Quit or be Fired? The Choice Might be Yours!

Lose Your Job the Right Way

A conversation today in the sales department:

Your Manager – “You are not getting it done.  Your territory is underdeveloped, and we are prepared to go in a different direction.  We are prepared to terminate you effective immediately.”  He goes on to say, “However, if you would prefer to resign we would be willing to extend some benefits that you would not get otherwise.  We would request you produce a letter of resignation and sign a severance agreement.”

You – “I am not sure of what I should do?  I need to think about it.  I will get back to you tomorrow.”


There is nothing gracious about this moment.  There will potentially be a moment when you realize that you are probably going to be taking your talents elsewhere. Of course it may not be your choice.

Since there is nothing gracious about any of it, you should understand that in most cases as this is not personal, it is business.  Business can be cold sometimes…actually frigid might be a better word.

Let’s talk about a decision that could affect your future.  The implications affect both your current and future employment, and you should know them now as when the going gets rough, you don’t want to be deliberating while steeped in emotion.

Should I Resign?

Most sales professionals will deal with this in their lives at some point.  Whether it is because of lack of ability, weak product, poor territory, out-of-line pricing, or some other factor, it is not uncommon to reach the end of the line with your employer.  The Black sales professional have even a little more to be concerned about as credibility for future jobs comes at a premium.

If you have been on a sales performance program (see BSJ 4/30, Are You on a Sales Performance Program?  Can You Beat it?) you recognize that one of the common features is that there is usually a trigger date; that date which termination is imminent.  On this date you are going to have to make this important decision.

Apart from the obvious reasons for importance, you are faced with some important alternatives.  Here is why it is important:

  • Concerns with Unemployment Compensation –you normally don’t get it if you voluntarily leave your position.
  • Your need for employee benefits – this problem happens whether you resign or are fired.
  • Concerns with credibility and marketability - as it would concern future employers may be preserved. This is not as prevalent in sales, but certainly is true in other occupations.

When you face this moment, you must realize that the sales occupation is a little bit different than many other professions in the fact that terminations are not wholly uncommon.  In almost all situations, the objective of the employer is to quickly end the employment relationship.

At this point, you may want out as well, it is how it is done that is important.  In some states and situations, resigning can rob you of the rights to your unemployment benefits.   These benefits could be your lifeline while you are out of work.

Resigning may give you an opportunity to negotiate the terms of your resignation.  A lot depends on the strength of the ‘case’ against you and how badly they want you out.  Negotiation may be a strong word in this case, but you might be able to get some better terms for your termination.

Should I Get Fired?

Being fired evokes strong emotions.  Obviously it is a still a termination, but it sometimes creates a feeling of powerlessness and victimization.

Aside from the emotional, this termination can have its good and bad points as well:

  • You normally get a severance package. Nothing comes without exacting some price, and in this case it probably will be your right to an employment action of any type.  Remember, once you sign the severance agreement, you are ‘toast’ regarding any action that you may later seek.
  • Most sales professionals don’t get fired for doing something egregiously wrong; they get fired for not producing the right sales numbers.
  • Sales, as an occupation, differs from many other positions in that there is a minimal stigma to getting fired for lack of production or effectiveness.
  • If there is a ‘package’ of some type as an incentive for leaving quietly, you will probably have your noncompete agreement copied and put in front of you as a part of any severance you get.  You may want to negotiate this carefully as your ability to work for another employer is dependent on not having a restriction!

Terminated for Cause?

This is the exception to all of the rules.  If you have done any of the ‘infractions’ that result in a legitimate termination for cause, you could potentially leave with nothing.

These infractions include, but are not limited to:

  • Intentional acts of fraud against the company
  • Stealing from your employer
  • On the job drinking or drug use (as defined by the employee handbook)
  • Intentional breech of company policies
  • Wanton damage to company property

Some Points to Remember

We are talking about sales personnel, and that is a defining point.  I am pointing out the fact that even the best sales professionals find themselves in situations that result in termination.  They move on and find success elsewhere.  It is the way it goes.

When your previous company is contacted regarding your role there, they are extremely limited as to what they will say.  They normally only give the following information:

  • Verification of employment and title
  • Verification of dates of employment
  • Verification of salary at termination

Larger firms stick to these numbers and go no further.  None of this is incriminating.

Make a wise decision based on calculated information.

Always be prepared.

Your comments are welcome.  Contact me at Michael.Parker@BlackSalesJournal.com.

Should You Hide a Termination? What Do You Think?

Hide A Termination?

Terminations – No one wants to think about it, yet it happens.  It does not end your quest to support your family and to move forward so think about it as what it is… a part of life.  How you handle it will be the key to what happens in your next position.


Terminations happen in all occupations.  Most of what is said here in this journal applies to more than the sales profession, but the situation of a job not working out transcends sales as an occupation.

Once a termination does happen, your future is not terminated, just the relationship with that employer.  You will be seeking gainful employment in a sales position again, and your level of comfort dealing with the termination of employment from your last employer will certainly be tested, and sometimes spotlighted.

The question is simple:  Should you hide a termination from a prospective Employer?  The Answer is simple: No! Especially if you are a sales professional!

The Truth Will Set You Free

If you have read Black Sales Journal, you will remember one of my favorite suggestions:“Always tell the truth!” The key in this situation is not to focus on it.

Terminations happen and there is nothing pleasing about them.  What you don’t want to do is to relive bitterness and the trauma of a termination while you are in an interview looking for a fresh start.  One simple reason to tell the truth is that it is easier to remember.  The other is that you need to start this new relationship off on the firm footing of the truth.  In the world of sales professionals, many have had terminations for legitimate reasons, even though they endeavored to make it work.  Terminations do happen.

This is the information age and that gives prospective employers an ability to “uncover” you previous work history cheaply and fairly easy.  Note, that finding your history does not mean that a prospective employer would be uncovering the facts and details of what happened such as what your reasons for leaving.  Any hiring manager knows that a sales job followed by a prolonged absence of several months may well denote that a job action took place.

If you have been let go from your previous job because of performance issues, you need to be prepared to discuss reasonable reasons why you parted company.

Your resume needs to match up with any job history investigation that an employer can conduct.  The prospective employer checks this information through a service, such as Equifax,  or other services, and certainly with any on-line information that you might post such as LinkedIn.

Consistency eliminates questions and doubts.

What Should You Say?

There are sales jobs (and any other jobs) that just do not work out.  Your objective is to be able to tell the story in a cogent fashion.  There should be no accusations or disparaging remarks, but a clear story of why selling widgets for ABC Company in Columbus, Ohio did not work and resulted in you leaving after fifteen months.

Cover the issue of what the problem was.  Whether that was pricing, marketing support, sales support, a problematic territory, or a product that was inferior.  Do it in a professional manner, and always cite what actions you took to improve your fate.  If you do not have a solid and believable story, it may appear that you just cannot sell.

If you are a sales professional selling widgets and in your last job you were terminated because you did not meet your quota/goals, you need to own up to the fact that you were terminated.  I give below an example:

“I was let go because of not meeting the quarterly sales targets in two consecutive quarter.”  You can then give clarification of the most important issues (an example)… “I had difficulty meeting the goals as we promised delivery dates that were 4 weeks to a month longer than our other competitors.”

Places You Should Never Go!

You never want to go into an interview saying that your previous employer (or any employer you have had) is prejudice or discriminatory, even if you believe it to be true.   This is a sure way not to get a second interview and a possible hire.

The “well” will be poisoned if you make statements that allude to disparate treatment, as a prospective employer will immediately put themselves in the position of the previous employers.  Remember, they do not know you!

Instead, compliment the best aspects of the previous employer as difficult as it may seem.  If it is true a compliment such as: “There is no organization that does training like ABC Corporation”, shows your respect for the company.

Additionally, there should be no disparaging comments about your previous manager.  You are on fair ground if you cite the fact that you did not have much support, but disparaging comments are out of bounds.

Compensate For the Weak Areas

If you have been terminated for not reaching goals, you will do well to have some support from your former employers, co-workers, and clients.  You should get letters of recommendation citing your accomplishments.

We have covered before in Black Sales Journal, that you need to fully be prepared when you go to the interview including customer testimonials and all of your sales numbers.  Don’t share proprietary information which would jeopardize your past employer’s customers or information, but do be prepared to support your effort and accomplishments.  A customer testimonial helps to illustrate your affinity for customers and the sales process but you still may have some work to do to show that you effectively prospect.  Cover all of the bases and give yourself a chance to win.

You should provide good focus on your strong points and accomplishments as well as tout your specialties.  You need to be prepared to talk about your weak points that caused you the termination.  They may not apply to the new job, and thus lose relevance, but something like door-to-door prospecting might still be a part of the job, and you need to be prepared to show how you are going to change things.

Above all, you need to walk or run the road to continuous improvement, and be prepared to enunciate this also.  Your ability to tune-up your sales career (Black Sales Journal 8/15/2011 – Tuning Up Your Sales Career) may have some relevance to a prospective employer, but it is for you.

Thanks for reading, and your comments are always welcome. You can reach me at Michael.Parker@BlackSalesJournal.com.