Recently I received an email from a person on my newsletter mailing list. He told me he was about to quit his sales position. He claimed that leads had almost ground to a halt and that when he was able to schedule an appointment, he was not able to convince the prospect to make a decision. I immediately called him to discuss his situation. "They're all idiots," he said of his prospects. He'd had enough. He asked for advice as to which industry might be best for him to "look for work."

While I am often asked by management personnel to help find salespeople, I am not often approached with a request of this type. I was both disappointed and intrigued. Disappointed because our industry is already losing too many people from all disciplines, and intrigued because I wanted to determine why he thought he would be more successful in any other field. This is a real story. 

I had to ask.

"How long have you been in the industry?" I asked. "About four years," he replied. "How long have you been in sales?" "About four years.""Who taught you how to sell?" "I taught myself," he said in a tone dripping with pride. "Has your management ever conducted any sales training for the company?" "No." "Have you ever taken any formal sales training on your own?" "No." he responded. "I don't need any." "What is your sale-to-presentation ratio?" "What's that?" "The number of sales versus the number of presentations you make." "I have no idea. Why? Is that important?" "How many presentations have you generated on your own without a company lead?" "None. That's not my job. The company is supposed to do that."

You know what's coming, don't you?

Although my actual approach was much softer, my response could have been to tell him that he couldn't quit sales, because he was never really in sales to begin with. Not real sales. "You can't quit what you've never actually started."

I told him that selling is a profession; it is not a job. As with all professions it requires training, nurturing and hard work. Learning on your own, without continued support will only take you so far. Just as watching television doctor shows will not make you a real doctor; learning on your own will probably not make you a real salesperson. It may allow some successes in times of great and growing economies; unfortunately, it does not permit achievement in tough economic times. And if you hadn't noticed...

No, you can't quit what you were never really into in the first place.

If you can't quit, try starting.

I asked him why he would want to quit when he could learn. No matter what 'job' he would choose to try he will need to invest time, effort and money to perfect it. Even though most will not expend any actual hard money to learn sales, what most fail to realize is that the time lost in unfulfilled effort and low sale-to-presentation ratios is actually more expensive than any investment that might have been made in training. Failure is always more expensive than success (a lesson that is often hard learned).

Then I made a recommendation that surprised him. I recommended that if he wanted to quit he should quit his current company, not the selling profession. I recommended that he interview companies that invested into their people by offering on-going sales training; even if he had to change industries. This is no time to be on your own. Until the time that he finds a more qualified company he should do whatever he had to do to find training on his own. I made some recommendations. We'll see.

Want to quit?

Even seasoned, qualified salespeople need continuing uplifting and refreshing. No one knows it all and we never stop learning. If you find yourself in the same situation as my new friend, reread this post.