Advice: How can I handle the ups and downs and fluctuating income in my sales job?

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Dear Quota Team, 

Not sure if anyone has asked this before, but what’s your best advice for how to handle the uncertainty of sales? I’m coming up on my second year in B2B manufacturing sales, and I’m making more than I did at my previous job (basically customer service), but I can’t stand the ups and downs of my income. 

My company gives us a small base, which is nice, but I’d say about two-thirds of my total income comes from commissions. Some months I do really well, but other months are leaner, and occasionally, I’ll only make my base (our company has a minimum revenue threshold to get any commission). 

I have a family, and my wife works part time but I’m basically the breadwinner, and I’m always stressed that I’m not gonna make enough to cover our bills even though overall my income is higher than it used to be. What do other people do in order to not let the uncertainty get to them. It’s a big source of stress for me. Any help is appreciated. 

Stressed in the Northeast


Dear Stressed, 

That’s the funny thing about working in sales: sometimes, it can feel like you’re all over the place because your income comes in strange increments, but at the end of the year (with some small exceptions) you almost always make more than you would in a comparable non-sales role. 

The problem here isn’t with sales, it’s with your perception, and (possibly) with your money management skills. So if you want to stay in sales (you should) and ease some of your anxiety, you need to work on both. 

First: the perception. Here’s an idea, take your 2021 W2 and divide your total wages by 52. This is how much you averaged per week last year. Assuming you’re on track to do just as well this year as you did last year, this is at least the amount of money you should have coming in per week (on average). 

Your money management skills (which we know nothing about) will take a lot more work on your part. Salespeople aren’t exactly known for their frugality (though that doesn’t apply to everyone). In any case, if you work on your budgeting and planning, then you won’t worry as much about the natural ups and downs of selling. Calculate your monthly base pay, and allocate that money toward fixed bills like your rent or mortgage, car payments, etc. Oh, and much of your anxiety would be alleviated by building up an emergency fund with at least 6 months of living expenses saved up. 

But at the end of the day, you’ll have to accept the fact that sales comes with uncertainty – that’s just the way it is. Your best bet is to stop fighting it and embrace the ride. There are no guarantees in sales, but unless you’re terrible at it (or absolutely hate it), you’ll make a great living. So stop worrying about the next commission check and start working toward making it a big one!

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