Salespeople are among the most valuable of employees. They should be; they bring in the money. And then comes a time when they don’t.
The lifespan of an outside sales rep parallels a professional athlete. Both require high levels of physical and mental fitness to be successful and win on game day. That is just the beginning. There must also be strong discipline, a nuclear work ethic of self starting and playing the entire game with intensity.
Salespeople at their peak have a laser focus. They never lose sight that the main thing is the main thing and that thing is close business! Obstacles in their way are looked at the same way Superman looks at bad guys: soon to be vaporized!
Top salespeople are driven by passion much like a business owner. They want to win badly, make some of the best pay around, feel powerful and rank high in their company. These same traits can divide salespeople from the rest of the team if they are seen as egomaniacs, so be careful.
I knew many outstanding salespeople at IBM. I lived it and saw those that did not. When I left after six years to begin my company, I personally sold enough to build a company. Sales work, for me, was the best preparation for running a business.
So that is all the good stuff and how it looks at peak. The bad news is you can only keep that up so long. How long? Well, somewhere into your 40s.
Energy begins to drop as does the self-start. You begin to judge, just from looking at the building, if someone will buy or not. Each prospect is clutched more tightly as your pipeline shrinks. It is the same scenario as a professional athlete whose once-tremendous performance is sure to fall off. Life goals are different. Physical and mental fitness fall some. You no longer like to prospect. More stress management is needed to stay even.
Another reason for fade is lost passion. Passion is the magic juju that banishes obstacles and objections. Young reps have it coursing through their veins. Older reps have it coursing through their coffee. Seasoned reps eventually get mind ninja-ed, which is the mental kung fu that happens after too many lost sales. You had many victories for sure. But you only close one out of three, so the ones you lost pile high in the memory, further depleting juju juice. Let’s call all this Sales Menopause.
All this does not have to end anyone’s career, but it may benefit to ease out slowly to even more rewarding work in managing or training. Both areas benefit greatly from wisdom and experience, as would junior juju ninjas. Another way to fight the menopause is to build a book of larger businesses that value your relationship and may go elsewhere if you did. Make sure you stay current on new trends and products if in this mode so things do not pass you by and you get let go. And stay fit.
Tom Pease is owner of e/Doc Systems, an office equipment dealership.