Your Professional Development Is Not Your Company’s Business

alt image of blackboardWhen you were young, your parents chose your teachers. It is more than likely that they sent you to a school that was chosen because it was close to your house. If you took lessons in music or sports, that decision was almost certainly based on how close you were to your teacher or coach. You might have been fortunate enough to find a wonderful teacher by chance alone. But odds are, your teachers were just okay. Finding an exceptional teacher or place to study would have been a lot of work, and it would have likely required travel.

When you attended college, you were able to choose some of your courses, and sometimes you were fortunate enough to have a great professor. Maybe you took all of her courses. But you probably took the course that allowed you to graduate with a degree in whatever it was you studied.

As an adult, your learning and your professional development is your responsibility, and the decisions as to what you will study, what you will learn, and whom you will learn from are all decisions that belong to you alone. And, they are no longer made based on your proximity to the teacher or the source.

Your Personal and Professional Development is Not Your Company’s Job

It is nice that your company provides and pays for some of your training and development. Without being critical, this is very much like your parents choosing where you will be educated and your college choosing what you will be required to learn. It’s a little paternalistic. Maybe it addresses all of the areas that you need to develop to gain real mastery in your field, in our case here, sales.

But your personal development, your growth, and your continuing education is not your company’s responsibility; it is your responsibility. If you would learn and perform at the highest level, if you seek greater mastery, you have to own the responsibility of your own development.

You Make Your Own Choices

It is simply wrong to let your company (or anyone else) dictate your professional development, your growth, and your continuing education. At some level they have your best interests at heart. Even if they care deeply about you as an employee and as a person and provide you with training and educational opportunities, it isn’t at all the same as you taking responsibility for your own growth.

If you spend any time at all reflecting on your own strengths, your own weaknesses, and your own intellectual interests, you know more than anyone what skills and attributes you need to develop. You also know where your interests lie. You know what you want for your future. And you have the vision of your bigger self.

If this economic downturn has taught us any lesson at all it is that you are responsible for yourself, first and foremost. Your company may not be in a position to help you later. You, on the other hand, must be.

Your Choices

Choose your own course of study. Choose your teachers. Choose the material. Choose the books, the websites, or the local college courses. You choose whom you will study with, and whether or not they are the teacher you can best learn from.

All of these choices are now yours, and yours alone. Or at least they should be. Don’t let your personal and professional development, especially your development as a professional salesperson, become the responsibility of someone else. It isn’t their job, and, like your parents, the reasons they have chosen your teachers and your course of study may not be giving you what is best for you.


To excel in sales (or anything else) requires the lifelong pursuit of mastery. Your personal and professional development is your responsibility. If you would be great, you will take responsibility for your development and not wait for you company to do something for you—or to you.


  1. Who is responsible for your personal and your professional development?

  2. Who is primarily responsible for developing your skills, your attributes, and your abilities as a salesperson? Why?

  3. Why is it necessary for you to make your own developmental choices? Why should you choose your own course of study?

  4. If you agree that it is your right and your responsibility, what prevents you from developing a real, concrete course of study and taking daily action on it?

  5. Would you rather have some one tell you what you have to know? Why not?

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  • Joe Fisher

    Good post Anthony. I totally agree that it is our responsibility to improve ourselves. Our education is just beginning after we are done with college. I have learned more from the sales and management books I have read. It amazes me how many professional salespeople have never even attempted to pick up a book, read a blog like yours or attend a sales conference. It’s like Isaac Newton once said “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”

  • Daniel M. Wood

    I write a lot about sales training on my blog as I feel it is the only way you can truly improve as a salesman. Just like any athlete we have to practice first and then play the match.

    Many companies miss this and let their salesmen practice by calling prospects, this is the equivalent of an athlete calling a game, practice!

    If your situation is one where you don’t get the knowledge support from your company it is up to you to find it somewhere else. It is your income and career that are at stake, your company can just hire a new salesman.

    It is easy enough to find information about sales and how to improve, just look at mine and Anthonys blog. Both are filled with information, tips and techniques you can use.

    Countless books have been written on the subject and more than a few DVDs have been published.

    Don’t leave your career up to chance and don’t let anyone else be in charge of your fate.

  • Todd Youngblood

    Anthony – Great post. EVERY sales professional and manager needs to print this out and re-read it at least once month. It’s way too easy to abdicate responsibility for personal development. When we find ourselves whining about lack of some piece of knowledge, it’s time to hold up a mirror to see who’s responsible for the flaw! – Todd

  • Ryan Hanley


    Professional Development in my mind is the #1 forgotten aspect of sales success. Even if the course is a refresher type, just getting ideas back swimming your head. One way i stay on top of it is reading in my Industry for a least a half-hour every day which is Insurance…


    Ryan H.,

  • Jeff Yablon

    Anthony, I think I know what you were trying to say (I think!), but ultimately this made me more uncomfortable than anything else.

    I TOTALLY agree that your development is YOUR responsibility and I hope there’s nobody here who would disagree.

    On the other hand, the wording “is not your company’s responsibility” ignores the fact that at many companies employees are compelled to learn whatever is being taught. They can choose to reject the lessons, thereby taking back responsibility for their own futures at an undetermined cost, but the argument is specious; when your employer TAKES responsibility—albeit sometimes against your wishes—the timber of the argument changes . . . and in a big way.

    So a better phrasing might be “Your Professional Development is Your Responsibility”, without the unavoidably confrontational matters that inclusion of the “not your company” words imparts.

    C’mon, man . . . you’re a salesman . . .

    Jeff Yablon
    President & CEO
    Answer Guy and Virtual VIP Computer Support, Business Change Coaching and Virtual Assistant Services

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    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Jeff.

      I am sorry if I wasn’t’ clear enough for you to understand my argument. Let be more clear, even though what I will write will certainly make you more uncomfortable, not less. I am adamant about the idea (and the statement) that “your professional development is not your company’s responsibility.” The opposite of my argument and my statement would be “your professional development IS your company’s responsibility.” That’s a fine recipe for apathy, a lack of development, and worst of all an lack of responsibility for one’s self.

      The idea that people may “reject the lessons, thereby taking back responsibility for their own futures at an undetermined cost” makes my heart soar; I love the idea (and love isn’t a strong enough word) that engaged employees reject the company line and take responsibility for their own futures, a future which is no way guaranteed by their company’s development in the first place. Employees who grow and develop themselves improve the results they produce for their company and for themselves. Period. Even though no one’s future is guaranteed, that’s as good a plan as you are going to get (short of government work).

      I hope to Hell that your not suggesting that employees rely on their company for their future in an age of unsurpassed uncertainty and when 16.4 million people are collecting unemployment. C’mon, man . . . if there is worse advice for people in this day and age, I can’t think of what it might be.

      My phrasing is necessarily confrontational in hope that I spur some to get off their asses and take control of their development and their future–instead of waiting for their company to do something for them. That is the sale I was trying to make.

      If the confrontational hyperbole I sometimes engage in here gets your goat, you might find this blog a bit uncomfortable. But I do appreciate you taking the time join the conversation here, even though I strongly reject the idea that I should change the phrasing and the idea contained within.


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  • Joe

    The way most people grow up is stuff is done for them. Like you said school is picked out, activities are chosen, classes are handed to us, etc.

    It’s no wonder why many people fail at sales. Most have no concept of thinking for themselves or working at anything. This was such a great post – thanks!


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