There are many paths that can lead people to a sales role, whether it’s a lifelong dream, or a referral from a friend or family member who demonstrates the potential of the job. In that same vein, all sorts of personalities can end up in sales, from the colorful and outgoing, to the cerebral and introverted — there aren’t any hard and fast rules about who will or won’t succeed (not based on personality alone, anyway).
What’s quite interesting, however, is just how many people with seemingly unlimited potential don’t last in the role, whether it’s after a short stint, or after a year or two trying their hand at selling. You could fill dozens of phonebooks with the names of salespeople who could have been top performers, but chose instead to move on, leaving the profession behind for something different; it seems to happen every day.
So why do so many promising salespeople flame out, even when they appear to have all the pre-requisite tools for the job? We’ve attempted to answer that question with the six biggest reasons why salespeople with potential don’t work out. Here they are:
1. Unrealistic expectations
Those who have friends in sales can only see one side of things: their high incomes with nearly unlimited potential for more. When you’re on the other side of the fence, however, it’s not quite as easy as it seems. With the right amount of effort and training, most people can earn great money in sales. It’s certainly no walk in the park, though and it can sometimes take a while to hit your stride. That’s why having realistic expectations is important. Otherwise, you might be surprised by the time and effort that’s required in order to become a success.
2. Not enough training and coaching
Some managers have a sink or swim mentality — that is, they think you either have it or you don’t. Whether out of ignorance or just sheer laziness, they don’t offer a robust training and coaching program for new reps. This is one of the biggest reasons why promising sales reps don’t work out; somebody learning the ropes needs to be trained and supported, otherwise the role can be overwhelming and complicated. Even experienced reps can get use out of continuing education, and organizations which adopt a hands-off approach will usually find themselves with high churn, especially when it comes to newer salespeople.
3. They want more certainty
There are people out there who simply can’t handle not knowing how much money they’re going to make and get stressed out by constant changes, both of which are part and parcel of sales. Those who are looking for certainty should look elsewhere, as the only thing certain in selling is that one month won’t be like the next, for better or worse. In addition to a fluctuating income, there are frequent changes to the comp plan, product and market changes of which salespeople must be apprised, and, perhaps most importantly, deals which seem to be a sure thing one moment that turn on a dime and become total disasters, something which can be difficult for people to accept. So, if you’re a person who thrives on certainty, sales is unlikely to be a great fit.
4. The product/sales cycle is a bad fit
This might be a difficult concept for an outsider to understand, but not all salespeople are compatible with certain markets. For example: a salesperson might be great in retail, where deals are done face-to-face with the general public and take a few hours to complete, but if you take this same salesperson and put her in a B2B (business to business) inside sales role where the sales cycle takes months, she might have a much more difficult time, as the type of sale is not a great fit for her style/personality/approach. This is why finding the right product (and company) to sell for is so important. Otherwise, there’s a high chance of failure.
5. They don’t buy in
Another reason why finding the right company is so important is buy-in: if you don’t believe in what you’re selling and aren’t passionate about your role, then you’re unlikely to succeed, and even less likelier to stick around. This is one of the biggest reasons why promising salespeople don’t last; they don’t believe in the value of what they’re doing, whether it’s because of the particular product, or a lack of belief in sales in general. In either case, people can’t be forced to buy into what they’re doing, and if they choose not to, they’re unlikely to stick around for long, no matter how talented or promising they might be.
6. They burn out
Burnout can happen in any profession, but in sales, the chances of burnout are quite high. It’s a role which lends itself to high stress; there’s lots of pressure from management, from prospects, and from competition, which is why stress management is so important. Somebody who is new to sales is ripe for burnout because they haven’t yet had a chance to make the mindset shift that’s required. Understanding and accepting that stress is part of the role and can take time, and is easier said than done when you’re in the thick of it getting pressure from all sides. The unfortunate thing, however, is that some promising salespeople would be legendary performers if they were able to accept (and manage) stress. In many cases, though, they don’t stick around long enough to find out, which can be quite disappointing.