[Listen to an audio version of this blog here.]
I took a new job last November (you can read about that job search process here). I had outgrown my previous position, and I was excited to start something new. I left the nonprofit fundraising world to try my hand at sales, a transition that isn't altogether shocking. There is a lot of overlap between fundraising and sales, and many of the processes are the same. Emails, phone calls, meetings, talking about the product (or organization), listening, learning, asking, selling. The organization I joined was selling to the foundation/nonprofit space so it felt like a great fit.
I bought a few books about sales to get myself up to speed. One called New Sales Simplified by Mike Weinberg and one called Predictable Prospecting by Tyler Donovan. As I read through both of these books, I learned a few things: sales doesn't have to be hard if you're smart about it. The way an organization treats their sales team has a direct impact on their bottom line. The way a sales process is structured can save you a lot of time. The way you tell a sales story, who you tell it to, and how are the key elements to making a sale. Cold calling isn't terrible if you're calling a good prospect, and outreach isn't scary or even unenjoyable if you're selling a good tool. When I was fundraising, I loved calling new donors. I was proud of where I worked, and wanted to do well. I brought that same energy to my new job: excitement, a desire to do well, a desire to learn, an eagerness to hit the ground running.
But (isn't there always a but?) I soon grew frustrated with my new job. There was no structured onboarding, so I tried my best to figure out an entirely new industry and an entirely new way of doing things. I spent weeks learning, taking a coding class (per the instruction of my new boss), building lead lists, and getting ready to start outreach in the new year. I started my outreach with a list of warm leads, and that went well. I gained traction with potential customers and I was feeling good. The lack of sales materials and processes was annoying, but I had a group of potential customers who needed a solution and I was offering them a pretty damn good one.
I exhausted that list relatively quickly, and began cold outreach to...nobody in particular. I was reaching out to any and every foundation or grantmaking organization and I knew it was a bad strategy. However, because I was new to sales, I didn't know what to do instead. And because the organization was small, I was the only one generating cold leads. And because the organization was not altogether organized, there was nobody around who had been successful in generating cold leads. There was no one to learn from. That's when I started dreading my job. My metrics were centered around the number of calls and emails and there was less focus on the quality of potential prospects. I felt micromanaged and that made me feel uninspired. I couldn't send an email without my manager going through it with a fine toothed comb. Since writing is my preferred method of communication, this felt especially maddening.
Why did they hire me if they didn't think I could do this? I wondered. Why doesn't anyone seem to hear what I'm saying? Why doesn't anyone seem to know what to do? I took a new job so I could grow, but I was spending entire days finding contact information and entering it into spreadsheets. I was spending entire days cold calling bad prospects from my personal cell phone. I mentioned the sales books I'd read and my feedback was shrugged off. I expressed that we had no cohesive messaging, so the sales team had a pitching session, which would have been great, had we had any messaging guidance at all. We were all shooting in the dark, and I built my pitch around what worked with cold calls. Short, sweet, and to the point.
I don't mean to be critical of my past employer. I'm grateful they took a chance on me, and I know my frustrations are normal of startups and small teams. But when a recruiter reached out to me about a job at another organization, I entertained a conversation. I even tried to take myself out of the process when the compensation was disclosed, but they offered to negotiate. When I met with the woman who is my new manager, I felt at ease. She seemed smart and savvy and welcoming. When I met the sales team, I thought, "These are people I could definitely work with." And when I met the CEO, I knew I was meeting a leader who cared about his company and everyone who worked in it.
I wasn't looking for anything new, but I was waking up uninspired to work, and that's a terrible feeling. I love to work. I love to make things and see that my efforts are paying off. Not every job is a good fit for everyone, and maybe I would have grown to like the job over time. Maybe it was simply a bad fit for my skills and personality. "Maybe" isn't a great strategy for growth, though, so when a great opportunity presented itself, I took it. Right now, organization's are hiring like mad, and offering better pay and benefits than ever. If you're looking for a change, now is the perfect time. And if you're unhappy where you are, you can always, always work toward something better.