In a recent interview Kobe Bryant was asked what advice he would give to his 17-year-old self about money. This led me to think about the career tips I would share with myself when I was early in my sales career. Thinking this through led me to create my list of 10 Career Tips for Rookie Sales Reps. Most of these tips are just as valuable for senior sales professionals.
1. Extreme Ownership.
How your career turns out is 100% your responsibility. No manager, mentor or company can or should take care of this for you. Whether or not you receive that promotion, career advancement or fall victim to being misled is ultimately on you.
2. Job Security.
Job security comes from the neck up. As long as you bring work ethic, moral fiber and value to the workplace you’ll have a sales job. Longer term it might not be with your current employer but there will always be a demand for sales professionals that can move the needle.
3. Learn to Earn.
There isn’t a shortcut to increased earnings. If you want to earn more you need to be able to bring more value to employers and customers. Focus on increasing your skillset and your earnings will take care of themselves.
4. Job Hopping.
On the subject of shortcuts, job hopping is a fast path to a dead end. In 3 Sales Career Mistakes I go into more detail regarding a few pitfalls of job hopping. One pitfall that I didn’t cover is your employability during an economic downturn. Recessions happen every 5-7 years. When the next one comes you might lose your job through no fault of your own. Employers that were willing to take a chance on a job hopper during a tight employment market will avoid you like the plague when they have a choice.
There is a world of difference between a sales rep who claims he’s a top performer and one that can prove it. Hold onto every award, email and company newsletter that speaks to your performance. This information you’ll put into a brag book which you’ll use during interviews to wow potential employers.
6. Don’t Chase Titles.
It’s hard enough to perform when you are doing a job you like. After two decades in sales recruiting I’ve talked to a depressing number of highly paid sales professionals that hate their sales job. Trust me, performing a job that you hate so you can drive a 5 series BMW instead of a Toyota Camry isn’t a smart move. What’s worse, once you sign the lease for that 5 series you’ll have no choice but to continue performing the job you hate to be able pay for it.
7. Live below your means.
Living below your means buys you career choice flexibility and a measure of independence. It’s unfortunately a common occurance for me to speak with sales professionals that would like to get a new sales job but can’t afford the income dip they would face when ramping up with a new position. Few things feel worse than being stuck.
8. Build Reserves.
This was the hardest lesson for me to learn personally. I always felt compelled to invest every dollar that I managed to save. Once I invested it I was loathe to pull it out for any reason. Around age 40 I decided to set money aside a sizeable reserve that served no other purpose than to get me through a rainy day. This money “buys” me career flexibility and reduced stress.
9. Don’t Burn Bridges.
You just never know when a former peer, boss or customer could help you attain or block a career changing opportunity. I’ve personally witnessed multiple occasions when a hiring manager knew someone at a potential rep’s former employer. Trust me, they’ll remember how you left that company. In The Classy Resignation I share the right way to leave a company.
10. Look Ahead.
In Mapping Out Your Sales Career I give a few tips on how to develop a career plan. As Zig Ziglar once famously said, “If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time.” A recent study by Comparably shows that only 34% of tech sales professionals had a formal career plan. Yikes!
In retrospect, building a successful and happy sales career is a lot harder to achieve than my 25 year old self could have imagined. I hope that these 10 tips save you from some of the hard lessons that I had to learn along the way.