As an enterprise sales representative, you may reach a point in your career when you want to switch verticals. Your interests have changed, the market has shifted, or maybe you just want to try something new and different.
The good news is that it’s entirely feasible to change verticals. If you plan your transition carefully, and put work into executing your plan, many new opportunities will open to you.
Your current company might sell to multiple verticals. If that’s the case, you might be able to make the switch without changing your job. Talk to your supervisor about what opportunities are available internally. In making your case, be honest about why you want to switch and demonstrate why you’d be a great fit for the new vertical.
But if your company doesn’t have internal opportunities in the new vertical, you need to start the process of finding a new job So, how do you convince someone that you deserve a chance to sell in a new vertical? To get that first job and succeed, follow these best practices:
1) Select a vertical that’s a good fit for your experiences and knowledge.
While it’s not absolutely necessary to move into a vertical that’s adjacent to your current one, it can certainly help the process. You should at least consider verticals that are closely related to your current work, or verticals that you’ve encountered in past jobs.
Even if the vertical itself is different, it can be helpful to select a vertical that has similar customers to your current vertical. If you’re currently selling HR software to medium-to-large-sized companies, sticking with that customer base when you move to healthcare will make the transition a little easier.
You can also consider other life experiences and interests when choosing a vertical. So if you have extensive experience working in hospitality, selling to that industry could be a good fit. The point is that you need to be able to tell a story to potential employers about why you want to move into that vertical specifically. It’s okay to select something that’s a little further afield. But you need to be prepared to explain why you’re a good fit for the vertical.
2) Research your new vertical thoroughly.
Once you’ve chosen a vertical, it’s time to dive into research. Immerse yourself in the new vertical by reading industry publications, following thought leaders on social media, and catching up on basic lingo. Books, podcasts, and blogs can also be great sources of information.
You want to learn the following:
- Who are the leading players in the vertical, and who are the disrupters?
- What are the major pain points facing customers?
- Who are the leading decision-makers for potential customers, and what are their top concerns?
- What are the most important shifts currently happening within the industry?
Learning about the new vertical is an ongoing process, so set up systems for continued learning and keeping up with industry news.
3) Learn your new customer.
Ultimately, sales is about customers. And your customers don’t care about your past experiences. What they care about is whether you’re able to speak to them knowledgeably and address their concerns right now.
You can make this work to your advantage by making every effort to get to know your new customer. Consume the same content that they’re consuming, ask your new colleagues for advice, and pursue buyer profiles very carefully. Above all, listen to what customers are saying in your interactions with them. If you can tailor approach to the customer, you have a good chance of succeeding in the new vertical.
4) Ask a recruiter about the new vertical and their ideal enterprise sales rep.
Looking at job openings is helpful. But to really learn more about what companies want in enterprise salespeople, talk to a recruiter with experience in your new vertical. They can tell you what skills are most important to hiring companies and point you towards resources for improving your resume.
In your conversations with recruiters, let them know that you’re interested in opportunities in the new vertical. More importantly, show that you’re willing to put in the work to develop expertise.
5) Tap your personal and professional networks for people with experience in your new vertical.
Conversations with experienced people are invaluable in making the transition to the new vertical. Go through your internal Rolodex of people in your network and try to identify people with relevant experience. You might also put the word out to trusted friends and colleagues that you’re looking to make the change.
If possible, set up informational interviews with people in the vertical. Follow best practices for informational interviews. Don’t ask for a job, but use the opportunity to soak in knowledge about selling in this industry. Send a personalized thank-you to everyone who assists with the process.
6) Show off basic and transferable skills at your interviews.
Since you don’t have industry experience, it’s particularly important for you to demonstrate strong sales skills at your interviews. Remember, you’re selling yourself. If you can successfully make a case for why you can sell in the new vertical, that will go a long way towards assuaging hiring managers’ worries.
In your pitch, emphasize skills and experiences you’ve learned that are relevant to the new vertical, including technical skills and general sales knowledge. Take opportunities to subtly highlight those relevant skills, supporting all of your claims with hard evidence.
7) Demonstrate humility and a willingness to learn.
Moving into any new sales job requires a learning curve, and that’s especially true when you’re moving into a new vertical. Acknowledge this during the recruitment process and afterwards. You need to be willing to ask questions, pursue resources for additional learning, and admit when you don’t know something.
Switching verticals is a major undertaking. But with proper foresight, it can be done successfully.
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