Since the 2008 recession employers have been a lot more wary of the level of base salary paid to salespeople. As a result, the good salespeople have had to work harder to distance themselves from the under-performers. There is a basic principle in hiring salespeople; the good salespeople don’t come at a discount. Here’s why: 

1 Good salespeople are scarce, by which we mean people who can find and close new business. There is no shortage of people who can “account manage” and do other mildly-related sales tasks, but business developers are scarce, and they don’t come at a discounted price. In fact, the word “salesperson” often understates the role a critical salesperson plays in a business, which can be closer to “Chief Cash Officer” than salesperson.

2 In SME and expansion companies, every founder, owner and senior stakeholder wants the new salesperson to behave as if they had started the company themselves. You are not therefore hiring average or even “normal” people. You are hiring a highly focused and engaged person. You might have advertised the role as “negotiable”, but if that means the only way is down, you will likely get a second league hire.

3 Good salespeople are looking at how you behave as much as you are evaluating them. A common thing that happens during a hiring process is that the “final offer negotiation” turns into a salary discounting argument. While it can make sense to be a tough negotiator, you lose the better salespeople once they see that this is a You-win-I lose negotiation.

4 Good salespeople put as much value on commission as on salary, but they don’t bargain with their salary. Weaker salespeople will work for a lower salary and treat commission as a bonus they can manage without.

In fact, the word “salesperson” often understates the role a critical salesperson plays in a business, which can be closer to “Chief Cash Officer” than salesperson.

The quid pro quo for the employer should be a set of clear expectations around target achievement, and in particular, the delivery of the first new business. As a rule of thumb, top salespeople aim to close new business within the first sales cycle. That’s a tough standard, but it’s how the best people in every field think and work.