It’s possible to draw a career picture of what happens to many salespeople by looking at the Sales Career Cycle, which often takes on the form of a traditional bell curve.
While not the same for any two persons, the essential characteristics are there for most salespeople. It’s divided into three basic stages that are elastic in length, depending on the individual. You’ll be able to figure out why salespeople fail or succeed.
Stage One: Growth
This is the time when the salesperson gets into the business, successfully overcomes the common hurdles, develops sales skills, and enjoys initial success. The length of Stage One is elastic. For one person, it may last three years, and for another, considerably longer. The sales characteristics displayed in Stage One are as follows:
- Enthusiastic and aggressive
- Sees possibilities in selling career
- Appreciates the opportunity
- Responsive to suggestions and new ideas
- Follows up quickly on leads
- Eager to learn
- Spends extra time helping customers’
- Generates leads
- Goes after accounts of all sizes
- Works long hours
- Responds whenever needed
- Is always ready to do more and meet the next challenge
- Sees criticism as a way to learn, and
- An overall upward trend in sales figures.
Stage One is the time when there are constantly learning and plenty of drive. There’s also a developing sense of personal satisfaction at having chosen the right career.
Stage Two: Peaking
Some salespeople begin to falter at Stage Two. Here are characteristics that affect performance negatively:
- Some upward movement, but slower
- Less aggressive
- Fails to respond to changing customer needs
- Some accounts leave but no one’s at fault
- Becomes somewhat complacent. Focuses on “favorite” customers
- “Paid my dues” feeling may set in — feeling unappreciated
- Less regular customer contact
- Calls on large prospects primarily
- Less interest in new accounts other than “big ones”
- Fewer hours spent on the job, and
- Becomes somewhat cynical.
Stage Three: Decline
Unless corrections are made in Stage Two, the result is a gradual but persistent period of decline. The characteristics of salespeople in the decline stage:
- Makes fewer calls
- Spends more time in the office
- Some accounts shrinking
- Customers leave for price-cutters
- Few new customers, if any
- Feels a right to “big” customers only
- Interest in serving customers lags
- Feels “selling isn’t what it used to be”
- May seem somewhat out of the customer loop
- Ignores opportunities to learn
- Can appear quite cynical or disgruntled
- Talks more about past achievements
- Believes seniority warrants special privileges, and
- Feels unappreciated by management.
The Sales Career Cycle is more a mirror of what can happen rather than a description of what will happen. The object of the Sales Career Cycle is to let salespeople see where they are so they can shape future behavior and avoid “peaking” and “declining.”