A Career as a Specialist

Sales Specialist
Sales Specialists are often the top sales producers in a company. Getty Images

In most sales careers, a talented and dedicated rep has many different career advancement paths. Some reps choose to follow the career path that leads to management and leadership roles and others choose to avoid getting into management and choose instead to either "bloom where they are planted" or earn the right to work with larger, more strategic accounts. And some sales professionals have the option of becoming Specialists and enjoy the many benefits of these positions.

Specialize in What?

Companies with small sales forces or with limited product/service lines may not employ sales specialist and instead will expect their sales reps to know everything about their products and services. While these companies may employ sales reps who are experts in a particular part of the sales cycle, product specialists are usually not part of their team.

But when a company's sales force is vast and the products or services they sell can't be listed on a small index card, specialists are often on the payrolls.

Specialists are charged with knowing everything there is to know about a particular product/service or about a common set of products. They serve in both sales support and direct sales capacities and are usually brought into customer interactions by a general line sales rep.

To serve as a couple of examples, it is not uncommon to have specialist positions in the IT sales world who focus and assist other reps on all network security appliance and services sales.

In the Financial Services world, complex investment vehicles that a firm sells often fall under a particular specialist's realm of responsibilities.

Still Part of a Team

The main reason a company will employ a specialist is to increase the revenue from a certain product or service. With that in mind, a specialist is expected to work with the general line reps to not only support their effort but to drive revenues in highly profitable areas of a company's business.


While many specialists are not assigned specific accounts, they are often assigned to cover several general line reps, entire teams, offices, regions and perhaps even the entire sales force. In general, specialists are assigned their own unique quotas and have a compensation plan that differs from a traditional general line rep's.

What to Expect

Being a specialist takes more than the average amount of product knowledge. Knowing this, realize that you will be expected by both management and whomever you support to be a true "expert" about the product/service you specialize in. If you are promoted to a specialist position without this level of expertise, make becoming an expert your first priority.

A common mistake that many specialists that support multiple reps or teams make is relying solely on those they support to bring them opportunities. While some specialists will be busy enough just working on opportunities brought to them, many who fail in the position do so because they do not prospect for their own business.

Specialists are well-respected members of a sales team and this respect is earned and not assumed because of their titles. The most successful specialists not only do a fantastic job working opportunities that others find for them but find their own sales opportunities and bring general line reps into the sales cycle.

Not only will doing so increase the chances that more reps will get you involved in their sales cycles but you will demonstrate your focus to the team and to the betterment of the entire company.