3 Reasons Lateral Career Moves Can Benefit Your Sales Career

Lateral Career Moves in Sales

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When Account Executives (AE) change jobs, people often assume career advancement means higher pay or title bump. As an AE recruiter in the heart of NYC’s tech industry, I’ve seen people make lateral career moves and find tremendous career growth after one to two years.

Account executives in the tech industry should consider lateral career moves to move the needle through meaningful work. Your hustle directly grows the business and that experience is worthwhile. Here are four anecdotes from my experience helping people* with account executive backgrounds prepare for these exciting transitions:

*All names used below are not real to protect the identity of Betts Recruiting’s clients.

Reason #1: Career Growth Looks Different Everywhere

Does your current role realistically set you up for your dream job? This goes for management, enterprise, and account management career goals: Oftentimes a lateral move can expedite long-term financial and professional growth.

Take Joe, for example, an Account Executive desperate for management.

However, his post-IPO company with 300 employees said “no dice” until he’s been there for (what seems like) 1,000 years. Joe may want to consider a smaller, scrappier startup where he can apply his skills from the bigger company, crush his quotas, and rise up the ranks in one year to senior management opportunities.

We also have Lisa, the transactional rep who “brings in the bacon.”

But Lisa will keel over dead from boredom if she cold calls one more local mom and pop shop. As her recruiter, I would ask Lisa: Are you feeling challenged? Her gut reaction says no. Lisa should consider companies with more consultative and challenging sale cycles. Lisa may have to make a “lateral move” or even a step back to be successful in this new (but more exciting!) sales position.

Reason #2: Titles Are Not Everything

I worked with someone recently (let’s call him Charlie) who said, “I’m about to be promoted to Vice President of Sales. That would look great on my resume.” Let’s play devil’s advocate for a moment:

Charlie has four years of sales closing experience. However, I’d liken his company to the Honda Accord of tech startups.

What if Charlie grows tired of VP of Sales at his Honda Accord startup? His heart is set on the same title at the Maserati of tech startups. Sorry Charlie – frankly, if your company’s reputation isn’t solid, then you’re likely not qualified for VP of Sales at more established companies. This is when Charlie should consider the benefits of being an AE first to gain specific, relevant skills and grow into the VP of Sales at the Maserati startup.

Reason #3: People Love Making Money

Are you at your complete earning potential? What’s your value on the market? Have you asked yourself why your new employer gave you a $30k bump and tiptoes around the promised OTE earnings?

Take Gertrude, a job seeker who wants to leave her current situation.

(Insert: everything that goes wrong at failing tech startups–the employer “forgets” to pay commission, the VP just got fired, etc.) Gertrude is making $100k on the base for 1 year of closing in the software space. Oftentimes, startups overcompensate their reps on base salary to remedy for unattainable on-target earnings (OTE) bonuses. Unfortunately, Gertrude’s egregiously “high” base salary is not transferrable to the market standard. As a result, Gertrude may perceive a higher base salary as more important than long-term growth opportunities in her next career move .

As you can see, I have seen every scenario under the sun. Recruiters love to keep a pulse on internal happenings at high-growth companies and leverage this data to help people succeed. Do you need help deciding what to do? Think objectively about your job and career path today. Are you happy or defeated leaving work at the end of the shift? Then apply yourself to finding the best opportunity that also feels right.


Lateral career decisions are worth talking through with a job market expert in your city (aka me for the East Coast!). Email me if you’re in New York and want to chat about Account Executive career growth opportunities!

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