Price is a ‘big’ subject for all in sales, right from those developing product, to marketing, all in the sales organisation, and as important as any, the customer. We all have an economic and emotional involvement in it, yet it often continues to be a challenge for all in the chain.
I think one reason is the message many sales leaders send their teams, and their peers in the revenue generation process. I think in some terms, it is the mixed messages they send that confuses and leads to undesired results.
One obvious factor and lever is incentive. I keep hearing, as I have heard throughout my sales career, that incentive drives behaviour, if so why do so many companies (senior sales executives), continue to reward sales people on the price they get, rather than the profit that sales person contributes? I used to work with someone who kept insisting that companies go out of business due to lack of sales. He would never accept that in fact businesses go under due to a lack of profits. Even when I showed him that many businesses had their best revenue days when the bankruptcy trustees were holding liquidation sales.
I have fund that companies who incent their sales people based on gross profits are consistently better aligned with their reps, and achieve mutually better results. But many continue to base incentives on top line gross revenues, others on some proxy for revenue or some model of potential residual revenue stream to materialize in the future, even when the incentive is paid out now.
Sellers who are paid on revenues only, are more likely to discount, and advocate for the buyer, rather than drive mutual value. As we all know, a $500 discount on a $10,000 piece of equipment, can have little impact on what the reps gets paid, but could be a huge part of the gross or net margin.
One has to wonder why in today’s economy anyone would pay out based on top line vs. GP. One company I worked with couldn’t really tell you what their margins were, as a result they went with paying on the top line, which only compounded the issue, as they didn’t know if commissions were wiping out the last bit of profit, or… At the end of the quarter they were either profitable or not, but either way not by design. This may be an extreme example, but I don’t think it is rare.
It is not just about the company’s profits, but many who pay on GP, are able to attract and develop better sales people. Sales people who want to and sell at full value, a true win-win-win situation. The same instincts that allow sales people to choose a discount when paid on top line, drive sale reps paid on margin to deliver value for all three key parties. No value for the client, no sale, no commission; no discounts offered, because those come as much out of the seller’s pocket as the company’s. Clients don’t get gouged, because there would be no sales, no commission.
There is no doubt that switching from top line to margin payouts cause reverberations, and push back from sellers. But I am willing to bet that only from those who can’t survive on the crumbs they leave in any given deal. Sometimes you need to shake things up, thin the herd to make room for those who want to feast along with the customers and their employers.