Thinking about pursuing a career in sales? You are not alone. With an 8-percent growth in people hired since 2010 and a median salary of $106,038, sales manager was listed as one of the 10 hottest careers for 2015, according to an extensive survey conducted by CareerBuilder and EMSI.
For those looking to land a sales role, here are some key terms you should know prior to accepting a position, and why they matter.
Metrics. In every revenue generating position, aka sales, there are certain activities employees should complete with a consistent level of frequency to deliver targeted results. They often include activities involving phone calls made, emails sent, meetings set up or conducted and contracts sent or signed. These metrics might include making 60 to 80 outbound calls every day, booking 10 meetings per week for an account executive or completing four presentations per month. In many firms, these metrics are measured based on what you record in a data base or CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tool.
In an ideal world, your potential employer has reviewed the habits of many successful sales people to determine the magic formula of the activities that lead to targeted results. Since most of us realize that the world is not usually ideal, it is highly possible that the metrics you are told are a combination of some proven past performance blended with metrics from previous employers or firms that are leaders in certain industries.
When considering a certain industry or a specific role, understand the typical metrics for sales professionals before you begin interviewing. Although there may be slight variations between competitors, in general, activity goals are similar within an industry. Heading into an interview with some current data regarding goals will give you a better understanding if the stated metrics are reasonable. Additionally, tactfully ask a potential manager what percentage of the sales force achieves the goals and what factors impact success. You (and your interviewer) may be surprised by the answer.
OTE -- On Track Earnings. This is a very common term among technology sales groups. On track earnings are the targeted overall expected compensation for the role each year. This is often made up of a base salary and commissions/bonuses for a producer who is meeting revenue generation (i.e. sales) goals/quota.
Again, OTE are often similar within industries and seniority within each field. For example, an entry-level sales development rep (SDR) may have a targeted OTE of $60,000 at a 67-33 ratio. This means she may have a base of $40,000 with commissions' potential of $20,000 for a total OTE of $60,000. However, an SDR who sells into bigger accounts, and therefore requires more years of experience, may have an OTE of $90,000 at a 50/50 ratio -- $45,000 base and $45,000 in commissions.
Learning how the relationship between base and commissions varies within roles and industries can be very helpful in forecasting earning potential and spotting employers that are outside of the norm. It's not that all firms that pay differently are suspicious, but you should inquire more about how they believe their compensation model motivates the ideal behavior versus other competitors.
Territory/Targets. What geography, industry or base of clients you can target has a relationship to your ability to hit goals and generate revenue. Sales people typically have a defined list or territories in which they can prospect for new business. There is no right or wrong answer regarding territory, but here are some things to ponder:
Is there a lot of internal competition? Ask how you will be expected to target business and how targets were determined. You will be amazed at how much differently you will be greeted the first day of work by your peers if you have a brand new untapped market versus taking market share from existing reps who haven't quite covered it effectively.
Is it new or used? It can be a faster ramp up if you are given a territory of a rep that was recently promoted and well liked. Being the new guy who has to make calls to clients that have been manhandled and mistreated by a predecessor -- not so much.
Experienced buyers or new? You should know if the intended customer base is knowledgeable about your goods and services or if you will be educating before you can sell. Building a new market requires different skills than incenting customers who already use what you are selling, just from someone else.
CRM -- Customer Relationship Management. Almost every sales organization has some way that they track their potential customers and where they are in the sales process. Often, this is automated in a CRM tool like SalesForce.com or some other relationship database. Understanding how a CRM works and how to record and plan your sales process is very beneficial for sales success. Great sales professionals know that it takes personality but also planning and follow-up to actually close deals. Leveraging a CRM is the best way to manage this.
In summary, as with almost everything in life, preplanning goes a long way toward charting a course to success. This is especially true when pursuing a career in sales. Stellar sales professionals are not the people who talk at you nonstop. Instead, they are the ones who prepare, know their market, understand the benefits they can bring to their customers, ask thought provoking questions and keep relationships moving forward.
Demonstrating preparation, market knowledge and tactful questioning during the interview process shows you have the natural skills to excel in sales. Good luck in your pursuit of one of the fastest growing career paths in today's business world.
Robin Reshwan is the founder of Collegial Services, a consulting/staffing firm that connects college students, recent graduates and the organizations that hire them and a certified Women's Business Enterprise (WBE). She has interviewed, placed and hired thousands of people across a broad spectrum of companies and industries. Her career tips and advice are used by universities, national clubs/associations and businesses. A Certified Professional Résumé Writer, Robin has been honored as a Professional Business Woman of the Year by the American Business Women's Association. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa and as a Regents Scholar from University of California, Davis.
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