I was updating my LinkedIn profile and discovered something interesting about my work experience. Virtually every job change that I enjoyed happened during the first 3 or 4 months of the calendar year. I then looked at the profiles of a few of my close friends, and saw that this held true with them as well.
I guess this shouldn’t surprise me. After year-end bonuses have been paid and new quotas released, many salespeople begin to feel a bit of wanderlust. And just like spring is the season of rebirth, the early part of the year can also be a perfect time to “reawaken” our careers by carving out new goals, challenges, and opportunities.
I am frequently asked to give advice to a salesperson when they are weighing a new job offer. Typically, they are looking for feedback on things like the products that they will be selling, the industry they are entering or a new compensation package. They ask questions like “Which bonus and commission plan looks better?” “Which territory has the best potential?” “What is a good exit strategy?” And while all of these questions are sensible, they rarely get to the heart of what truly defines a great job. So, in addition to covering the basics, I also try to steer them toward considering 3 other concepts during their search.
1. Work for a winner.
I have spent my entire career working for companies that were considered the defacto leader in their respective industry. I believe this is an important factor to your success in sales for several reasons. First, it inspires a culture and attitude of confidence throughout the staff, establishing an expectation of success. Second, it virtually guarantees an invitation to any customer “bake-off” in your territory. Also, working for a company that is #1 means you are probably the most expensive offering in the room. This strengthens your sales muscles in countless ways, from competitive positioning, to price defense, to objection handling. Finally, great companies employ great people in all departments. You can be confident that your company’s executive team, marketing efforts, and product research and development will always be competitive and on the cutting-edge.
HOW WILL I KNOW? Ask for customer references at the interview to get unsolicited opinions of your company’s reputation. Meet with the new CEO and CFO to get their perspective on why they joined the company. And investigate the pedigree of the other sales reps. Do they attract and hire winners like you?
2. Sell more, and sell higher.
In addition to working for a company committed to being #1, I always advocate that each step up sales career ladder should require selling more expensive things to more senior buyers. The skills required to sell a $100,000 product are very different than those needed to sell one that is $1,000. And selling to the VP- or C-suite is not the same as selling to a field engineer. Each step up requires more sophistcation, strategy, and business acumen. Plus, selling more means you stand a better chance of higher earnings!
HOW WILL I KNOW? Research their revenue data and look for median sale size. Comb through their customer lists, to see if there is a prevalence of people with significant titles and roles. Ask marketing what events are currently being planned, and what types of audiences they are targeting.
3. Leverage your strengths.
Finally, think about what you are great at, and how that distinguishes you from the rest. Then, ask yourself if you will get to do a LOT of that specific activity at your new job. Great at prospecting? Then don’t take on a National Account role. Love closing? Then you probably want to stay away from Bus Dev and Channel opportunities. Of course you should always accept the challenge of a new job, in a new industry, with a new product. Challenge inspires growth. But don’t lose sight of how your strengths can help you tackle those new challenges. If you get to regularly perform in areas in which you already excel, you will probably like the onboarding process more, and will probably enjoy your first quota earlier.
HOW WILL I KNOW? Map out what you believe the first 90 days of your job should look like, and share it with the hiring manager for their feedback. Talk to HR about the typical sales profiles that excel at their company. Take the time to investigate. If the organization is one that invests in its salespeople beyond compensation with incentives like education development, and leadership opportunities, that’s a good indication of their commitment to supporting the professional growth of their employees
Taking on a new role at a new job is exciting, but it can also create anxiety – not only for you, but also for your entire family. Mitigate some of that risk by taking a longer view of what defines a great job. Like the adage says, if you do what you love, money and success will surely follow.
Want to know how to impress your new boss once you get that amazing sales job? Subscribe to receive the quarterly Deal Doctor™ Newsletter for Jeff's latest tips and techniques.