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My move to sales backfired. What do I do now?

The Question

I have been with my employer for 16 years. I started as an engineering technologist and moved to the top role in the design department. After my requests for a change were ignored, I asked the general manager for advice and suggested moving to a sales position. He said I was not cut out for sales, but could use my talents in another design department. I accepted.

Then I noticed new sales hires had less knowledge and experience than I do, so I contacted the sales manager for a job, completed the training program, and was moved to Washington. There was animosity from the other sales staff there, and I arrived during a six-year low in sales. Then the company asked me to develop a new area in upstate New York.

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Sales in my zone are marginal and I have to contend with more travel time and areas of low economic strength. Management is disappointed with my sales volumes. I feel I am a valuable employee and could have performed better in a more positive environment.

I have considered outside options, but my salary would be less and I don't know if my specialized experience would apply to other industries. Can I improve my situation? Or is it all lost? I am loyal but unappreciated.

The First Answer

Kyle Couch

President and CEO, Spectrum Organizational Development Inc., Toronto

Earth to "loyal and unappreciated" – you are not a salesperson. You work for a company that is no longer challenging you, or perhaps, has realized that you are not up to further challenges. There are no guarantees in life, and you are not being considered for advancement.

While I applaud the tenacity in your pursuit of a sales role, I recommend that when you ask someone for their opinion, listen to the sage advice you sought.

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Do not consider your education, experience and knowledge as a substitute for the personality, drive and perseverance required to be a successful salesperson.

Furthermore, despite my love for the Buffalo Bills and chicken wings, upstate New York should have been a flashing warning beacon to reconsider the sales move. There is no way the company was going to put inexperienced you into a plush, booming sales region; you have to earn your keep first.

So I strongly recommend you gather up your things, apply for the first design role available and get out of sales as quickly as possible, before any chance of a future with your employer disappears.

The Second Answer

Heather Mackenzie

The Integrity Group, Vancouver

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I suspect many readers would respond to your story with the retort, "Be careful what you wish for."

Unlike most people in today's business climate, you have managed to negotiate not one but two significant changes to your role, and that speaks to your employer's willingness to let you test yourself in what were, by your own admission, unproven areas.

You appear to have embraced your new sales roles but have experienced three negative forces not uncommon to sales in any industry: some resentment and lack of acceptance as the "new guy" from more established staff; a challenging sales territory that involves more travel; and negative market forces that have driven down sales and earnings.

I don't see the need for you try to start all over. Remember that you have 16 years with this company (a positive) and have doubts that your skills are transferable to other industries (a negative).

Your raison d'être has been to take on more challenges and quicker-paced work, so sticking with the upper New York job to turn it into a profit-generator – against the odds – would be a truly gutsy choice that could make your mark with the company once and for all.

Are you facing a burning issue at work? Need help navigating that minefield? Let our Nine To Five experts help solve your dilemma. E-mail your questions to Confidentiality ensured. Weigh in with your view at Check out past columns here.

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