I was working with a client in sales today who has worked in the field for more than 20 years. He gave me a good way of thinking about companies that only offer employees 100% commission as a starting salary: What are they investing in you?
If a company has no investment in new employees, it can lay them off with no pay. Leaders in his industry offer base commission in the $20,000-$30,000 range. That base disappears after two or three years, and a good sales professional will be happy to work on 100% after that time because she will have built a good book of business. Beware of any company that does not offer a base. Ask yourself, What are they investing in me?
This week I worked with two clients who had two very different jobs in sales. Both are competent professionals. One made a good choice in accepting a job; the other did not.
One of my clients is a veteran. He accepted a job with a company who offered a substantial first year base salary (+$70,000). The company made an investment in my client, and it is now giving him an opportunity to apply for higher level jobs. He wants to keep working for the company because it treated him with respect and promises a good future.
Another client has worked as a sales assistant for three years. He has managed his boss’s business while the company owner took month long vacations. This client is paid hourly at $15 an hour ($30,000). His employer wants him to fill roles in office management, sales, and marketing. The owner berates my client for the slightest error and refuses to pay overtime. Naturally, this client wants to find a new job with a more reasonable supervisor – and better pay.
What is the moral of the story? If you’re pursuing a job in sales, be very careful about the kind of employer you choose to work for. Bad employers don’t change. What they do is change commission structure and ask for more work. A good employer lays out what is expect and what will be returned in the way of compensation. Generally speaking, an employer who does not provide clear answers is probably going to be a bad boss. Choose wisely.
I was coaching a client today. He told me that he’s been miserable at work for the last four years. On paper, this client is a success story, someone who exceeds his sales goals and has won awards for outstanding performance. The problem is that he hates selling bank products and insurance. He asked me what he should do.
My formula for sales professional who want to stay in sales but work in a different industry/sector is pretty simple. Ask yourself these questions:
What do I like to talk about?
What do I like to learn and think about?
What subjects fascinate me?
The next step is to find a job that will let you sell something that you like talking about, something you want to learn more about, something that excites you.
If a salesperson can align her interests with her job, that’s the first step in career satisfaction. Over the years, many sales clients have told, “I can sell anything if I believe in it.” Rather than starting with the product, why not start with yourself? What makes you happy – and interested?