How Can I Excel During My Six-Month Trial?

My company hired two people for one sales position, and we have a six-month trial period. Whichever of us is more successful will get the position permanently. It’s been a couple of months, and my co-worker is getting more sales than me. How can I boost my performance and not let the stress get to me? I really like this job, and I want to keep it. – Bayklee in San Antonio, TX 


Trial period employment is a common practice, allowing the organization and the employee the opportunity to evaluate if they are a good fit. While some may consider this contingency to favor the employer, there are many advantages for the worker. For example, a deep dive into the culture of the company through the trial period enables the employee to determine if they will thrive in the environment. There is also good chance they will pick up new skills and gain knowledge of the industry from the inside.

For sales people, there is the added benefit of revealing the integrity of the product or service and business practices. This clear view of the inner workings of the company – such as the internal processes for prospecting, pitching, closing, and nurturing the client relationship – are invaluable. The sales team is often treated differently than other departments, which can be a good or bad thing. You’ll discover this during a probationary period.

Advantages for the Sales Person

You can:

  • Determine if you like the position
  • Assess the company atmosphere
  • Decide if your co-workers are dedicated, considerate, and inspiring
  • Evaluate the product or service viability in the market place
  • Get an inside look at the features, benefits, and reliability of the product or service
  • Possibly earn new training and additional attention to acquire new skills
  • Gauge the effectiveness of the sales processes within the organization

My Story

While I was never in a trial period of employment, looking back, there were a few times it would have helped me out – a lot! – because sales people are sold, too.

At one point in my career, I decided to leave the firm I was with and move my business to a new company. I had a substantial book of business and a very loyal client base. Unfortunately, a week into my switch found me sobbing in the shower at the colossal mistake I had made. The new company had a completely different approach to sales people. Whereas my previous firm was entrepreneurial and provided tremendous freedom to the sales team, the new organization was like some twisted work version of the Stepford Wives. The sales people had to follow a rigid set of rules and were treated like annoying adolescents. It was completely unexpected. I knew several people at the new company, and they all loved working there. But none of them were in sales.

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So, there I was, sobbing in the shower. I had moved all of my clients and had to buck up and get through it. I dried myself off and made the best of the situation. Thinking ahead, I had to stick it out for at least a year before I could put my clients through another move. What could I learn from this new firm? What were their best practices? The people in production loved the company. There was good there, so I just had to find it. And I did. In case you are wondering, I stuck it out for 2 years, then moved myself and all my clients to an executive position in national sales.

Disadvantages of a Trial Period

The possibility of being dismissed at the end of a trial period is very real. With your job at stake, it’s easy to feel anxious and stressed. And for many sales people, it takes time to prospect and establish relationships. The need to perform adds another layer of mental burden. Plus, there is the inherent competition with other sales people which can feel crushing in a probationary setting. Finally, adding the elements of a “survival reality show” can put your emotions in overdrive.

Power to Choose

When you have already accepted an employment trial, you have the additional power to choose to make the most of the experience. Like me, you may need a sob-fest in the shower to shake off the worst-case scenario fears. A reset is what you need to get back on track. Recognizing and understanding your fear is the critical first step to moving forward.

There are many techniques you can use to manage stress. You could try affirmations, writing or speaking a positive belief repeatedly to create new thought patterns. While I am a big believer in affirmations, some people like to carry a physical object, like a stone, in their pocket as a constant reminder of your new intentions. Another idea is to look for people in business or other areas of your life who inspire you. Frame their picture with a quote at your desk, or make it the screensaver on your phone or laptop. Choose what works best for you to retrain your mind and look for the positive.

Opportunity to Learn

This is a tremendous opportunity to learn. Focus on building relationships and making genuine connections with your clients and prospects. Remember that you are in control of your own performance. Be attentive, respond promptly and thoroughly, and show your passion to deliver solutions to your customers. Make your own mark.

The good news is that many companies are anxious to hire experienced, proactive sales people. You will have gained that highly desired expertise during your trial, so be prepared and proud to present your accomplishments at the end of this period. You may also discover that the company you are working for creates a second position for a trained and proven sales professionals, such as yourself. Either way, you will have added new skills and experience you can leverage in your next position.

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