This past week, I interviewed with a company client to provide coaching for new managers of sales representatives—managers who came right out of the sales force. The invariable question was asked—“What is your experience in sales?” More specifically, it was stated—“I didn’t see any sales experience in your background”.
It’s going to happen. If we want to grow and expand our boundaries, we need to take risks and work in spaces where we don’t have the expertise. Be prepared for the doubters.
As a career transitioner, I’ve spent plenty of energy explaining the cross functionality of my skills. Sales is a beast of which I have little experience (except selling myself, of course). In this case, I made the case for “fresh eyes”.
I truly believe there is not much special about leading people in sales, finance, research or building a house. People are people. They just do different stuff. However, the value that I bring to the sales group is curiosity, lack of assumption, keeping it basic. As long as I am careful to get backup opinions and not be swayed by a charismatic client, as a coach (in contrast to a consultant), I think the fresh eyes bring more than having a career’s worth of experience.