Sales Rep Leaves High-Volume Quotas for Higher Elevation

Software sales representative changes jobs in order to focus less on high-volume quotas and more on meeting client needs.


Joe B. left his last position as a software sales representative in the government sector when the job became untenable. “As the third representative in the territory in three years, it took longer to re-establish trust and credibility,” he said. “Couple that with large-quota, big-ticket items and a long sales cycle, and it was certainly less than an ideal situation. At that point, I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to leave the sales industry or stay.”
This uncertainty left him unsure of his next step, but it didn’t paralyze him. He left his Boston-based job in August. By mid-September, he hired a career coach who helped him think about what was next on his career path.

“We looked at what I enjoy doing, and where I’ve been successful,” Joe said. “My coach observed that I had a genuine quality that created trust and comfort early on. So his advice to me was to find the type of sales position that doesn’t focus on the high-volume sales.”

“I also learned that I have certain skill sets that had been underutilized: the ability to teach, to build trust as an advisor and ally, and a high level of integrity.”

Those observations helped Joe rethink his job search.

“It made me more selective about the jobs I was looking at. I started looking at positions that would require a more consultative approach to selling, as opposed to strictly quota-based sales,” he said. “The coach helped me regain some confidence about the whole job-search process.”

A time to be selective
In early October he started to prep for the job search by building profiles online, getting his resume into shape and searching job sites. “By mid-October, I started to push hard,” he said. “I went on the job boards, but honestly found Ladders offering the most relevant opportunities. I sent my resume to 15 different companies and got eight responses. I thought that was a good response rate.”

And once again, he relied on advice he got from his job coach, who told Joe that he should take the approach of interviewing the company, rather than the other way around. “He told me, ‘Don’t be nervous in the interview. This is your chance to find out if this would be a good fit, so make sure you ask questions.’ ”

“By interviewing prospective employers, it took the pressure off, gave me more confidence, and made me more marketable,” Joe said. “And I actually did say no to more than a few offers. I realized I didn’t want to lock into a job just to find out I hated it, and then be back to Square One again.”

A chance to hit a home run
As Joe was plugging away on the job boards, he was also networking with friends and former colleagues. A friend who lives in the West Coast told Joe about the company he worked for and how much he enjoyed his job. “He introduced me to his boss’ peer, who was going to be in Boston for a conference. He looked at my profile on Ladders, then contacted me directly to set up a meeting.”

Joe researched the company and found it offered everything he was looking for: “It was in a vertical market I was familiar with, I knew people who worked there and liked what I heard about the culture of the company, I knew I could thrive there.”

So, while it was just an informational meeting—there were no job openings when they spoke in November—Joe treated it like an interview. “I knew I would work for this company. And it went well. He told me, ‘Joe, I would hire you in a heartbeat, but I don’t have any openings. I’ll hold onto your information.’ ”

He continued sending out resumes and going on interviews, keeping this one in his back pocket, confident that if something did come up, he might get a call. He came close when he was a finalist for a job at a competitor; when that company went with an internal candidate, he went back to the drawing board.

Then, the second week of January, he got a call from the person he had spoken to in November, asking if he could pass his information along to his West Coast colleague. They interviewed, and he was hired.

A move to Denver is in the works, where he will be selling solutions to help state and local governments manage the availability and end-user experience of mission-critical applications.

He has already started working for his new company, working out of his home in Boston and traveling to visit clients and do training. Moving west was not a deal-breaker for him. “A few times in our careers we get an opportunity to hit a home run, a chance to make a difference. I felt this was one of those opportunities.”