I wholly understand the reticence of salespeople not wishing to tar themselves with the brush of other’s poor behaviour in industries we are all aware of, many of whom play a part in our lives. Nevertheless, the idea that we should be embarrassed to be in the best career of them all, is frankly bonkers.
A great and proven sales professional will earn more than the directors of a company, they can work the hours they choose, often in the places they wish to work, they get to be out-and-about, some enjoy the international travel and revel in their time away from home experiences.
At the end of the day, like it or not they are critical to whether a company will breathe and grow. Without a product or service sale we have nothing around which to build necessities of operational delivery, no need to manufacture products, no need for a Finance Department, indeed a great deal of redundancy follows if sales do not perform. So it is right that good salespeople should be paid well.
Annoying though we may seem, because we tend to be more outspoken than most, a good salesperson will genuinely make a positive profitable difference to someone somewhere. Our confidence is often confused with being assertive and too often described incorrectly as aggressive. When we are operating as we should, we sell a great service which delivers features, advantages and benefits to the buyer. Companies do not survive on one hit wonders or leaky bucket, broken promises where the sales service does not deliver.
Sales people when managed well with clear profitable prioritisation, a focus on the right kind of customer, robust qualification of the sale and a clear understanding of the competencies of the business, will build all round value.
It is a painful truth and danger that in badly managed cultures as companies grow, a divide can grow between the perceived prima donna sales person and ‘administration’ personnel. How wrong and damaging this will be to a business when a salesperson over promises and does not value the systems and processes of the order delivery process. It is critical at this point to map your order process and to continually have a review process looking for the perfect order delivery which retains customers, builds your brand reputation and in fact enables scalability of the business service.
Please never allow sales to lack appreciation of the operational team support services and never allow them to have a commission earnings scheme, that does not hold them accountable. By this, I mean that the terms and conditions of the sales promise they made, must be fulfilled before they can collect on it. I do not pay salespeople a commission unless funds have been collected. Simple.
Salespeople should in return for the freedom they can gain, live and die by publicised expectations of targets of profitability, performance against company objectives and they should be fully ready to accept the competitive environment of a powerful and high achieving sales force. I simply do not accept that an untargeted, unlinked reward system gains the best possible result. And I do not believe that a competitive environment in a professionally employed, well led and ever developing sales-force does anything except accelerate growth potential to its maximum. When did you last invest in your sales-force development?
For the record, HR should look for sports people, with a competitive edge who are team players but also self-motivated. Understand the value of aiming high, perhaps demonstrated in things they aim to have, buy or invest in and interview questions for salespeople should be deeply tested to find levels of performance and actual understanding of commercial understanding. A salesperson that does not really understand profitability, who is not organised in a timely way and nevertheless admits to loathing paperwork, I would not employ. We like to talk.
Company Shortcuts hosts a number of events that will equip you and your salesforce to address any of the concerns raised here and ensure leaders and teams accelerate business growth.
I would specifically recommend the Business Accelerator Leadership Programme if you are an ambitious business or team leader wanting to progress professionally to the next level of leadership.
Lara Morgan is best known for growing Pacific Direct, from start-up to successful exit, 23 years later. She now invests her time in fast growth companies and represents UKTI as an Export Ambassador, having previously exported to 110 countries. Her vast experience and business knowledge includes specialisms in licensing luxury brands, manufacturing toiletries and selling to the hospitality environment through complex global distribution chains. She's also an expert in leadership and developing talent having learnt through her own experiences of employing 500 employees in an open fast growth sales culture.