What People in Sales (Development) Do
Job titles for people who choose a career in “sales” can run the gamut, and the descriptions of each job varies widely as well. However, it’s generally safe to say that sales jobs can be broken into two main groups; positions in which people bring in new customers and positions in which existing customers are retained.
For the latter, please see “Account Management,” as this page focuses on positions designed to help a company generate new customers, which is also sometimes referred to as “new business” or “business development.”
While smaller companies may have a small group that performs the all sales duties, larger organizations with modernized sales teams further break down job duties of those who procure new customers into two groups; those who generate leads and those who close sales. Those who generate leads may work under the title of sales development representative (SDR) or business development representative (BDR). They typically spend their days researching potential leads and trying to get an “in” with the customer.
Those who excel research potential customers to learn about their business and the problems they face, then offer solutions that can help. Their leads generally come from inbound calls, a marketing team, or outbound calls. Follow-ups are typically done via phone and email, especially “drip” campaigns that send out targeted emails to select customers based on their needs and their level of interest in the product or service.
When the BDR/ SDR has a good lead, he or she passes it on to a person who closes the sale. This title may vary as well. As a general term, the individual may be called an account executive. However, other companies will have inside and outside sales reps. As the titles indicate, inside reps work inside their companies, making calls, giving demos, and having meetings with prospective customers. Outside reps do the same, but visit prospective customers in their offices or another venue.
Who would enjoy a career in Sales (New Business Sales)?
A career in sales requires tenacity and an outgoing personality above all else. Expertise in the industry one works in, in-depth knowledge of the product or service being sold, and an understanding of the customer’s business and challenges the business faces are important as well. The ability to work with customer relationship management (CRM) software and knowledge of sales funnels is beneficial too. Those who are motivated by money are also suited to sales, as the career typically involves commissions which can be generous for the high performer.
Who mightn't like the career?
People who are thin-skinned or can’t handle rejection don’t do well in sales. As many salesmen are paid largely on commission, and sales can fluctuate due to circumstances beyond the salesman’s control, it can also be challenging to predict income, which is a major problem during slow times or for those who have trouble with personal budgeting.
There is no single path that leads to a career in sales, nor are there any diplomas or certifications needed. However, it’s common for an individual to transition into sales with a degree in marketing or a degree related to the industry they serve.
Most of the time, getting a position in sales simply involves demonstrating sales skills, knowledge of the product or service, and an understanding of the customer’s needs. Those without experience in sales may be expected to take a lower position or a support role before being allowed to actively sell.
Moving into Sales (New Business Sales) from another career
According to data from LinkedIn, more people transition into a career in sales than any other field. Although they come from virtually every walk of life, as every company needs some form of sales department, the most people transitioned in from areas such as marketing, corporate strategy, consulting, operations or retail.
Role: Sales representatives, which include SDRs, BDRs, account executives, inside sales representatives, and outside sales representatives, all follow the potential customer through the sales funnel.
SDRs and BDRs are the lead gatherers and warmers. Their job is to uncover potential customers and warm them up to the idea of becoming customers. They then pass the hot leads onto account executives or inside/ outside sales reps who close the sale, typically by providing demonstrations, hosting meetings, and speaking with decision makers. Smaller companies may expect employees to be general sales reps, and perform all duties outlined above. These are all individual contributor roles that typically have a “territory” or list of accounts that they can sell to.
General Sales Manager
Role: The sales manager is responsible for hiring and training all sales employees. It is a natural progression for a high performing sales rep who wants to go on and lead a team and enter management and even run a business. Additionally, the manager oversees their work, ensures all sales goals are met, and presents any necessary data to the company’s executive team. In smaller companies, the sales manager may also be responsible for some or all the organization’s marketing.
Outside sales reps are typically the only ones to travel for work. The amount and distance will vary based on the industry, product or service, and company. Additionally, a sales career is quite transferable internationally, as the product or service being sold may not change country to country, so many sales reps who work at an organisation with international offices may take the chance to transfer to work from that office after proving themselves in another location.
Salary by Field
It’s worth noting that the salary of a sales representative varies greatly by industry. Data presented by Monster.com indicates that the top fields by pay are:
Consulting Sales: Base Salary: $120,000 to $250,000, Commissions: $25,000 to $3 million
Consumer Packaged Goods Sales: Base Salary: $150,000 to $180,000, Commissions: $100,000 to $150,000
Digital Media Sales: Base Salary: $170,000 to $180,000, Commissions: $130,000 to $220,000
Medical-Device Sales: Base Salary: $0 to $70,000, Commissions: $200,000 to $300,000
Outsourced Services: Base Salary: $150,000 to $200,000, Commissions: $200,000 to $500,000
Software Sales: Base Salary: $80,000 to $100,000, Commissions: $250,000 to $1 million
Startup Business Development: Base Salary: $150,000, Commissions: Unlimited
Telecommunications Sales: Base Salary: $70,000 to $100,000, Commissions: $100,000 to $200,000
Average Salary by Position
Despite the ultra-high salaries in some fields, general averages tend to be lower.
Sales Representative: According to data from PayScale, inside sales representatives have average salaries of USD $42,000 in the United States, £23,000 in the United Kingdom, CAD$44,000 in Canada, and AU$54,000 in Australia. Though their job duties are slightly different, overall pay for all sales reps (SDRs, BDRs, account executives, inside sales representatives) is similar, aside from outside sales reps, who may make a few thousand dollars more per year.
General Sales Manager: USD$73,000, £33,000, CAD$73,000, AU$100,000.
Bonuses, commission, and profit sharing are all commonly added to a sales representative’s salary which can mean the rep can double or even triple their pay if targets are met and exceeded.
Why People in Sales (Development) move on
Sales is a high burnout career, with somewhere between one-fourth and one-third transitioning out annually. The highest number of people leave to find better or more stable pay, followed closely by opportunity for career growth.