The first objective of a salesperson, a closer, is the financial gain from booking a sale. Second on the list relates to winning the deal. Everything else is … not on the list.
Comp: This story begins and ends with the sale: a large sale. The sales rep, Mitch, had been working this 2.1 million dollar deal for several months. This was primarily hardware, back in the day when selling hardware was for the big guns. After many months of going back and forth, the final price was settled, and Mitch recorded the deal. As per process, the sales manager, whom worked for me, re-reviewed the numbers and his face blossomed several shades of red. He came to my office and called in Mitch. The sales manager was furious, “How can you sell this deal at 2.29%, are you nuts!” Mitch kept shaking his head and stating quite clearly, the deal sold for more than that, and he should check his numbers. This went back and forth with calculators and remembrances of conversations for bidding this apparent low mark up. Finally, Mitch pulled up the order, checked the manufacturer prices and turned the screen around and showed us the final mark up, in the system, as 2.32%. Stating, you were wrong, I sold it much higher than you are claiming. Mitch was satisfied.
Lesson learned: So Mitch had accomplished two things, a win after a dogged quantity of phone calls, quotes, meetings, and endless interaction with the manufacturers. And he had recorded a margin that, at his varied comp plan, put some nice commission into his pocket. The sales manager added very little value, proved he was out of the loop and was nothing more than an administrator. And I missed an opportunity to get involved early to remind, educate and direct the team members to balance their objectives with the organization.
The annual adjustment: A salesperson receives a compensation plan at the start of the business year, pours over every detail, tests the nuances, validates and then executes. Their entire focus is to maximize the commission and tune the deals in flight to their advantage. The unfortunate story is that management tunes comp plans from their own perspective. The management overriding logic is “Sales expense is too high, these reps make too much money.” Perhaps at some companies this might be valid. But overall it is a weak argument. Adjusting annual plans is expected, what should be important is how to harmonize reps according to company objectives and a path to terrific compensation. Sales reps, real sales reps, are in it for the money. They are not lifers, they wake up and stay on task. Because when they can top their annual earnings, it is easy to remain focused on the first objective of sales: personal financial gain. And although it is often undervalued, objective #1 for the salesperson actually translates as increased revenue and profitability for the company.
I really appreciate the purity of the real salesperson. A company wins by designing support to channel the sales effort to reach personal objectives and respect but not legislate the salesperson’s focus in the game.