Sales Hiring

Like Actors, Sales Pros Get Typecast

The definition of “typecast” is to cast an actor repeatedly in the same role. Search “famous typecast actors,” and...

April 14, 2021

The definition of “typecast” is to cast an actor repeatedly in the same role. Search “famous typecast actors,” and BuzzFeed lists twenty-four of them, from Rebel Wilson to Michael Cera. "Pitch PerfectBridesmaidsThe HustleHow To Be Single – all just Fat Amy in different places."

"I'm sorry, but he is the same guy in every single movie and TV show he's in."

If actors get typecast, what about real working professionals 🥸. Take sales. Should an inside sales rep be concerned that they’ll never get a field-based pharmaceutical sales role? What about the high-performing SDR who books too many meetings to promote to Account Executive? Are they destined for the manager track? Speaking of that closer role, is the dream of closing six and seven-figure deals dead if an AE works in a high-volume transactional environment? What about the sales leader overseeing a team responsible for selling $20,000,000 in manufacturing parts – can they break into the SaaS world without taking a step down?

Though certainly not exhaustive, here are four common examples emblematic of the sales typecast:

Where you work matters

Most work for one of these companies:

  1. Big enterprise; everyone recognizes the name or logo – even mom and dad have heard of the company.
  2. Fast-growing startup; big, small, everywhere in between – brand-building and growth (try to) happen at breakneck speed.
  3. Every other business; the bulk of workers are in this category – somewhere between groups 1 and 2.

Spending five years at Workday booking appointments with F500 companies and closing seven or eight-figure deals doesn’t make you a slam dunk candidate at a high-flying startup. Conversely, being part of a startup from Seed to Series C doesn’t grant you a roster spot at IBM. If you’re typecast, it’s a strike against you when transitioning to a different company category.

How to play it: Squeeze out examples where your team within a team at Workday operated like a scrappy startup. If you work for a startup selling smaller deals, highlight how you could shorten the enterprise sales cycle.  

When industry experience is weighted heavily

In this example, once you sell for a commercial real estate company, there is a built-in advantage when opportunities open up in the space. Familiarity with buyer personas, sector-specific challenges, and the industry dialect almost certainly grants you an invitation to explore roles. However, if a job pops up outside of this industry, your previous experience could be detrimental. You could get typecast as a commercial real estate sales professional. The same holds with sales reps selling services or goods but trying to crack the software industry.

How to play it: If seeking an opportunity with a new industry, take courses, get certified, find a mentor, read books, or join communities that are all about the space.

Metrics with consequences

Closing a small business deal is much different than selling into the enterprise. You could get typecast if your business sells into a specific segment. This domino impacts key metrics every sales leader and CEO cares about: win rates, deal size, sales cycle, lead flow, and – if you’re growing – time-to-ramp for newly hired reps.

How to play it: If you consistently beat the benchmarks for these metrics, you may surpass them elsewhere. With no shortage of sales metrics, identify areas where you outperform and build a plan to do it with your new company.

The impact of selling environments

Two opposite selling environments create another common typecast. An inbound sales environment is often high volume and transactional with short sales cycles and smaller wins. A sales motion with an outbound component tends to be more complex and requires patience, but the deal size tends to dwarf the former. If you have no experience with cold outreach and expect deals to close in weeks, stepping into a role generating your leads could feel overwhelming.

How to play it: Seek exposure to the opposite environment. Tap into your network for feedback on what it’s like to sell in a transactional setting, or ask for recorded demos to see what objections surface in an outbound sales process.

To be typecast is a blessing and a curse. If you enjoy the role – like an actor who continues to find work and get paid for something they love to do – then building a reputation as a highly sought inside sales leader in the commercial real estate startup world closing high volume deals isn’t so bad. But if you’re that same sales leader looking for a new challenge, there are ways to mitigate and overcome the typecast 😁. Be bold, go for it, and bet on yourself in your next starring role.

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