A common belief is that sales professionals remain engaged and motivated as long as they are earning sufficient commissions and believe next year will be even better. Therefore, sales professionals generally do not need career development opportunities: they just need the opportunity to make more sales and they’ll remain engaged at work.
“Managing sales professionals is easy: it’s all about the money,” I’ve heard too many times.
I have a strong background in sales and sales management, so I have a personal perspective on how wrong this thinking is—and I know for a fact that companies keep losing top sales professionals because of this misconception.
Yes, there are sales professionals who are entirely motivated by their commission checks. They also tend to be the ones who get the smallest commission checks. You just can’t be good at something if you’re doing it just for the money—at least not in the long run.
The best sales professionals are the ones who find meaning in their work: they pride themselves in actually helping to provide solutions to real life problems. They love being inquisitive, learning about their clients, thinking of creative solutions, educating their clients, and truly helping. The best salespeople are problem solvers and educators and are perceived as, well, allies, to their clients.
Another fact about many of the best sales professionals is that they are in sales in order to gain the professional experience. They have lofty goals: many of them have had product management, engineering, and marketing, roles too. They are building themselves to be business leaders and entrepreneurs by acquiring a portfolio of necessary skills.
Those kinds of employees are exactly the kind every organization needs to recruit, manage, and retain. They are the ones who will make your company be innovative and adaptive.
If you treat your best sales professionals like commission-check Pavlovian dogs, they will not transform your organization to their fullest capacity: they will do that somewhere else. They will do it where they get fulfillment—often as an entrepreneur.
We work with a lot of CEOs, especially in Silicon Valley. Many of them, if not most, at some point in their careers, were sales professionals. Think about that.
The bottom line is that sales professionals need career development. They need The Alliance. And the better they are, the more true it is.