Starting a Sales Career at a Large Corporation vs. Small Business

Sep 22, 2014Business & Life

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Small fish big pond or big pond small fish?  For salespeople this is a tough question

“Would you rather be a small fish in a big pond, or a big fish in a small pond?” It’s a pressing question pondered by salespeople at some point in the beginning of a career. Both ponds can teach us about ourselves and each of the ponds can give us a chance to expand our skills indefinitely, as each pond has its own set of challenges. When you consider this from a sales perspective there are even more challenges to consider.

In a small company you wonder if the company has invested in things like a lead management solution, good leads, or if the product is mature enough to even be sold. However, the upside can be huge as the company hits a stride. I know personally that startup companies in the right sectors are way more generous with commission for many reasons. They want the best talent, they want top-line growth, and they know in order to get it they have to be generous with commission. If you time it right you can essentially win the career lottery. However, if you stay too long with a company that is not hitting a stride, you are going to waste a few years of blood, sweat, and tears.

There are great leadership lessons associated with being either the big fish or little fish. No matter the size, companies are looking for good, honest, and hardworking individuals to fill their open positions. If you have those three required traits and the proper skills to match the position, the ball is in your court. When choosing your next job, it is important to consider a multitude of aspects directly affecting you and your future sales happiness and success: one of which is whether to go big or small.

Below are characteristics describing the culture of large corporations and small businesses. Imagine how you might fit.

Large Corporation:

Structure: If you are an individual who thrives off of structure and organization, then a large corporation might be for you. Most Fortune 500 companies have rotational and training programs in place to prepare their employees for their future roles in the company. You most likely have a mature sales workflow process, mature leads management solution, mature CRM system, along with a proven and tested management team.

Benefits: Because of their size, corporations can leverage the size of their work force when negotiating benefits for their employees; such as employee stock purchase plans (ESPP), health care packages, paid vacations. Every corporation has its own perks when it comes to benefits, but realistically you won’t find many at a startup – except for maybe lots of mountain dew and ramen noodles. Yep, we do offer lots of those little perks at ClickPoint.

Your Role: This is where the small fish in a big pond comes into play. In a corporation you are one of many working as a team to complete set goals. If you enjoy collaborating with others and relying on a group effort for finishing tasks, then a corporation can be a very good fit for you. However, there are often multiple levels of red tape, politicking, and bureaucracy. This is a key reason many that have been at large companies jump to test the waters with a startup or mid-size company.

Your Future: On the very first day on the job at a corporation, you will be handed a competitive network on a silver platter. You will possibly have successful leaders in your field surrounding you during the workday if you are at a company with a proven management team. As far as moving forward, you know how the corporate ladder of your company works. The vision is clear and you know what you need to accomplish to get there. You might have some middle managers that get in your way, but you should be able to dispatch them with ease if you’re a true sales leader.

Small Business:

Flexibility: In a small business, there is often more flexibility associated with your work schedule. A lot of start-ups are embracing a mobile workforce and offer benefits like picking your own hours. As long as you get the work completed, at the end of the day who cares? Now, with sales this can get tricky, but this is where that lead management or CRM solution comes into play. If you have a management team that has invested in this they can easily see what you are doing while at home. Of course this varies from business-to-business, however, a small business owner is likely to be more open to accommodating work hours for certain employees. Certain small business are generally fast-paced and it is a lot easier to excel, provided that you have the talent to do so. If you lack specialization in a certain field, but have the ability to learn new skills and handle a variety of projects you can thrive in a small business. If you are involved in multiple projects, you gain more experience and become more competent.

Taking the initiative: You stand a greater chance of being noticed within a small business – you’re not just a face in the crowd and you choose for yourself to stand out or not. Great small businesses are creative endeavors where smart risk taking occurs. That means that there is often room for any employee who is willing to think outside the box and wants to offer something new. You don’t know until you try, and in a small business new ideas are generally welcome.

Work Environment: A small business offers a more casual work environment. Corporations focus much more on management pushing culture down to the employees, resulting in the “corporate America” environment. The business culture in the smaller companies often has the feeling of being part of a family. You are all working together to solve big problems, while getting to know each other better –in large part because of the close-knit environment usually involved within a small business. Another factor that many small businesses offer is the ability for an employee to collaborate and work with upper levels of management – without having to go through multiple levels of management to reach the decision maker.

It’s up to you as to what size fish you would like to be. Whichever one you choose, know that it’s not really the size of the pond that matters, it’s whether you swim with purpose.

Bryce Buchanan

Bryce Buchanan

Bryce contributes to our social media audience by showing the world the culture at ClickPoint Software. Bryce is high energy and loves to illustrate ways to implement lead generation strategies for businesses of all kinds. A social media enthusiast, Bryce creates relevant and fun content.