Companies with proven products or services, with established territories consisting of satisfied customers often remunerate their salespeople on a commission-only basis. These companies value their sales staff and know that commissions from repeat sales will adequately reward them as they prospect for new clients and increased sales from existing clients. Make no mistake, the candidates chosen for these positions are seasoned professionals as passionate about increased market share as their employers. They share a fundamental principle with their employers … ‘mutual respect’ and both are equally protective of the other’s back. They are in many ways, true allies.

There is however a glut of North American companies of all sizes and in all industries inspired by the famous P.T. Barnum quote. ”There’s a sucker born every minute.” Sadly, P.T. was not far from wrong. The legions of men and women willing to sign on as sales persons for these companies with little more than a promise of commission, are staggering. In defense of both parties however, many are simply operating out of ignorance and the myth that salespeople are, and have always been, bounty hunters. This myth has been the leading cause of employment instability in the selling profession.

The indiscriminate hiring and firing of poorly educated and poorly compensated salespeople has for decades wasted the market’s time, tested its patience and hindered sales. Today’s highly educated, more sophisticated and time starved buyers no longer have the time nor the patience for self-absorbed, commission-only salespeople or their employers. The fallout from bounty hunter style selling has manifested in our North American markets as ever-lengthening sell-cycles, higher operating costs, reduced global competitiveness … not the least bit helpful to an economy struggling to recover.

North America’s competitiveness within our ever evolving global economy depends on new-perspective and adaptations not the least of which demands the rebranding of the sales profession. Companies entrenched in the old ways of selling and the old ways of qualifying, hiring and compensating salespeople will be overtaken by their competitors who recognize that:

* selling is a component function of a marketing

* profitable selling requires a support system consisting of every marketing mix component

* selling is no longer an isolated discipline where winning and losing a sale is solely salesperson-dependant

* selling today demands relationship development before prospects are prepared to buy

* sale-dependant commissions often do not adequately compensate salespeople for the time they invest in initiating, developing and maintaining prospect relationships and force many sales people to become mercenary and adversarial … counter intuitive to building relationships

* selling is a profession, not a job

* customers and prospects alike have little time for sales people … they need sales professionals prepared to be their allies, long-term.


If you are a sales professional with a proven track record seeking employment, in other words marketing your services to the most qualified buyer:

* Do your research prior to an interview … determine if the company offering a career opportunity has a stable track record and is well-liked by their target audience.

* Be honest with the employer and yourself. If during the interview you discover that you do not have exactly what the employer needs to help her company be successful tell her and explain why. If you happen to know a more qualified candidate tell the employer. You may be able to help the employer by facilitating a meeting with the better candidate. Think about it … if you were presenting a product or a service to a prospect and realized the fit was not right, would you push to close the sale or help your prospect find a product or service with a better fit?

* Ask the employer to share her reasons for hiring. Are you replacing someone who left? Why did they leave? Is the employer’s business losing or gaining market share? What objectives and goals does the employer hope you’ll be able to help them achieve? Is the employer hoping to increase sales to impress an eventual buyer for her company? If you haven’t already guessed, you are as entitled to gauge the qualifications of the employer as they are entitled to determine your suitability. A reputable employer will welcome the exchange.

* If the compensation package is ‘commission only’ determine what the company’s existing sales team are able to earn. Ask about the territory you will be responsible for, its current health, potential, challenges, competition. In a stable, robust company ‘commission only’ can be very lucrative. If on the other hand a stable volume of existing, commissionable sales cannot be proven because the company is relatively new, for example, then other forms of compensation would have to be discussed.

Any new relationship has its inherent risks. Prior to entering that relationship you must be able to see that the other party is willing and able to share some of that risk.