It’s the situation that nearly every salesperson fears when they first accept a role at a new company…
What happens if this doesn’t work out? What happens if I don’t make the impact that I’m anticipating? What if I’m put on a performance plan?
Well, it happens more often than you think. According to Forbes, in 2017, 57% of salespeople missed their quota.
When you took the role, you obviously expected that things would turn out differently. So you need to ask yourself…
What has changed between your expectations and what is happening? And what can you learn from all this?
Why is it really not working out? Is it really everyone else? Is it the company, your manager, your responsibilities, or something else entirely?
Based on the answer to these questions, you have 3 choices for how to proceed.
All 3 are acceptable. All are honorable. You really can choose your own adventure, here.
3 Options if Your Sales Job Doesn’t Work Out
- Quit your sales job, and find a job/career that’s a better fit
- Go for it, and try to get better at sales
- Transition to another department
Let’s dig deeper to see which is your best option.
Option 1: Quit Your Sales Job
If you’re open and honest with yourself, you can usually discern your chances of succeeding in sales. And if you feel there is a lack of support or poor management, you might see the writing on the wall.
Of course, it might not be you at all. If everyone on the sales team is missing quota, organizationally, you might be set up to fail.
If any of these options resonate with you, you’re first option is simply to quit, to bow out gracefully so you can go be successful somewhere else.
You’ll have an opportunity to learn from your mistakes, and the company can fill your role with someone better suited for the responsibilities.
Before you quit a sales job, though, it’s important that you are acutely aware of something.
You generally have ONE brand in your career — your personal brand — and it stays with you across jobs and industries. There is nothing more important than making sure it’s perceived in a way that gives you the best opportunity to be successful long-term.
So, if you’ve decided to quit, you must do it in a way that doesn’t tarnish your personal brand. In fact, if you follow these steps below, you could come out actually improving your brand in the long run.
Step 1: Give Proper Notice
When should you quit a sales job? When it leaves both you and your sales team in a good place moving forward.
Sales organizations are built on formulas from the executive level, so when someone leaves (even a lower performer), it has an impact on the company’s ability to hit their targets.
Just walking out the door might make you feel powerful, but it’s one of the least professional things you can do in your career.
Give a two week’s notice. If the company doesn’t need you, they will ask you to leave that day. Let them make that choice, not you.
Step 2: Tie Up All Loose Ends
When thinking about how to quit a sales job, keep in mind, it’s not all about you.
Once you’ve decided to leave and you’ve given a two week’s notice, it’s likely you’ll have a lot of deals mid-funnel. Work diligently to close all deals near the finish line, and work with your manager to get all of the other opportunities to sales representatives that can work them once you leave.
Introduce customers in a professional and polite manner, and leave no detail missed. The hand-off needs to be natural and smooth, so do your best to make sure nothing falls through the gaps.
Step 3: Work Hard & Be Quiet
Want that recommendation from your boss when you go to look for your next job? Want your personal brand to come out shiny and unscathed?
Then commit to putting your head down over the next two weeks and working hard.
While you’re still at your job, be a professional and don’t gossip, talk poorly about others, or encourage your teammates to look for other roles. You might not have liked the role or struggled to achieve, or heck, you might even dislike the people you work for.
Remember, you can ruin a whole career of great behavior simply by choosing to be unprofessional on your way out. Go the professional route, and be an adult.
You never know when you’ll cross paths with these people again, and your personal brand will thank you later.
Option 2: Go For It and Give It Your All
With this option, we’re not talking about finding a new career or even moving to another company. We’re talking about how to get better at sales.
This option is for you if you ever look at your pipeline and say to yourself, “I’m so close!” or “I finally feel like I’m going to take off!”
It’s also the right option if you have a supportive manager, a great team, and a culture you like being a part of.
If you decide you want to stick around and go for it, then you need to execute extremely well. Getting out of a PIP or performance management funnel isn’t easy.
It’s important to remember that what you’ve been doing up to now — the tasks and habits you’ve been employing — haven’t worked so far, so you can’t do more of the same.
You have to have a game plan, and that game plan needs to be different than what you were doing previously in the role.
Here are the steps I recommend taking to get better at sales, so you can start achieving and never look back.
Step 1: Let Your Boss Know
Tell your boss that you are in it to win it. Then, prove it.
I’ve noticed that when salespeople feel under the gun, they tend to verbalize their success plan to anyone who will listen.
That’s fine, but action speaks louder than words. Talking about the plan generally won’t help you succeed. You need a real action plan.
Request time with your manager and ask them to help you develop a list of things you can do to get better at sales. A good way to do this is to ask how they’d approach the situation if they were you.
Your action plan needs two things:
- Tactical steps that you can take to get better
- Metrics you’re accountable for achieving
Tell your manager that you want more than just a revenue target. You want help outlining every metric that will help lead you back to achievement: activities, conversations, demos, etc.
You need a treasure map of metrics that is highly likely to make you better at sales.
Step 2: Get a Mentor
Lock down a superstar mentor. Today.
Once you have your plan in place, it’s time to find the best of the best at executing on that plan. Right now, there’s someone in your organization who has the knowledge, skills, and willingness to invest in your success.
Find that person. Then…
- Take them out for coffee, or grab them lunch.
- Ask to simply shadow them every day for 30 minutes during their cold calling or demos.
- Take copious notes.
- Notice trends.
- Write down what they say, how they handle objections, and everything else they do.
Once you feel like you’ve seen them in action enough to replicate, create yourself a script and ask them to review it with you.
Step 3: Practice Everyday
This is where the rubber meets the road. Practicing.
Given your success rate so far, you’ve likely been practicing on prospects. Start practicing with everyone else: your boss, your mentor, your teammates, your partner. Anyone who will listen to you.
Everyone who has mastered their craft — that includes elite athletes, musicians, writers, and top-performing professionals — got where they are today by spending hours upon hours practicing.
It’s only with that amount of repetition that the right behaviors and experiences become so ingrained, they happen naturally. And when that happens, you will begin to feel confident in your profession.
You should have been doing this from the very beginning, but if you’re not successful, it’s likely you weren’t truly committed to excellence.
That’s got to change. It’s time to double-down now.
Here are just some of the skills you need to practice to get better at sales:
Step 4: Work Longer Hours
If you’re on a performance plan — especially if your job has an end date if you don’t succeed — you’d better work more.
I’m sure plenty of folks who espouse “work-life balance” will tell you something different, but at this moment, they are wrong.
If you’re not successful and you need to be, then working longer hours is an easy way to get more calls, more demos, more at-bats. If you need to get better, fast, then commit to putting in the time and putting in the work now.
If, at a later point in time, you don’t need to work longer hours, then you can stop. This ain’t that time.
Put in the hours, and you’ll likely see improvement.
But be aware…
If you’ve executed on the four steps above, and you still aren’t having success, then you may have been overconfident in your ability. Sometimes, a specific company, job, product, or role just isn’t for you.
In fact, I’ve often seen that sales as a profession just simply isn’t the right fit for someone who has repeatedly struggled. That’s where the last choice comes in…
Option 3: Ask to Transition to Another Department
If you don’t want to quit and you don’t think you have what it takes to get better at sales, consider changing roles.
I’ve known several people who loved the company mission and were obviously smart, hard-working people — but for some reason they couldn’t perform in a particular role.
Many times, short-sighted employers will let that kind of person go without realizing they could have put that person’s natural talents to work in a different function.
I can think of three particular people in my company at PatientPop. All were struggling in their sales role, but all of them understood the importance of their personal brand.
They came to work every day, worked hard, and sang the company praises. In the end, sales just wasn’t for them. So why lose that person?
One rep went from struggling in sales to a top-ranked customer service pro. Two struggling sales reps got their SFDC admin certification and transitioned to become incredibly successful Sales Operations professionals.
It’s a total win/win.
I got three new superstar employees with internal knowledge already built in, and they got the benefit of feeling successful, earning a great living, and contributing to our company in a massive way.
If you’re interested in staying with your company and transitioning into a new role, follow their example. These steps will guide the way.
Step 1: Find Out What Roles Are Available
Here’s the thing…
Just because you’re willing to transition to another role doesn’t mean there’s another role available. Budgets have already been allocated and roles already defined.
So start by finding out what roles are actually available. Review your company’s career page to see if there is anything you’re qualified for that piques your interest.
Remember to be realistic about available roles.
If a role requires 5–7 years of digital marketing experience and you have zero, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll be considered for the role. Find roles at the intersection of your interest and experience.
If you don’t see anything on the careers page, ask your boss to point you to the best person in your company for a career conversation.
In a smaller company, that might be your HR professional, while in a larger company, there might be a specific person charged with running leadership and development.
Step 2: Understand the Interview Process for Getting the Role
It’s important that you have a clear path moving forward.
If you’re currently on a performance plan where you’re set to be termed in two weeks, you need to let people know that you’re interested in applying for the role. If a decision will be made right away, then great. Apply and see how it goes.
If the company anticipates running a longer search for the role and you’re worried your performance plan might expire, sit down with your boss and HR professional to discuss your options.
A high level of communication is key during this time period. Don’t rely on someone else. Step up and be the lead communicator.
Step 3: Understand What Happens If You Don’t Get the Role
The truth is if you don’t get the role and you’re unable to get off of your performance plan in sales, you might be headed for a termination.
If that’s the case, make sure you understand that up front. That way, you have the appropriate expectations and can plan accordingly.
As a reminder, if you don’t get the role and you lose your job, be a professional. Thank everyone for their time and consideration and ask for a reference on the way out.
Step 4: Work Hard. Be a Professional.
Period. Remember, you have one professional brand and you’re the one in control of it. Make sure that when your name comes up or you need a reference, you get nothing but a positive response.
Let’s Be Honest
You may not make it at your current company. You might quit, or get terminated, or go through a lengthy transitional interview process, only to be let down.
Here’s the good news. If you’ve done everything in a professional manner and managed your personal brand during this time, you are likely to come out in a good place.
Remember, here are the top 3 things you need to do to make sure that happens:
- Work hard
- Tie up loose ends
- Don’t complain
These three things seem so simple, but over the last 15 years, I’ve watched hundreds of people get them wrong, or even do the exact opposite.
I’ve watched people sabotage their own personal brand and lose out on meaningful references. When you destroy a connection, often you destroy that connection’s network as well. Remember how powerful that type of destruction can be when you’re going through this difficult time.
If you’ve worked hard, tied up loose ends, and acted like the adult you are, you should feel confident in asking for references, recommendations on LinkedIn, and even a point in the right direction for a new job.
Going through a difficult time at work is never fun. I hope these options give make it a bit more clear on how to manage that time.