Can This Sales Career Be Saved?

Last Updated Jul 16, 2010 9:54 AM EDT

Some sales jobs are easier than others, depending on your personality. This Sales Machine reader recently wrote me a rather long email describing a difficult sales environment and asking my advice. Here's a slightly edited version of my email, followed by my advice.
Geoffrey, I desperately need your help..
I left my last sales position of 5 years because I hit the glass ceiling and was sick of being micro managed. However, while there I was tremendously successful, consistently in B2B hunter sales. In my new position (also in B2B hunter sales), there is zero micro managing but at the same time there is no leadership, direction, and very limited training on the product I am supposed to "go out and sell." I have had some success, but there are still things that bother me.
For example, if we have a "zero" week we are all sworn at on a teleconference and reps are belittled in front of the group. I've had to approach my boss to find out where I stand, what his expectations are, etc. So far he feels that I am on track and will be "his best rep". However, I hate that I have to go to him, and feel that there be a protocol/ramp up policy for this?
As far as 'training' I am literally given a manual to read and then "just go out and sell". I have asked my boss constantly for more training and after my 3 months of being there, it is finally set up for a couple of months out. Also, almost everyone is "too busy" to help because they've been in the same position -- zero training with high expectations. This combined with lack of communication has led to "reactive" rather than "proactive" customer support.
All the other sales reps have tried to be nice by "warning me" of all the crap I am supposed to expect in this position; they are all quite jaded in their positions and sadly what they told me will happen, has.
On top of all this, I feel like an idiot because I realize now that I made a lateral move. My original goal was to move to a company where I would be able to grow, get better pay etc, but I've ended up in pretty much the same scenario as before. And if I do leave, how do I explain that 3 month job on my resume?
Here's my advice:


I can tell that you're frustrated, but the real problem isn't your new job -- it's your inability to manage your attitude, combined with some unreasonable expectations about your new job. Since there's a lot of content in your email, I'll go through it piece by piece and explain how your thought process is fundamentally broken:

I left my last sales position of 5 years because I hit the glass ceiling and was sick of being micro managed. However, while there I was tremendously successful, consistently in B2B hunter sales. In my new position (also in B2B hunter sales), there is zero micro managing but at the same time there is no leadership, direction, and very limited training on the product I am supposed to "go out and sell."
Let's see. You got sick of being micro-managed and now you're complaining that you're not getting enough management attention. Hard to please, aren't ya now? Look, while these two groups appear to both be a bit extreme (one too controlling, the other not controlling enough), the truth is that you'll never find a "perfect" sales group that doesn't suffer from some kind of bad management. Because bad management is eternal, especially in sales. If you're going to make a go of your new job, you need to take what you learned about leadership and direction, and then become self-motivated to manage yourself, your time, and your own training.
I have had some success, but there are still things that bother me. For example, if we have a "zero" week we are all sworn at on a teleconference and reps are belittled in front of the group. I've had to approach my boss to find out where I stand, what his expectations are, etc. So far he feels that I am on track and will be "his best rep". However, I hate that I have to go to him, and feel that there be a protocol/ramp up policy for this?
Why are you taking these teleconferences seriously? Obviously, your top management is clueless about how to motivate, so all they're doing is venting their own fear. When a top manager acts like a big baby, the only way to react is with mild amusement. Consider: you're thinking of leaving the job anyway, so why should you care? Your immediate boss seems pleased with your work, which is what really counts. The only worrisome thing here is your weird notion that there ought to be a "protocol" in an organization that clearly lacks that kind of structure. Dream on. That's not where you're working, so stop thinking about it.
As far as 'training' I am literally given a manual to read and then "just go out and sell". I have asked my boss constantly for more training and after my 3 months of being there, it is finally set up for a couple of months out. Also, almost everyone is "too busy" to help because they've been in the same position -- zero training with high expectations. This combined with lack of communication has led to "reactive" rather than "proactive" customer support.
Hey, at least you got a manual. And you pushed for product training and got it. So what's the problem? Sure, it's annoying that nobody wants to help you. But that's the way the place works. They're not being goaled (or probably compensated) for helping you, so they're giving it a pass. I suggest you do the same, if you're asked to "help." As for the problem with customer support, that's your opportunity to differentiate yourself from the other reps. Get proactive with your clients and then make sure customer support "reacts" when you want them to do so.
All the other sales reps have tried to be nice by "warning me" of all the crap I am supposed to expect in this position; they are all quite jaded in their positions and sadly what they told me will happen, has.
Gee, if they warned you before you took the job, why did you take it? However, once you got the job, the last thing you want to do is to listen to sad sack losers who complain all day. Now you're seeing the work environment through the mental frame that they've created for you and (surprise!) it's starting to look to you like it looks to them. Get away from them before they rot your mind. Think your own thoughts; manage your own attitude. I can't emphasize the importance of this enough.
On top of all this, I feel like an idiot because I realize now that I made a lateral move. My original goal was to move to a company where I would be able to grow, get better pay etc, but I've ended up in pretty much the same scenario as before. And if I do leave, how do I explain that 3 month job on my resume?
I don't think you made a lateral move and I don't think you should feel like an idiot. You moved from a very controlled environment to a free-form one, and you weren't fully ready for the transition. Your new environment probably DOES offer more advantages, but not if you're going to waste your energy wishing it were more like the place you left. One thing is certain, though. You did indeed end up in the same scenario as before, but that's only because you took yourself -- and your way of thinking -- along for the ride.

If this sounds like I'm being harsh, it's because you seriously need a wake-up call. Sure there are things about your work environment that suck. So either decide whether you can either ignore them, use them to your advantage, or (alternatively) find a job someplace else that's more structured. Just make sure you line up another job before you leave this one. BTW, nobody will give a flying potato if there's a 3 month job on your resume. Heck, half the people in today's job market have a 3 year unemployment hole in their resume.

If you need to adjust your attitude so that you're more self-confident about your new job, I highly recommend that you check out this post:

READERS: Any further advice? Have I been too harsh?