Successfully Manage Your Sales Career Today

Managing your sales career is up to you. If you’ve ever wanted to move into sales leadership, sell a different offering, or start your own business, you’ll need to have a plan to get there. You can’t hope that someone else will discover you, automatically promote you, or recruit you for a better opportunity at just the right time.

The Truth About Sales Careers

Here are five keys you’ll need to embrace so you can take charge of your sales career and build a better future.

Key #1: Lifelong sales careers are hyper-competitive and become increasingly competitive as you develop more experience.

The further along in your sales career you go, the more competitive things get. For every ten sales openings, 8.5 of them on average are entry-level. This means only one out of ten roles requires specialized experience or sales leadership expertise.

And for every sales management position, there are plenty of experienced managers vying for the role as well as internal completion from top sales reps. Most sales jobs are structured like a pyramid. You’ll find the highest number of openings at the bottom. As you gain more experience, the number of job opportunities narrow and the competition for those roles are magnified.

Key #2: More sales experience doesn’t automatically equate with more money.

It’s natural to assume more experience begets more pay. This isn’t necessarily the case for sales careers. In fact, if you’re not careful, it can be the opposite. Experience is good up to a point, and then brings diminishing returns to employers.

Here’s why: experienced salespeople are expensive relative to entry level salespeople. If an employer can replace experience with training and half their monthly payroll commitment ...they will.

It’s easy to get lured into thinking that because you’ve been doing something for years you should get paid more, but sales isn’t about experience, it’s about results.

People who lack experience but embrace hard work, prospecting, and determination can often go head-to-head with salespeople who have ten times the experience. Now this isn’t always the case, but if you doubt this is a market reality and have 10 + years of sales experience; try to remember what you used to do early on in your career.

Do you remember all the phone calls, late nights, emails, early mornings, follow-ups, persistence, crazy sales strategies, and even long-shots you took to win new business? Are you still willing to do those same things now? Better yet, are you still consistently doing any of these things now?

Key #3: Employers hire who they want, not who they need.

Have you read any sales job descriptions lately? Exhaustive sales job requirements that narrow the candidate pool may seem ridiculous from the outside looking in. You can sell anything after all right?

But remember that people buy what they want, not what they need. Even if you have transferable sales skills, you won’t be able to compete with other people who meet 80% of the job requirements.

Do you need a degree in engineering or computer science to sell X software? Doubt it. But if that’s what the employer wants, it doesn’t really matter.

If you’re looking for a new sales job, it’s the best use of your time to explore companies who have similar offerings, sales cycles, and customers. Invest your time where you’ll have the biggest payoff and look for openings with companies who can exploit your career capital.

Key #4: You need your sales job more than it needs you.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news. But your company really doesn’t need you as much as you need it. This can be hard to come to terms with, but it’s the cold hard truth. When you’re good at sales sometimes it’s easy to let the ego get out of hand.

You start to believe that you walk on water and the company can’t live without you. You forget that your specific achievements took the effort of many others who work with you or who came before you.

Ask yourself:

  • Who worked hard to develop that software you’re selling?
  • Who wrote your company’s website? Who’s developed your marketing materials? Who developed your value proposition?
  • Who else warmed up your territory before you got there?
  • Who delivered services, implementation, customer care and everything else you need to properly service your customers so you can feel good about what you’re selling?
  • Who’s mentored and trained you?
  • How have you benefited from a lead, a training program, your peers, marketing, product development, your boss, and CRM?

You begin to discount the fact that there’s a line of people who’d love to have your job and the very opportunities you’re starting to feel disgruntled about. When you feel undervalued, undercompensated, and unappreciated, remember that if you leave the company, they’ll keep going. The company will go on and you will be replaced. Things won’t change much for your former employer, but they’ll certainly change for you. Sometimes dramatically.

Key # 5: It never gets easier.

If you think you’ve earned your way out of cold calling, dealing with problems that are beneath you, or hustling hard for new business, your simply wrong. If you think you’ve paid your dues and you can coast it will eventually catch up to you. That I can guarantee.

Coasting or the unwillingness to aggressively hunt new business may cost you advancement, new opportunities, or even your career. Sales roles require a certain amount of hustle that can be increasingly hard to maintain over time. If you start to believe you’re above it, you’ll soon be looking for a new job and maybe eventually a new career.  

No doubt, sales careers are difficult to manage. Even more difficult as companies change, technology advances, and customer buying patterns evolve. It can be easy to believe that your past success and experience will carry you forward and allow you to take your foot off the gas every now and then.

But make no mistake, if you want to be in sales for the long haul, you’ll need to work the hardest at managing your expectations and attitude. You’ll need to keep your ego in check and your motivation levels going strong. Competing for new sales job opportunities becomes increasingly difficult, but with the right attitude and drive, you’ll be sure to enjoy a successful and lasting sales career.