- Sarah Porter
From Classrooms to Conference Rooms
Updated: Jun 27, 2022
How shifting careers from teaching to sales worked for me.
For as long as I can remember, I was set on one career: teacher. Teaching is what I went to school for, but I eventually found myself working in sales at Ethena. During my first week at Ethena, our CEO, Roxanne, asked me how I jumped from a career in education to one in sales. Of course, it mostly has to do with the unfortunate fact that both of my knees are prone to dislocate and bad knees + classroom of children = bad news. But, I told her, the reason that I’ve found success in my new career is that I see sales as education. As a salesperson, your job is to educate the prospect on the best possible option for them.
Now, as an Account Executive, I credit my success in my sales career to my passion for and background in education. Because, when you really boil it down, teaching and sales share the same principles. Here are just a few key examples:
Differentiation is Key
When you’re an educator, you always have students of varying levels of abilities in your classroom. But if you created an individual lesson plan for each student in your classroom week over week . . . well, you would quit. Instead, teachers have to be creative and tweak parts of the lessons to meet the needs of every student.
In sales, you are not going to create an entirely new sales process every time you talk to a prospect. Rather, it’s better to tweak every part of the sales process in some small way to make it more personable to the prospect without taking up all of your valuable time. Whether it be making the first email of a cadence extra personal, adding their logo to your sales deck or a personal note on LinkedIn, good sales reps find small ways to make a big impact.
You may have seen examples in the news, on TikTok or other social media platforms: the teachers who get the most recognition are often the ones who go out of their way to build meaningful relationships with their students (and the guardians of those students). Simple things like a personalized handshake for each student as they enter the classroom, creating car parades during COVID to wave to families, or even just asking students about their interests and hobbies outside of the classroom are ways that teachers create a more welcoming and positive learning environment.
I think you know where I’m going with this one. The best sales calls are the ones that don’t sound salesy. When salespeople put down their script and are genuinely curious about their prospect, the more receptive the prospects are. Any sales workshop or onboarding you go through will tell you that building relationships with your prospects is key to success. Asking them about their interests, their career, why they do what they do, etc. will help you create a more engaging sales experience.
Making a Difference
Teachers change lives. They spend every day building a safe space for kids to learn and be themselves. The main reason I wanted to be a teacher was to make a lasting impact. How was I going to do that outside of a classroom? The answer: selling what matters.
Salespeople are often seen in the complete opposite light as teachers: too aggressive, not honest, does not have your best interest in mind, just after the bottom line, etc. I was terrified for the longest time to label myself as a “salesperson.” How would I spin that to my friends and family that I went to college to make a difference and somehow ended up in sales?
But, thanks to some conscious career moves, I didn’t have to spin anything. I found companies that were making a lasting impact through the products they sold. I’ve worked in insurance, Edtech, FinTech, and now Ethena. At Ethena, I get to sell a product that makes workplaces better, provides training that says “it’s ok to be who you are when you go to work,” and uses the foundational principles of education in our delivery method of teaching over time vs. all at once. Ethena builds a curriculum to meet every learner where they’re at and helps them grow from there.
It can be unsettling to switch careers, especially when leaving one that you were passionate about. If you’re a company looking for Account Executives, I would urge you to look for unconventional hires, especially ones with teaching backgrounds. They’ll understand how to build a meaningful pipeline, create lasting relationships with buyers, and educate your prospects on why your product is the best.
Interested in joining Ethena's sales team? We're currently hiring MM Account Execs and SDRs!