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A Career Killer for Sales Leaders (and How to Avoid it)

Most Sales Leaders intuitively understand that overselling a job opportunity might lead to disappointment. What they don’t know, is that it can also be a potential career killer. To be fair, we don’t believe that most Sales Leaders that do this are being malicious. Their goal is to attract and hire sales superstars and they bait their hook accordingly. To their credit, the examples and opportunities that they share during the interview process are usually possible to replicate for an elite sales professional. Of course, very few sales hires will end up hitting President’s Club. My own experience shows me that half of sales force turnover issues could be prevented simply by setting the right expectations. It also prevents a few more potentially career killing issues.

“Happiness is a function of expectations.”

Sales Career Killer #1 – Your Credibility.

Once the glow of the honeymoon period is over, your new sales hire will realize that they were oversold. Around that same time, many rookie sales reps hit a wall. The wall or what I call the “moment of truth” happens to almost every sales rep during that first year, even top performers. This is the point where every good Sales Leader earns their living. If a seed of distrust was planted at the beginning of this relationship there’s a good chance the rep won’t listen to their manager. How do I know this? In my 20 years of sales recruiting, I’ve recruited some stellar talent away from their employer at the “moment of truth”. This is just one example of how one exaggeration can undermine a Sales Leader’s career. Another, and just as potent is the poor reviews you’ll possibly receive when that disgruntled rep posts a review on Glassdoor. I have more thoughts about this on a previous post about Glassdoor.

Sales Career Killer #2 – Retaining A Players.

Seasoned sales professionals respect and will follow sales leaders who “tell me like it is.” From experience, I’ve found that sales leaders who oversell their opportunity tend to evade the “hard truth” in most situations. Top sales performers will only stay in an environment like this when everything is going right. When things start going wrong, the smart reps leave. Left behind are the jaded reps and the ones that aren’t smart enough or talented enough to get away. By definition, these Sales Leaders are now managing a team of B Players. This, of course, creates more pressure to “exaggerate” expectations with new recruits in the hopes of upgrading the talent on their team.

The Answer?

There is a way to attract higher caliber sales professionals without overselling your opportunity and undermining your credibility. All of it starts with transparency and the right intention.

  • Most sales reps expect that every opportunity has issues. Don’t hide them.
  • Share averages along with best examples.
  • Put everything in writing.
  • Be exact. For example, use our top sales rep earned “$121k” instead of “well into six figures”.
  • Set up an “expectations call”. The purpose is an open discussion of the pluses, the negatives and what’s realistic.

This approach prevents any number of misunderstandings. It also still paints a picture of what’s possible for top sales performers. In the end, some sales reps are going to hear what they want to hear. If it’s written down and they remember it wrong, it’s on them. They might still be upset but your credibility will be intact. And that’s the bigger point. The sales reps on your team will be there for the right reasons.

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Chris Carlson

My name is Chris Carlson and I’m the founder and President of Sales Talent. This blog grew out of my desire to document and share what I’ve learned in my two plus decades of sales recruiting and leading Sales Talent. We post a new blog once a quarter on the 3rd Thursday of every January, April, July and Oct. These posts are aimed at sales professionals and leaders that speaks to talent selection, team building, or career advancement. If you have a topic that you’d like my take on, please reach out to me.

You can find Chris Carlson on LinkedIn or contact him directly at: