Multiple Layoffs Raise Sales Pro’s Game

Five layoffs in 15 years taught this SalesLadder member to ride the employment rollercoaster without losing his cool.


When Bruce was laid off from his IT sales job last July, his first thought was, “Here I go again.”

The layoff marked Bruce’s fifth one in the past 15 years.

“I’ve been down this path too many times over the last several years,” said the Texas salesman, who asked that Ladders not use his full name. Bruce said the twists and turns have taught him realism about the travails sales professionals have endured as the economy – and entrepreneurial environments – have fluctuated.

“I’ve worked for startups, which tend to be more volatile. Little companies tend to get sold, and then you are starting all over again,” Bruce said. He cited acquaintances who’ve also been affected by startup churn. “They are all good salespeople, yet they’ve been through the same things.”

Bruce, whose previous job was with a company that sold automated document processing systems, knew he was looking at a three- to six-month job search.

“At my age and in this economy, I couldn’t expect it to be any sooner,” the 50-something said.

Methods for success

To tough it out in a rough job market, Bruce returned to the disciplined plan of attack he used in previous searches.

“Being laid off can affect you emotionally, especially two or three months into the job search, when nothing is happening,” he said. “You might get depressed at that point, and want to stop looking. But I didn’t; I knew what to expect.”

Bruce’s search took him five months. He chalks up his ultimate success to a big dose of networking along with a clear idea of the location and type of job that would suit him.

First of all, he did not want to leave Texas and was pretty sure he wouldn’t have to. “Everyone needs a sales rep in Texas,” he said.

“I’m a generalist in terms of sales,” he explained. “I like IT sales, but I stay away from commodity products. You can be selling the best mousetrap in the world, but if a company can put off buying that mousetrap because it’s not budgeted for the project until 2012, you won’t have a lot of success. I want to sell something they can buy today and have a great ROI in 12 months or less.”

After his latest job ended, Bruce wasted no time submitting applications for jobs he saw on SalesLadder.

“I started on Day One, using Ladders and other job sites,” he said. “But my primary focus was networking with people I knew. I wanted everyone I knew to know I was looking, and solicit their help.”

His mission, he said, was twofold when communicating with recruiters: to forge relationships with them and help connect them to people in his own network.

“When I spoke to headhunters and recruiters, I offered to help them. If we talked about a job that wasn’t a good fit for me, I would recommend someone I knew who would be a good candidate,” he said.

Bruce’s networking paid off when a former boss, with whom he had an ongoing relationship, called him with a job offer.

“He knew my strengths, my weaknesses and he trusts me,” Bruce said.

But it wasn’t just the relationship that won him the job.

“I had already done my homework on his employer, and when I first contacted him about my layoff, I was able to send him a sharp e-mail, talking about the value of the product they sell. When we did eventually talk, I was up to speed, and I understood the value of this product to customers. He remembered those things when a job eventually opened up. He might have called me anyway, but he knew I knew how to sell this product.”

Thinking about his most successful networking strategies, Bruce stresses that making contact with potential employers by phone is important.

“Phone calls are the best,” he said. “E-mails get the word out quickly, but you need to make more personal contact with people. Even if it’s just to say, ‘I’m going to send you my resume,’ they will look out for you. If I had a connection to the company, whether I had done business with them or worked for them, I would call.”

In the current economic climate, Bruce said, there’s no shame in letting everyone you know that you’ve been laid off and are looking for a new job.

“I want everyone to know by the end of the first day that I’m job hunting, and that I will help them, too. Send out e-mails, make phone calls and network with every peer, former manager and recruiter that you know.”