How to Overcome Career Stagnation: 6 Sales Career Advice Tips and Techniques
The idea of career stagnation is disheartening—especially if you're an ambitious entrepreneur or a sales professional trying to reach the top. Yet, the feeling of being stuck is a reality most professionals experience at some point in their lives.
A 2021 survey from Oracle found that 75 percent of people feel stuck in their professional lives. Moreover, 85 percent of workers think their employers aren't doing enough to support their careers. Couple this with the fact that approximately 50 percent of Gen Zers and Millennials are "very" likely to look for new jobs in the next twelve months.
Take a look at the evidence proving the connection between career advancement opportunities and job satisfaction, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.
It’s pretty clear most people want more control over their professional paths and greater job satisfaction. For sales professionals, that means taking their careers into their own hands and employing strategies for overcoming career stagnation.
The following sales career advice will help you do just that, regardless of whether you're just starting your professional journey, have plateaued in your current position, or are determined to make 2023 the year you finally unlock your full potential.
6 Pieces of Sales Career Advice to Drive Your Career Forward
There are many ways to move your career forward, no matter where you find yourself right now. Whether you're ready to make drastic changes or are looking for small hacks you can implement to ensure professional success, there are plenty of options.
However, if you want to overcome (or avoid) a plateau, there's one essential thing you first need to do: determine whether your current career path aligns with your ultimate professional goals.
Sometimes, the reason for stagnation isn't our inability to overcome obstacles. More often than not, it's the lack of motivation, vision, and, most importantly, a sense of fulfillment.
So, before applying any of the six tips we cover here, ask yourself: "Is a sales career the right choice for me?" You may find the answer worrying—particularly if you've worked in this field for years or have achieved success, which can be hard to walk away from.
Know that staying honest with yourself is the only way forward. And even if you choose to leave your current position, you can be sure that your sales experience will help you in your future endeavors, regardless of whether you decide to start your own business, change jobs, or even pursue a dream that has nothing to do with sales at all.
However, if you are determined to work on your sales skills to secure a positive future on your professional path, the following advice is guaranteed to help you get where you want to be.
Evaluate Your Current Position
One of the most important steps towards overcoming stagnation in your sales career is objectively evaluating your current situation.
In addition to defining where you want to be—i.e., figuring out your ultimate career goals or defining the parameters you must meet to ensure your business can thrive—you also need to prepare a to-do list. This will inform you of the steps you need to take to ensure you fulfill your dreams.
For most professionals, this step will mean identifying their shortcomings.
Now, it is true that admitting our weaknesses isn't precisely enjoyable (or easy). Nonetheless, it's a compulsory first step towards overcoming career stagnation. So, if you're determined to do everything it takes to invest in your professional development, one of the best sales career tips you can implement is to identify all the growth opportunities that could help you move forward.
For some individuals, this means developing hard skills like improving product or policy knowledge or learning a foreign language to penetrate overseas markets. For others, the process will include working on soft skills, like written and oral communication, relationship building, and becoming a better leader (which is crucial for those aiming for sales management.)
Set Achievable Goals
Once you've defined areas for improvement that will allow you to take your sales career to the next level, your next step is to set some goals.
You've probably heard about the concept of SMART goals. These are the plans, which are:
But, if you're trying to overcome a career standstill, you have to go a step further when determining your objectives.
Apart from knowing what you want to achieve, why you want to do it, and how to go about it, you must make plans you can genuinely accomplish.
Consider the challenges you'll be up against when trying to make a sale. These include the state of the economy and the market you're in. Moreover, for your sales career to continue growing, you need to define goals that are sustainable—both for your career and your business.
For example, when trying to boost your sales career, you might improve by doing something as simple as defining your target audience, knowing what drives their buying behavior, and identifying market gaps that will allow you to grab their attention and meet their needs. You can do all this by subscribing to a few newsletters, starting with McKinsey, Edelman, and HBR, and employing social listening.
Even more importantly, something as simple as knowing you probably won't manage to learn Chinese in a couple of months to impress a big overseas client will prevent you from wasting your time trying to accomplish things that are either impossible or require a substantially longer time-frame than you originally had in mind.
Adopt a Growth Mindset
So far, the sales career advice we covered dealt with setting goals and developing strategies to achieve them. But, if you're truly determined to build a successful career in sales, you'll need to invest continually in your professional and personal development.
In addition to working on the hard skills that will allow you to move up in your profession, true career success depends on your willingness to constantly grow and improve in all aspects of your career.
Investing in your development isn't optional—regardless of whether you're an employee or an entrepreneur.
It's essential that you:
- Keep up to date with the available tools and resources that help you make more sales
- Stay familiar with current sales and marketing trends and techniques that give you a head start over your competition
It's also not a bad idea to work on your self-presentation skills. If your ambitions include reaching a managerial or even leadership position, you need to learn how to prepare for a job interview.
Keep in mind, you don’t only have to impress people when looking for employment. Making new connections and key partnerships (including those with suppliers) will require you to present your sales capabilities in the best possible light.
To drive career growth, you should explore a variety of ways to invest in your personal and professional growth. This could mean getting a new degree, but could also mean embracing more contemporary ways of learning, including online courses, staying up to date with the latest industry research, or seeking mentorship.
Take Control of Your Professional Relationships
In sales (and business in general), who you know is just as, if not more, important as what you can do. That's why developing good networking skills is vital. More importantly, it is why you need to put in the effort to build and maintain genuine, strong, and trust-based relationships with your colleagues, clients, and partners.
For starters, take the already mentioned piece of sales career advice of working on your communication and networking skills. Attend industry events, seek out relevant online communities, and don't be afraid to reach out to fellow professionals if you think a collaboration could result in mutual benefits.
Secondly, if you're looking to grow your career (and not just sales), get comfortable with putting yourself out there.
In addition to learning how to compose effective cold emails, do your best to explore the online spaces where you might make fruitful connections. Yes, these will mainly include LinkedIn and Twitter. But creating and distributing content through more widely-used networks, like YouTube or TikTok, could also allow you to reach new audiences and create unique career growth opportunities. Victor Antonio’s prolific online presence is a great example!
Take on More Responsibility
Success, in all its forms, requires the willingness to take on responsibility. This doesn't just mean a leadership position comes with additional duties. It means getting out of a professional rut requires understanding that you are the master of your success.
This is why one of the most effective ways to overcome career stagnation is to be proactive.
This could mean working a couple of extra hours during the week. It could involve dedicating time and resources to a work-related side project. Or, fit might even mean starting a side hustle that unlocks new opportunities and allows you to acquire unique skills.
If you're ready to take this step toward propelling your career forward, don't make the mistake of thinking success depends on hard work alone. Yes, a willingness to put in lots of effort and hours is necessary for a prominent career in sales. But having fun along the way is just as crucial—it's what will keep you motivated and content.
After all, job satisfaction (and people's ability to do effective, high-quality work) relies heavily on how much they enjoy their vocation. So make sure the career path you're going down brings you joy. And, of course, don't forget to celebrate your wins—and share them with your community.
Mind Your Pace
Finally, don't forget about the importance of rest in allowing you to reach your maximum potential. According to a 2022 research, 40 percent of the global workforce feels burned out. And knowing that burnout results in lower productivity rates, lack of motivation, absenteeism, and a host of physical health issues, it's crucial for all professionals to do as much as possible to prevent experiencing it.
A simple way to do so is to practice and employ a mandatory vacation policy, as companies like Buffer have recently started doing. Doing something as easy as determining the number of days (preferably consecutive) you should take off from work can ensure you'll get enough downtime.
Remember, taking time to rest won't just help you recharge your batteries so that you have the necessary energy to tackle your professional goals. It will also prevent exhaustion from negatively affecting your well-being or your ability to close more deals.
Ready to Drive Your Sales Career Forward?
Career plateaus, though commonly experienced by professionals in all fields of work, can be particularly challenging for sales professionals, whose livelihoods directly depend on the results they can achieve.
It is for this reason that continuous professional development is so essential—both for those who are employed and those who run their own businesses.
The career advice offered in this article is an excellent starting point for all sales experts, regardless of where they are on their professional journey. By implementing the six tips described, you can rest assured that you'll see positive results. And, more importantly, you'll arm yourself with the ability to sieve out the meaningful activities and changes from those that are no more than time-wasters, giving you the power (and time-based resources) to focus your energy on what genuinely matters in allowing you to reach your career goals.