Salespeople are essential to generate revenue and drive business growth. The efficacy of a company’s salesforce is usually equivalent to its success. 

The sales profession has evolved into an occupation with proficient, influential people with in-demand skills across various industries. If you’re curious to know if a career in sales is right for you, answering these questions will put you on the right path:

  • Do you like working with a deadline and targets in mind?
  • Are you interested in helping others solve their problems?
  • Can you handle your schedule and work independently?
  • Are you willing to constantly grow and develop your skills?
  • Can you work with others to build lasting relationships?
  • Does money motivate you to perform better?
  • Are you patient enough to get results in the face of rejection?

How to start a sales career

To succeed as a sales professional, consider it a long-term career and motivate yourself to rise through the ranks. Follow these steps to kickstart your sales career:

Get the proper education

You do not need a bachelor’s degree to land your first sales role, but having a diploma can be a big head start for professionals who aspire to take on managerial positions. 

Top salespeople have bachelor’s degrees in finance, marketing, economics, psychology, communications, or public relations. A master’s degree in business administration (MBA) gives you an advantage as you progress in your sales career.

Learn about the industry

Choose an industry you want to work in and study the trajectory of sales professionals in it. To be successful in that market, you should understand whether your colleagues have long-term or short-term careers, the typical time spent in different positions, and the average salary per role.

Know what roles to look for

As someone without sales experience, you can look for entry-level positions with training opportunities for growth. Experienced salespeople can also research different roles and upskill in preparation for promotions. 


Networking is a vital component of sales career development, whether as a rookie or a veteran. Interacting with other salespeople is useful to get job opportunities and an avenue for professional development

Salespeople can attend industry events and webinars or join professional sales associations like the National Association of Sales Professionals. 


Adapting to innovation is crucial for a successful sales career. Evolve with new trends, be versatile, acquire and develop new skills, and improve your sales tools expertise. 

Sales Career Paths

Sales professionals can advance their careers by gaining experience, education, and certifications and developing a reputable skill set. They often progress from entry-level through management to executive roles.

Entry/Mid-level Roles

Entry/Mid-level positions are sales development representatives (SDR), inside sales representatives (ISR), outside sales representatives (OSR), and account managers (AM). Employees in these roles focus on building communication, improving product knowledge, prospecting, and developing CRM skills. 

Sales development representatives (SDRs)

SDRs find new prospects, foster relationships, and feed the sales funnel with new leads for account executives. 

SDR Career Path
Inside sales representatives (ISRs)

ISRs conduct sales processes remotely by phone, email, or online. 

Inside Sales Rep Career Path
Outside sales representatives (OSRs)

OSRs travel from one location to another to deliver presentations, attend conferences, and meet with buyers.

Outside Sales Rep Career Path
Account Managers (AM)

AMs are responsible for maintaining client relationships with businesses. 

Account Manager Career Path
Compensation data for entry/mid-level sales roles* 
RoleAverage SalaryAdditional CompensationTotal Compensation
Sales development representatives$49,615$18,442$68,057
Inside sales representatives$51,104$18,353$69,357
Outside sales representatives$73,279$33,864$107,143
Account Managers$54,080$21,069$75,149
*Data source:

Managerial Roles

These are sales development managers and account executives. Salespeople can build leadership, collaboration, and data analysis skills to excel as managers.

Sales development managers (SDMs)

An SDM hires and coordinates sales representatives to meet quotas according to the company’s strategies. 

Sales Development Manager Career Path
Account executive (AEs)

An account executive (AE) is a sales professional who oversees a portfolio of one or more customer accounts to strengthen company-client relationships.

Compensation data for managerial sales roles*
RoleAverage salaryAdditional compensationTotal compensation
Sales development managers (SDMs)$74,018$45,972$119,990
Account executives (AEs)$84,792$62,925$147,717
*Data source:

Executive Roles

Top sales positions are director of sales and vice president of sales. These professionals have extensive sales experience and strong skills in people management, strategic thinking, and business development.

Director of sales

Directors of sales work with managers to set goals, implement strategies, and recruit SDRs.

Director of Sales Career Path
Vice president of sales

The VP of sales is responsible for creating and implementing company-wide sales strategies.  

Compensation data for executive sales roles*
RoleAverage salaryAdditional compensationTotal compensation
Director of Sales$105,369$94,818$200,187
Vice President of sales$165,425$183,496$348,920
*Data Source:

Pros and Cons of Sales Career Types

The above career paths refer to in-house professionals, but you can also work as a freelancer or for sales agencies. Each choice has its peculiarities and aspiring salespeople need to know their pros and cons. 

Pros and cons of a freelance sales career

Freelance sales professionals work as independent contractors without committing to a company or an agency. They have a flexible schedule, can work with different clients, and generate income on their terms. 

The downside of freelancing is the unsteady influx of clients, which affects revenue. Independent contractors also don’t get additional benefits like health insurance, paid time off, and retirement contributions.

Pros and cons of an in-house sales career

As a member of an in-house sales team, you earn a steady income and get access to mentorship for professional development. Employees’ benefits like bonuses and commissions are another great advantage of working with a company. 

Office politics is a disadvantage here, as it may affect sales career progression. In-house salespeople often navigate internal social structures that their colleagues and managers use for personal benefits and promotions. 

Pros and cons of working with a sales agency

Sales agencies give their members opportunities to master different skills and specialize in professional areas. Salespeople in big agencies usually work for prominent organizations with large budgets, which increases benefits and commissions.

The main disadvantage of working with agencies is that some sales professionals struggle to meet their demands because of the job’s high-pressure nature.

Bottom Line

With a clear understanding of different paths and the necessary skills to succeed, aspiring sales professionals can prepare for a career in the industry. As you work towards your first role, focus on developing your skill set and gaining experience, and you’ll be on the way to building a successful sales career.