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How to Get Back in the Sales Game After an Extended Absence

Sales is an exciting and, at times, an emotionally draining career – one that can be prone to burnout and a need to step away. Or perhaps you changed careers and are, after time spent in another arena, coming back to the world of sales. There’s a myriad of other reasons why there would be a gap between sales jobs. So the question then becomes how to re-enter sales after being away.

  1. Research how your vertical has changed, if entering the same industry.
    I have a friend who previously worked in the insurance sales industry. She took some time off to raise her family and later worked other, non-sales related jobs. Recently, she wanted to get back into insurance sales. As part of her preparation, she spent considerable time researching and studying how insurance had changed post-ACA. End result: she was the only to score 100% on the qualifying insurance exam and got the job.While most industries won’t have a subject test like insurance, studying the changes in your industry since you last were in it shows that you’ve stayed current and up to date – thereby eliminating one of the red flags that might come up for a potential employer.
  2. Tap into your prior network of contacts.
    When you were a sales rep previously, you built up a book of business and contacts. As you’re hunting for new prospects, tap into your pre-existing network for possible referrals. This is good general advice, regardless of the position you’re looking for – Payscale reports that anywhere from 70-85% of all openings are filled via networking.
  3. Remember how you built up your clientele before.
    One of the things you’ll want to emphasize in a job interview is that you’ve succeeded in sales before. After all, no one starts off in a sales position immediately being successful – particularly when it’s a new career path. More importantly, you’ll want to illustrate *how* you were able to accomplish quotas and close deals before, and how those skills translate into today’s world of the informed buyer who is most likely to buy from someone they have a strong relationship with.
  4. Look into returnships.
    This might sound like a weird, out of nowhere buzzword, but it’s legitimately a thing. As more people are looking to get back into the work force, companies have created returnships – or programs of a few weeks to a few months that offer pay based on an individual’s level of experience and qualifications.These programs essentially function like internships for proven workers – there’s an emphasis on training, mentoring, and adjusting to the climate and pace of today’s corporate world. It’s a major boon for the hopeful revived sales rep – they can ease their way back in without having to start at the bottom all over again – and beneficial for employers, who can trial run the returned worker to see if they’re a good fit without having to resort to probationary periods or incur the risk of a long-term commitment.
  5. Read up on the changed sales world.
    One of the best things you can do for yourself in the job hunt is to start researching how the sales world has changed. In fact, I half-jokingly told my insurance friend that she should read our blog and buy our book (she did the former but hasn’t done the latter yet). Shameless self-plug in our own blog aside, the general principle holds: even if it’s only been a couple of years since you last worked, sales is constantly evolving and changing, and you need to catch up and stay on top of the game.
  6. Make sure your LinkedIn profile is up to date.
    Because LinkedIn is the premier social media site for many business professionals (including sales teams), you’ll want to be sure your profile is up to date. In fact, some employers now either allow for LinkedIn profiles to be submitted in lieu of a resume in the application process or require it.You can also use your profile as an opportunity to highlight your previous sales accomplishments – including numbers like sales and quota attainment rate; any President’s Club appearances, and testimonials/reviews from previous customers. The latter can be particularly convincing, so if you don’t have any, reach out and ask if they’d leave a review for you on LinkedIn. Another way to highlight your strengths is to list your skills/abilities and ask your network if they’d be willing to endorse you in those areas (this, incidentally, is one of my favorite parts of LinkedIn – it provides a quick snapshot of a candidate’s sales skills).

The key takeaway is that yes, it’s possible for once sales reps to return to the fold like the proverbial prodigal son. It will take smart networking and awareness of the changed industry and sales world. Remember there’s value in the acquired wisdom of your past sales work, and its evidence demonstrates that you succeeded as a sales rep before – so you certainly can again.