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Take me to your leader

Take me to your leader

I wanted to write today about something that I’ve noticed recently to do with more mature and experienced sales professionals when they hit the job market. I think its an issue that has been around since time immemorial but perhaps only one I’ve noticed a little bit more in the later years of my career as it has potentially become one I’ve developed more of an empathy with!

I was doing some work with very experienced candidate last week. This Chap, in his mid fifties with a stable track record is a consummate pro and due to takeover he has found himself looking for work. We’ve introduced him to some well matched employers but his feedback has been a little flat after the interviews. He drove by our offices on the way back from an interview last week and nipped into our place for a break, a cup of tea and to give us his feedback.

His biggest source of disappointment was his potential new employer himself recently promoted into the role from the sales team. Our candidates concern was that he didn’t think there would be much he would learn from the guy and that he just didn’t seem like that good a campaigner.

Well of course he didn’t.

1. Our candidate had 20 years of experience on his new manager

2. Our candidate could run rings round the guy at all levels

There’s a tipping point in our careers as sales professionals during which it becomes progressively more difficult to find a manager or an employer that we are going to look up to and who will bring something new to us. It’s life. It’s fact. It’s just the way it goes. For some it really signals the downward spiral of peoples careers. Fresh out of university the nature of relationships with our bosses is the opposite. They are coaches, teaches and mentors and they lead the way and show us how it should be done. Our relationship with many of our managers in the formative years of our careers is almost parent and child level. As people hit the middle stages of their career and also the middle earning stages of their careers they are still led by their employers but more specifically the relationships tend to become more of a partnership and friendship.The stakes get higher, the expectation on the sales person gets greater and the faustian pact of what the company gives the employee shifts markedly. At 60K base no one really needs to coach and mentor a salesperson even if actually people sometimes still need it. We grow up and we don’t need it as much. For sure one of you is “in charge” but you are musketeers on a journey together and there is mutual respect. Later on it gets tougher and I find for a lot of people becomes very difficult. A lot of people confess that it becomes a lonely place and some of the more enlightened ones worry they are going to go off the boil without that coach and mentoring managerial relationship. One person I did some work with recently told me that realising his new manager couldn’t offer him as much was the same realisation we get as when we realise that we are as responsible for our parents as they were for us.

So what to do ?

1. Make a formal and concerted effort to work on your own personal self development.

Your new manager doesn’t care about your skills one jot. He doesn’t care if you are any better tomorrow than you were today. He doesn’t care if you are on or off form. He cares about your number and what you are going to close. he cares about his commission and his bonus. He can spend that and keep his job secure with it but he can’t tell his bosses that he is giving you 60K and you really are learning a lot. Struggling to sell ? hard cheese! sort it out yourself. Hit the books and buy the tapes. work on your elevator pitch and your close.

2. Generate a formal or informal peer network .

Need to talk to someone about work? have a moan , bounce something fundamental around? then get a network of people you can genuinely bounce stuff off . Create a peer group that meets formally of folk in the same position and talk through the deals and issues of the day.

3. Deal with it, accept it grow up and move into the next stage of your life.

Accept it for what it is and stop moaning to recruitment consultants about it. The capabilities of your new employers hiring manager in comparison should not be part of your job hunting criteria anymore. They had better not be because if they are its going to take you a while to find a new job. Focus on what you need out of the job from a structural perspective and ask yourself if that new manager will support you to be able to do your thing. Most importantly accept that you’ve earned the right to be a bit supercilious about your new boss and that you’ve paid your dues to get to this point in your career. Its a benchmark moment and you should celebrate it!

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