Should You Become a Specialist?

Michele Warg
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At some point in your career as a sales professional, you are likely to come across the concept of specialization. Before you drop your position as a generalist and move into a sales specialist position, consider the impact such a move has on your career. By analyzing your personal and professional goals and experiences, you can determine whether or not a specialist position is right for you.

Before you decide to become a sales specialist, consider your career goals. Do you want to work for a large company or a small business? Do you require constant change to stay interested and motivated? Are you fascinated by a particular industry or product? If you prefer to work for a small company or if you are happiest with a constant flow of new information, a specialist position may not be the best choice. Many specialists focus on one product or industry and often work in large companies with expansive product offerings. Once you are pegged as a specialist, it can be difficult to transition to another area, so it's crucial to evaluate your level of interest in the product or industry. Discussing the same topic every day can get tiring quickly if you are not coming from a place of genuine enthusiasm.

Your professional and personal background should be a significant factor in the decision to become a sales specialist. Relevant education or experience can be an enormous asset to a specialized sales professional. If you have a degree in engineering and five years of experience, you are uniquely positioned to sell to people in the engineering industry because you speak their language. This familiarity helps you build and maintain relationships with clients and partners. Firsthand experience enables you to understand the clients at a more intimate level than other salespeople. It helps you understand their challenges and anticipate their needs, which can pay off handsomely in commissions.

In comparison to a standard salesperson, a sales specialist may have unique communication challenges. Many specialists support multiple departments or groups, which requires flexibility and quick style shifts. Make an honest assessment of your skills. Can you handle the pressure and quick changes of this working style? Are you comfortable speaking with people of varying expertise at varying levels of authority? After all, a CEO has ample power, but he may not have a realistic idea of the client's experience. If you know that you cannot tailor your communication style on the fly, a sales specialist position may not be a proper move.

Working as a sales specialist gives you the chance to know an industry and its players at an in-depth level, but it comes with trade-offs. By evaluating your professional goals and personality in advance, you can choose the most fulfilling and successful sales career path.


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