What are we paying our sales folks to do?

What criteria do you use to compensate your sales folks? Some combination of salary, commission, and year-end bonus, based on industry standard? And how do you know that that is the appropriate standard?

I believe we are currently paying our sales folks to waste 90% of their time. They are spending time  pushing solution information to the wrong people at the wrong time, and have no idea who will actually close until, well, until they don’t.

With its focus on placing solutions, the current sales model (including marketing automation) has no way to manage the natural resistance of groups while they figure out their pre-purchase change management strategies. Sellers merely catch the low hanging fruit and the sales model does not faciliate the buyer’s complete – and confusing – decision path.

If we were paying sellers according to what  they SHOULD be closing they’d be earning a fraction of what they are earning. In reality, we can  close twice as much business with half the sales force.


Unfortunately, we start off by assuming that if we find folks who COULD buy our solution, and have a recognized NEED, that they are prospects. If this were true, we’d be closing a helluva lot more sales.

Sellers spend 90% of their time attempting to close sales that will never close. The sales model doesn’t offer a skill set to help buyers with the part that keeps them from buying: they must manage their confusing, political change management issues along their decision path. And yet the field resists learning Buying Facilitation®:  As someone recently said to me: Why should I bother learning how to help buyers manage their change issues when I already make a good salary closing the paltry sum I’m closing?

According to Forrester, 80% of our prospects buy a solution similar to ours (or ours) within 2 years of having contact with a sales rep. What does this tell us? The time it takes buyers to get their ducks in a row to get internal agreement to buy is the length of the sales cycle. We must add a skill set to help facilitate the buy-in journey and actually teach buyers how to find their ducks and get them quacking.


Our prospects aren’t buyers. Typical closing rates are  less than 10%  (7% in conventional sales; less than 1% from marketing automation; 2% in banking and insurance). When we close,  we are merely showing up around the time the buyer shows up with their checkbook and have already done their behind-the-scenes work.

The statistical average of closing a sale by following each prospect with an apparent need (15 calls over 9 months) is greater than what we’re actually closing. By containing our sales activities to the solution choice, we fail to close all those who will buy once they get their internal buy-in.

A seller’s performance and pay is currently dependent on whether or not a buyer is ready, willing, and able to buy AT THE TIME THE SELLER IS FOLLOWING THEM.  Using the sales model, we have no idea who is going to buy at the start of the  sales journey.

Apparently, companies assume

  • there is no way to tell who will buy,
  • it’s not possible to enter the private world buyers live in to  enable them to manage, their decision path more quickly,
  • buyers are stupid or they’d buy more/better/faster,
  • it’s not a sellers fault if prospects they have been following (and are most probably in the pipeline) don’t buy.

Why not assume that the performance of the sales folks is poor because of  the sales model itself. By merely addressing the last 10% of  the buyer’s decision, and with no skills that would  faciliate the entire buying journey, starting with the buy-in, change management, political issues buyers must manage before they can buy, we are not making it easy for buyers (who need a solution to manage merely a portion of their internal problems). Indeed, adding Buying Facilitation® to the front end of sales skills mitigates the buy-in issues by adding facilitation skills.


Imagine if the sales job was to first enter the behind-the-scenes buying decision path and help buyers navigate through all of the non-needs-related decisions they must make and buy-in they must get (focusing on internal relationships, politics, strategies, etc) en route to choosing a solution. Then they would collapse the time it takes for buy-in to happen by half, and triple the number of folks who buy.

Imagine if sellers were paid only on closed sales (rather than spending over 90% of their activity on chasing leads/prospects who will never close) with an assumption that it’s possible to close 5x what they are currently closing?

Imagine if sellers started a conversation by helping manage buy-in. They’d know, from first call, exactly who would close and only spend time on buyers.

Sellers can increase their performance by at least a factor of 5. Knowing this, would you still keep paying them the same base salary? or continue hiring more sales folks to get the sales you need?

Is it worth a test to trial Buying Facilitation® to a pilot group and see the difference? Call me and we’ll discuss options. Then you can pay your sellers what they are really worth — a lot.


Start the journey to help sellers get the skills they need to manage both ends of the buying decision journey – the off-line political and relational buy-in as well as the solution choice. Read Dirty Little Secrets; get an MP3 to hear Sharon-Drew using the model; contact us to learn about training your sales folks.

Have Sharon-Drew speak on facilitating buying decisions at your next conference. Learn about her topics and see her in action on www.buyingfacilitation.com
Contact her directly at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com

2 thoughts on “What are we paying our sales folks to do?”

  1. Pingback: Where does the buy-cycle start? | Sharon-Drew Morgen

  2. Pingback: Compensating our sales folks | Sharon-Drew Morgen

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