STAY: Stability, Stickability and Sales Leadership

28 September 2017

If you’re a start-up entrepreneur or investor your CV can look like you have been free running across the business world – with impunity.

If you’re a career sales leader you need to justify your hefty price tag with a CV that represents stability and, to use an Americanism, stickability. You need to look like a sure thing, not a gamble. Employers are looking for someone to come on board and put in deep roots; committing to the employees, the management, the company, the shareholders, the clients, the investors, the vision and to the role; someone who creates longstanding relationships in the industry with the associated yield this brings.

And that is why they will pay you the big bucks.

We wrote last year about how sales professionals can have a certain flightiness in their careers – they prospect for the greenest field, they can be stimulated by the new and they are uninhibited by fear of change. The same aptitude for winning new clients can win them new employers and roles. But there is a tipping point where too much change is not a good thing.

If you’re at the level where you’re earning a six-figure basic salary you can assume that for every role in the last 5-10 years that was less than 36 months your value as a candidate decreases (as your flight risk increases).

You may have performed brilliantly in each role, but how will your appeal compare to the candidate with longer tenures? Not favourably. Young guns fresh on the employment market can work somewhere for 18 months, but as seniority increases so does the expectation that you will spend 5+ years in a role. Increasingly our clients are asking us for performers within the sector who display commitment and loyalty. Finding senior commercial leadership candidates is expensive and time-consuming. They don’t want to hire a bolter.

Your reasons for leaving will be put under the microscope.

Why do you leave? Why didn’t you stay? If there were problems, could you not resolve them? Why not? Will you leave at the first or 71st roadblock? If the sector didn’t interest you, why were you in it initially? If the product wasn’t good enough couldn’t you leverage your influence to change things from within?

There will be a lingering suspicion that you could reach your targets and get along with everyone for a year or two–but then the fuel ran out and you were found out (or you left before you were discovered).

But even if you left on a positive note, if you were headhunted for an extraordinary opportunity, it is fair to assume you will be headhunted again. Can they trust you to stay and offer a return on their investment? Or will you want an upgrade? Will you need constant wooing to be bribed into loyalty?

We appreciate that this is a candidate market. If you are a sales leader in this sector you are in demand. The cliché is true. You are the lifeblood of an organisation. People will try to pinch you. You’re likely to be offered alluring salary increases that trump internal opportunities. This will be tempting to peg a mortgage to, particularly in the middle of your career. Whilst this is the time in your life you have the most financial demands be aware that in ten years you may pick up the bill for too many moves and you’ll remain at the same level (albeit with different employers) with only sideways career moves accessible to you. The commercial career crab with your desired path out of reach.

Stay as long as you can. Stay. We are a purpose-driven generation but don’t believe the adverts that Monday morning is not Monday morning somewhere else – or that you need to be in a different environment to flourish. We usually don’t need somewhere new. We need a new perspective.

The candidates our clients love to love are those who can demonstrate consistent commercial success and longevity. Some candidates come to us looking for the next role when the best thing they could do would be to stay put for another year (or three) and this is what we advise. It’s an investment position where holding often pays off.

We’re generalising but, really, stay.

There is also something about commitment that changes perspective. Don’t buy a new garden. Do some gardening; plant, weed, plan, etc. You get the metaphor. Stay.

If you’re struggling to stay where you are you do have some options:

  1. Change the elements of the role or the company that bother you. As Nelson Mandela said; “It always seems impossible until it is done.” At the very least you’ll have a renewed sense of ownership and agency.
  2. Change yourself. Your perspectives are more powerful in how you experience life than your circumstances.
  3. Interview for roles or discuss opportunities with headhunting firms to find out your market rate. Leaving may not be worth what you think. Or you can leverage the new information with your current employer. They’re not that keen on this strategy (on the whole) but they’d rather keep you then replace you.
  4. Leave on great terms with your current employer. Go elsewhere for x opportunity and return to the original employer in 3+ years. “Boomerang” candidates represent excellent value for money for companies and give a greater semblance of stability on the CV. You’re the candidate that the market leader wanted back at the table – well then we want you too.
  5. Scratch your prospecting itch by having a slow burn career plan in place, replete with networking, an immaculate commercial CV (see here), market and sector research, planning and personal growth. Don’t wait to be motivated by frustration and ennui where you might make a hasty move. Put yourself in the path of the slow-maturing opportunities.

Tenure Career Exercises

  • Carve out some time and look at the LinkedIn profiles of the commercial leaders you respect who are a rung or three above you in the corporate aquarium. What sort of tenure do they hold at companies. Look at the profiles of your peers who are missing out on new roles – what does their tenure look like?
  • If you’re offered a salary jump from a new employer – weigh up the maths considering the declining appeal your CV will have in the future. Will three salary jumps now mean that in 10 years your desired role will be harder to secure? Is it worth it in the long-term?
  • If you’ve had a few shorter stints can you see yourself in your current role for the next 3-5 years? Should you move to stay? We appreciate this is contradictory advice (from a Headhunter). Beware of the lure of the mirage – don’t use this to justify a premature move.
  • We know it’s an old chestnut – but a list of pros and cons of your current role could change your perspective.

We hope this is helpful.

As an addendum, we’d like to soften this for the renegades and real people. Those with a chequered or imperfect professional past. You were fired, then had an adventure, a family earthquake, paternity leave, health hiccups, two redundancies and a break. Our purpose is not to discourage. It is to tell you what the market tells us. Black and white stability has greater appeal to employers and commands a higher wage. So the next time you find yourself in a position to stay, then stay and accept that (for now) you may need to stomach a lower salary than you think you’re worth for double the amount of time you’d want to stay for. Hold your position.