous note-taker and all-round conscientious human being?

If you have this skill, and all the others mentioned, you’re much more prepared for a career change to sales than you might think. Now just focus on clearly expressing your transferable competencies in your resume and interviews, and you’ll be making the switch in no time.

PS: We're hiring! Check out #SalesAtHubSpot on LinkedIn to hear from employees on the sales team about what #HubSpotLife is all about.


Originally published Apr 23, 2019 8:00:00 AM, updated January 19 2023