Almost all professionals’ careers are full of solid choices and regrettable mistakes. Just how successful your career will end up will be a function of hard work, luck and learning from mistakes. Fortunately, the wise can learn from the missteps of others. In a previous blog, Is Your Sales Career Mapped Out?, I shared a few tips to help you build a long term career plan. In this blog, I share 3 preventable sales career mistakes that I consistently see sales professionals make. All three of these sales career mistakes apply to those of you outside of sales as well. If your career is off track or you would like to stay on track, read on.

1. Job Hopping.

Many a blog has been written about why job hopping is a short path to a derailed sales career. For one, many employers won’t touch job hoppers. To be fair, there are enough employers that disregard this hiring pitfall that you’ll probably survive. The bigger issue is what you’re cheating yourself out of when you mindlessly jump from one sales job to the next. I can sum it up in one word, mastery. Mastering your craft is the difference between plotting your own course and being at the mercy of the tides. To be clear, mastery probably won’t lead you to world domination. What it will do, is give you the sense of pride and quiet confidence that comes from overcoming challenges and performing at a high level.

Do make job changes if they align with your strengths and are a logical career progression. Don’t make a job change to “make a change”. Often, the voice that’s motivating a change is your ego. This brings us to the next way I see people derail their sales career.

2. Letting Your Ego Call the Shots.

Chasing titles, money, etc. is often a surefire path to a mid-life crisis. After all, there is no limit to “more”. Worse yet, it often leads you away from finding and developing your biggest strengths. Don’t get me wrong, if your strengths lead you to promotions and increased earnings, enjoy them. You’ve earned them. What I’m talking about is trying to force an outcome by taking a role that you’re not well suited for. Looking back at the last recession, the news was full of sales executives that lost their jobs when their employer eliminated an entire sales team or level of management in one pen stroke. The executives who had followed their strengths and mastered their craft quickly landed on their feet. I think you know what happened to the others. Today, job security exists from the neck up. If you find and hone your strengths you’ll be well prepared to weather most storms.

3. Golden Handcuffs.

I cannot tell you how many times (easily thousands) I’ve talked to sales professionals that wouldn’t leave a job/company that made them miserable simply because of money. In short, they lived a lifestyle that matched or exceeded their earnings. With such a large nut, they couldn’t (or wouldn’t) consider a position that was a short-term financial step back. Given that all sales positions have a ramp up period, they were effectively stuck. Trust me, just about nothing feels worse than being stuck.

As hard as it is to do, mastering money is a HUGE part of a smart career plan. This means living below your means. It also includes setting aside money that serves no other purpose than to provide a buffer. Very, very, very few sales reps and sales leaders increase their earnings EVERY year. I’m not suggesting that you need to live the life of a miser. What I am saying is that having sanity and career flexibility will bring you far more long-term happiness than a new BMW, larger house or fill in the blank. 

My Parting Thought Regarding Sales Career Mistakes.

“I’m changing lanes. I’m talking on the phone. I’m driving way too fast.
And the interstate’s jammed with Gunners like me afraid of coming in last.
But somewhere in the race we run, we’re coming undone.”

The lines above were written by Keith Urban. He sure seems to know a thing or two about living in the rat race and I’ve often found myself thinking about these lyrics. Days do go by. Before too many of them do, set aside a few of them to think about and plan out your career. The alternative could be to end up as an example in some future blog about sales career mistakes.