Are Salespeople White Collar Garbage men?

Are salespeople white collar garbage menA Rockville, MD publishing company has all of their editors and administrators working in sun lite offices, while the sales team sits in a windowless office in a dank basement.

While being interviewed for an exhibit booth and sponsoring sales position, a job applicant is told that he will not receive health insurance like the rest of the employees because he’s going to be “earning enough money to pay for it himself.”

A newly hired salesperson accepts a job at a Washington, D.C. nonprofit trade association to sell advertising, sponsorships and other services. He quickly discovers that he is the only employee who doesn’t have an office. Instead, he finds his desk located in the hallway and his seat is actually a high stool.

A national publishing company does not pay annual bonuses to their salespeople. The bonuses are only awarded to non-commissioned salaried employees. The thought is that salespeople are “earning enough money” and don’t need the bonuses.

All the above stories are true.

Which begs the question – are salespeople the garbage men of the white-collar world?

Now I’m not knocking garbage men. On the contrary, we need them to keep our communities clean. Without them, our neighbors would quickly be overrun by rodents and rats, and our property values would drop.

In fact, I agree with Rutger Bregman in his article “Why Garbagemen Should Earn more than Bankers” that they offer a great deal of value to our society. And yes, garbage men should earn more than bankers…as well as of other people.

But let’s face it. Garbage men are usually seen as a necessary evil – we can’t live without them, but they rarely receive any respect.

That’s the same for salespeople. Sure, most business owners intellectually realize the need for people to sell their products and services. After all, you can’t rely on word of mouth to sell alone. You have to be proactive these days. The problem comes into play when salespeople are not given the same respect as others in a company.

Why?

1). Business owners don’t always understand the sales process. Some in fact don’t even want to learn. They feel that selling is a grubby business. Just like enacting legislation has been compared to making sausage, the less you know about the selling process, the better off you will be.  As long as your company is earning profits, you really don’t want to learn all of the details.  But not understanding those particulars could mean the difference of keeping or losing your job. Just ask John Stumpf.

sleazy salesman2). Business owners have watched too many movies or plays depicting bad or desperate salespeople.  You know the ones – The Wolf of Wall Street, Glengarry Glen Ross, Boiler Room, and of course, everyone’s favorite, Death of a Salesman.

The underlining theme of most of these films is that all salespeople are sleazy liars or losers who would sell their own mothers to earn commission. No wonder some salespeople don’t get any respect.

3). Business owners are too busy trying to develop their products and services, and would rather hire a consultant or sales manager then deal with the day-to-day operations of selling. There’s nothing wrong with that approach, but sometimes business owners get duped into thinking their sales manager or consultants are geniuses, when in fact, some of them are just the opposite – con artists. They say all the right words, and go through all the right motions, but in the end they are just lining their pockets at the expense of gullible business owners and inexperienced salespeople.

The best owners that I’ve ever worked for were former salespeople. They may not have been the best salespeople in the world, but they came away from their experiences with a much better appreciation of the sales profession.  As a result, they usually paid generous compensation packages, invested in superior sales tools (e.g., CRM), and always made sure their sales team had enough qualified leads and prospects to keep them productive.

If some business owners and other employees would walk in the shoes of their sales team for a week or so, I bet most of them would come away with a much better appreciation for salespeople.

While selling is difficult, getting a little respect can sometimes be tougher.

While I’m not suggesting that you hug a salesperson today, at least take the time to thank him. After all, your likelihood depends on how much new business he’s generating for your employer.

Note: If you like my post, please read my book Advice for New Salespeople: Tips to Help your Sales Career.

Top photo credit: North Charleston Hurricane Matthew via photopin (license)