For many people, sales starts off as just a job and eventually turns into a career. Since every company has a sales force, and there usually aren’t any strict educational requirements, many people get their start in an entry-level sales role and work their way up. A successful long-term sales career usually consists of working your way up into a managerial or executive role within an organization, or growing your client base to such a degree that you’re making lots of money through recurring business and referrals.
Of course, there are many people who simply treat sales like a job or a stepping stone before they move onto something else. But for those who want to make it into a rewarding career, there are some common pitfalls that should be avoided.
If you want to set yourself up for a successful career in sales, make sure you avoid making these six mistakes:
1. Too much hopping around
Sales is a notoriously high-turnover profession, and everybody knows salespeople who constantly switch jobs. It might be tempting to go somewhere else when you’re faced with what seems like a better opportunity, but if you find yourself constantly hopping from one sales job to another, or wanting to leave employers soon after you join, you should take a step back and see how this fits into your overall career goals.
If you leave a sales job too quickly, you forego the opportunity to advance within the organization and deprive yourself the opportunity to make the kind of money you can make with an established client base. Additionally, higher-level sales positions will review your work history and it’s usually a red flag when somebody is constantly leaving one employer for another. Of course, there are also good reasons to leave, and if you truly believe that another opportunity will put you in a better long-term position, then it might be worth it.
2. Not saving
The way in which many salespeople are paid can make income feel somewhat inconsistent. You might make a small base pay or a draw and receive the lion’s share of your income from bonus or commission pay. This can make it more difficult for some salespeople to save money, not to mention the fact that many people go into sales because they like to buy themselves nice things, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
But it’s important to put away money for a rainy day, because even if things are good now, it doesn’t mean that they’ll always be. The economy, and individual industries, can ebb and flow, and by putting aside money when things are good, you’ll ensure that you won’t need to panic when things inevitably aren’t. This will allow you to ride out the tougher times, and allow you to focus on the bigger picture of your career instead of wondering how you’re going to make the next mortgage payment.
3. Staying in a stagnating industry
Technology is changing industries at a rapid pace, and it seems like nobody is immune. Even Spiro (the company whose blog you’re reading), is changing sales with our Proactive Relationship Management software. Entire industries are being disrupted, and in many cases, companies are being put out of business by more efficient, cheaper, or more popular alternatives.
This is why it’s important for you to understand the landscape of your industry and how the company you’re working for fits into it and whether it has a plan to stay competitive long term. This might be difficult to do if you’re working 40-60 hours per week and coming home exhausted, but if you don’t take a step back and understand where the threats to your livelihood are coming from, you might find yourself working for an obsolete business. Consider the economic realities of the world, and adjust your career trajectory accordingly. You don’t want to be the last person selling horses and buggies when the automobile starts to take off.
4. Working for bad leaders
Mentors and good examples of leadership are incredibly important. If you have long-term career ambitions, you need to observe and learn from great leadership. That’s why you shouldn’t settle for working for bad leadership. Not only will you probably dislike your day to day, but you won’t learn anything valuable, and in many cases might even pick up bad habits or traits.
There are lots of examples of bad leadership; from disrespectful and unprofessional behavior, to micromanaging, to a detached and uninterested attitude. But there are also plenty of excellent leaders out there. So even if you’ve only experienced the former, don’t assume that everybody is like that – they’re not. Try to work for people you would want to work for, and people who will value you. Doing this will give you an ROI that can last through your entire career.
Sales is stressful, there’s no way around it. It’s demanding, high-pressure, and you’re always on the clock. Too many people allow themselves to get burned out, and in some cases, let it derail their long term career goals. This is something that’s important to be cognizant of while you’re in the thick of it.
Make sure you not only take the time to decompress daily, but also take time off to recharge and keep yourself grounded. While it might seem that you’ll fall behind by taking a vacation, you’re likely to do more damage if you don’t. Take care of yourself and you’ll usually find that you’re a happier and more productive employee.
6. Only considering money
This is a somewhat overlooked point when it comes to long-term career trajectory, but you cannot look only at potential income when evaluating a job opportunity. There are so many other factors to consider that you’d be doing yourself a disservice to look at the bottom line and nothing else.
For instance, one position might offer less money initially than another, but it’s with a company that has a great trajectory and it could be a great time to get in with them. Or, a company might offer you less money but put you in a role that allows you to manage people which could help fast-track your long term goals. There are plenty of reasons why you might want to take a lower-paying role over a higher-paying one, and you shouldn’t feel guilty or stupid for doing it, especially if you’re taking a long-term view of your sales career.
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