In Sales, when do you Fold ‘em and Quit?

Most of us are familiar with Kenny Rogers’ song “The Gambler”.

In one of his most famous lines in the song, the lyrics go like this –

“You got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em,
Know when to walk away, and know when to run.”

when do you quit in sales?Contrary to popular belief, the best professional poker players don’t bluff their way to winning with a bad hand. When they get a bad hand, they know it’s better to fold quickly, cut their losses, and wait for a better hand. Unless independently wealthy, they realize they only have so much money to gamble with, and they don’t want to lose by bluffing. Sure, sometimes they may get lucky. After all, it’s gambling. But the professional knows that in gambling, while it’s good to be lucky, it’s always better to have a winning hand.

But what do you do in sales when you are dealt a bad hand when assigned a sales territory or group of accounts?

It happens. You start a new job, or a new sales manager is hired, or there is an influx of new salespeople, or there is a reorg of your sales department, and suddenly, all those great territories or accounts disappear, and you are left with a losing hand.

Now what?

Before quitting, access your situation and see if you can turn your bad hand into a winning one.

Here are five things to consider –

1). Is your situation only temporary? If you are working in a start-up or a fast growing company that has a high turnover rate of salespeople, chances are if you are patient and can afford to wait, the tide may turn back in your favor when other salespeople quit and you are assigned their good accounts. Even professional poker players know that you have to play the waiting game before you win a large pot. So don’t bitch or complain. Smile. Be professional. Play the waiting game. So when the bodies start falling by the wayside, and everyone else is playing duck and cover, make sure you’re in a position to pick up the good accounts and run towards success.

2). Is your assigned territory or accounts really that bad? Just because the prior salesperson didn’t do well with his accounts, doesn’t mean you can’t turn things around. Sometimes a new salesperson coming in with a different approach or perspective is all it takes to turn bad accounts into good ones. Maybe the chemistry wasn’t right between the last salesperson and his accounts. Maybe the last salesperson didn’t make enough cold or prospecting calls. Maybe the last salesperson didn’t have a good understanding of the market or your company’s products or services. Maybe the last salesperson was just lazy and coasting in his job. Whatever the reason, don’t be so quick to judge your assigned territory before you had a chance to dig in, do some research and make sales calls. There may be diamonds in the rough that haven’t been found yet.

For example, I worked at a durable medical equipment company where a new salesperson was assigned the “garbage” accounts by a senior sales rep. The senior rep had enough on his plate, so he figured he didn’t have anything to lose by dumping his crappy accounts on the new guy.

Did the new guy cry? Hell no. He worked the accounts and ended up getting one of the largest orders in the company’s history from an account that everyone thought was dead. Furthermore, the new guy blew his quarterly quota out of the water, and ended up gaining the respect of his colleagues and the owner.

Garbage in is not always garbage out.

3). Do you have great support from your Marketing Department? Has your employer finally weeded out the deadwood and hired better marketing professionals? Are you seeing an uptick in social media activity on Twitter, Facebook and other sites? Is your Marketing Department publishing quality content on your company’s website to draw in more prospects? Are you seeing an increase in your company’s trade show attendance? Are you receiving a better list of prospects to contact? Maybe the real reason why the prior salesperson didn’t do well was because he didn’t have good support from his Marketing Department. If your employer is finally waking up to that fact, you should stick around and ripe the awards of their efforts.

I once worked for a small publishing company where the marketing director worked remotely out-of-state. While she had all of the  job skills, she was spending most of her time doing freelancing work for other companies. Frustrated and angry, my employer finally canned her and hired a new marketing director. After that, our marketing efforts slowly started to turn around. Like my colleagues, my sales began to pick up with a new marketing professional in place.

4). Is your employer introducing new products or services? OK, so your accounts are crappy. You’ve done everything you supposed to do, but you’re not getting anywhere. You’re getting the evil eye from your sales manager, and the cold shoulder from colleagues because they feel you’re a loser. But wait! If your employer is introducing new products or services, that could be the ticket to save you. If that’s the case, sit tight and see if your sales will increase.

5). When all else fails, talk to your sales manager. Contrary to popular belief, smart sales managers know that high turnover hurts their bottom line, and can badly affect their professional reputation too. Like you, sales manages want to make money. They don’t want to waste their time constantly hiring new fresh blood because sales people are quitting. If you have earned enough brownie points, proved that you are a reliable and hardworking professional who “gets it”, plea your case to your sales manager. Based on your evidence and other information, he may assign you some better territories or accounts.  It never hurts to ask.

Selling is like playing poker. You have to work with the cards you’re dealt with. Sure, you could fold ‘em and quit your job.  Just make sure your cards are not as bad as you think before hitting the pavement seeking other opportunities.

Note: Like my post? Please check out my book – Advice for New Salespeople: Tips to Help your Sales Career.