Career-killing Behaviors in Sales

This week’s topic is based on some conversations I’ve had recently with friends of mine that are sales managers or VP-level sales leaders. While some of my friends were couching their comments in the somewhat tiresome Boomer and Gen X complaints about Millennials, I think that these types of behaviors are not generationally specific. In fact, they really are symptomatic of some salespeople regardless of their experience.

Some of these behaviors would seem to be basic lapses of judgment that you might not think ANYONE would do…but I’ve been told by people I trust that they actually occurred. While these behaviors MAY not get a salesperson fired, I guarantee that they will prevent any career growth opportunities.

I’m going to discuss two of these career-killing behaviors this week and some others next week.


It should be a no-brainer that you would not want to be dishonest to you customers or to your internal co-workers and management. But, it’s not.

When your customers are spending money with you they are INVESTING in you and in your relationship with them. They understand that there are no guarantees that the product they are buying will help them to achieve their goals, but they believe that YOU are offering it to them in their best interests, not yours. Your reputation as a salesperson, and your success in sales, is based on your honesty and integrity. It would be relatively easy to sell something to a customer that helps you and not them. You may, in fact, win a contest or get paid a big commission because of this type of action. BUT, you will be destroying a potentially far more financially lucrative relationship with the customer. Even if the customer never found out that you sold them an inappropriate product, they will question your lack of judgment on any future proposal that you give them.

Being dishonest with your co-workers or your manager is just plain stupid.

“Tim, but I work with this one salesperson that trashes me behind my back and would steal my business without blinking twice. I can’t trust them at all.”

All of us in sales or sales management have had at least one co-worker that fits this description…I get it. I’m not suggesting that you become best friends with such a person nor am I suggesting you be totally transparent with all of your business activities. I’m saying that you shouldn’t be dishonest with them…just walk away. Don’t associate with them on anything more than an ‘as-needed for work’ basis.

I would strongly suggest being honest and transparent with your manager. There is nothing good in having lost the trust of your direct supervisor. If your current manager was the person who hired you, they have an enormous stake in making sure you succeed. Every sales hire is a direct reflection of the hiring sales manager. For any salesperson to be dishonest in any way to their manager is going to be perceived as a betrayal of trust. For you to be successful in sales, you will need your manager in many ways: running ‘interference’ for you to get things done internally, helping you with a difficult sales challenge with their advice and counsel, and helping your sales career grow by them giving you more responsibilities. The bottom line is that you and your manager are a team…and you need to work with your teammate in an honest and transparent manner.

Improper Use of Social Media

One might incorrectly assume that this ‘career-killing’ behavior would only be of relevance to Millennials, but I’ve seen plenty of examples of this lack of judgment in both Gen Xers and Baby Boomers. Social media can be a very positive technology with the capacity to bring old and new friends together. I’ve had plenty of acquaintances reach out to me on Facebook and Instagram and it’s great to hear from them.

Where things become a problem, from a business perspective, is when an individual doesn’t properly filter what they post. I’m a big believer in having a fun time…as my good friends are well aware. But, I am conscious of the fact that ANY post on social media could be viewed by ANY client, potential client, employer, or potential employer. Think about how hard you’ve worked to build your own personal reputation, or “brand”, within your industry. That could be changed with one post.

Think about what you post or repost. I loved talking about political issues that I’m passionate about, but I really try to limit those conversations to in-person meetings with friends. I stay away from online political threads. It should also be obvious that having a photo of yourself posted with a glass of wine in your hands is significantly different than a photo of you posted doing jello shots or a beer bong. I want to reiterate that I’m talking cross-generational about this as I’ve seen pictures of acquaintances of all ages doing things that shouldn’t be posted.

Success in sales is due to many things but two of the most important are respect and relationships. It’s important to keep the two in balance…they complement each other. You may have a great relationship with a customer but unless they also respect you as a businessperson, you run the risk of being just someone that spends their T&E budget on them.



Author: Tim Hand

My name is Tim Hand, and I am a digital media, sales & marketing team leader, and I have a real passion for partnering with companies, publishers and agencies to help drive client growth and bottom-line revenues.

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