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Are Salespeople Overpaid?



A sentiment I have heard on more than one occasion is ‘Salespeople are overpaid’. Beyond this, I have heard people reference sales as an easy career choice and one in which people are paid far too much compared to what it takes to be successful.


When I hear someone use the term overpaid, it indicates to me that this person doesn't equate the effort level or skillset required to the amount of compensation they receive in return.


As a Salesperson myself, I am sure most of you are expecting me to defend this position unequivocally. For those that are expecting that to be the case, you’re right in that I will be defending our position although I will balance this across a number of considerations.


Sales is a profession and to the elite, it’s a science. There are countless books, methodologies, systems, processes and software applications all designed to help improve sales performance. Is that by coincidence? Certainly not. Sales is an art that takes time, persistence and resiliency to master. 


'71% of companies take 6 months or longer to onboard new sales reps according to ClearSlide and CSO Insights research’.

Beyond this, there is a minimum 20% annual turnover in Sales which increases to 34% if you include both voluntary and involuntary according to Bridge Group research.

Sales has one of the highest rates of staff churn out of any industry globally. The ongoing pressure, demand to perform and unprecedented working hours can lead to burn out and fatigue for many.



Further, effective salespeople need to find a weighted blend of being best in class at:


  • Emotional intelligence

  • Presentation skills

  • Ability to negotiate

  • Progressing a transaction

  • Creating opportunities

  • Active listening

  • Asking great questions

  • Establishing trust

  • Maintaining resiliency

  • Demonstrating empathy

  • Being prepared

  • Being authoritative

  • Analytical skills


With all of this said, the point I want to drive here is the fact that it is only the elite class or 1% of salespeople that typically earn what most would consider life-changing money. That is because they’re able to combine and balance a world-class skillset which most people would struggle to come close to mastering. 


Most salespeople start in careers with salaries akin to many other industries out there. In certain cases, there are salespeople working on a commission-only basis without any basic salary and they’re paid solely based on their results. The reality is, there is a cross-spread of roles and salaries based on experience, expertise and an ability to effectively execute transformative transactions.


As with the majority of roles out there, top-performing and high-earning salespeople have typically been in the trenches for many years honing and perfecting their craft. I am confident that if you spoke to a top-tier sales professional and asked them about their journey, it is likely riddled with thousands of hours of dedication to learning and development before they reaped the benefits they’re privy to now.


If you’re a skeptic, before drawing a conclusion on whether salespeople are overpaid or otherwise, I would encourage you to take the time to truly think through what it takes to not only be a salesperson but to be a best in class at anything in life.



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