Nothing happens until somebody sells something.
I spent much of my career in and around business development and sales. Yes, I’ve had the good fortune of also consulting and leading teams of technical people getting work done. However, business development and sales have always been my first love.
It’s interesting how various industries and companies view their sales organizations. Often times, there is resentment towards what appears to be a carefree, flexible job that pays great. For those that have “carried a bag and a quota”, we all can attest to the fact that things are usually not what they appear to be on the surface.
The fact is, sales organizations are under tremendous pressure. After all, nothing happens until somebody sells something. The entire organization, as well as a supply chain of other companies, depend on the success of the sales organization.
I am a big believer in ensuring that commission plans are structured to drive the behavior to move the organization forward. I also subscribe to the mentality that there should not be a commission cap for the sales team. Most important, the culture of the organization from the top down, must value its’ Sales / Business Development teams.
My first experience with commission sales was at a small family owned building supply company in Beaumont Texas (Tri-Supply for those of you who may know it…still exists today). The commission plan was simple: 3% commission against an $800 per month draw. I had never heard the term “draw” in my life. The meaning of a “draw” in sales commission is that if we didn’t sell enough to make $800 per month, we got $800 in salary anyway. And of course, if that didn’t happened (never happened to me thankfully), the sales person would be on a short leash. If it happened two months in a row, they would be let go. I was 18 years old at the time; taking a break from college. I remember my best selling month was around $100,000 per month. So, I received $3000, which was a fortune to a 19-year-old!
This particular company truly valued the sales team. We were treated very well. We were under a lot of pressure. But the entire organization relied on our ability to drive revenue and work for all of the warehouses, door mill, our suppliers, delivery drivers, etc.
I also got introduced to the term SPIF. The one that I recall and loved the most, was the Maytag Sales Rep. He would come by once a month and give us five dollars for every Maytag we sold as well as our choice of a fresh uncooked steak. Yes, he brought a large ice chest with all sorts of choice steaks, from which to choose. If you sold 10 Maytags, you got $50 and 10 steaks! It seemed too good to be true to me. I truly believed the Maytag product was the best product on the market. Therefore, I got paid my 3% commission and I got extra money to sell the product that I believed in and loved the most!
So often, companies spend more time and effort reducing and gaming commission plans. This ultimately creates tension and friction among the salesforce. Plus, it can have adverse affects on the organization’s ability to capture new logos (new customers) and sales.
I have witnessed negative views and behavior towards the Sales and Business Development teams. I’ve watched sales and business development commission plans be slashed to peanuts! And of course, the behavior and results were commensurate with the investment the company was willing to give.
I’ve also been a part of and witnessed some of the most fantastic sales driven cultures. Which, of course, drove the organizations to grow and thrive in sales.
I urge you all to value your sales teams. Yes, they sometimes have attitude. But the organization depends on a successful sales effort to grow and thrive. After all, nothing happens until somebody sells something.