When I was a new college professor I had a colleague who had earned her Ph. D. from a prestigious institution, had published widely, presented numerous scholarly papers at conventions, and was dynamic in the classroom, and well liked.
She drove a used import, with a ton of miles on it, and her clothing, while attractive, wasn’t fresh off the runway.
Her husband drove a new luxury car, trading it in every year or two, looked dapper and distinguished in his expensive, designer suits, and earned about ten times as much as his bride. By the way, he only held one degree, a B. A. , to her three.
But of course, all of this made sense: he was a salesman.
Salespeople, generally speaking, earn more money than your average bear, or professor. In fact, the upper echelons of selling have members who outpace attorneys and give medical doctors a run for their money, especially in our era of managed care.
Why do salespeople earn more money, and how can you, too?
There are five key reasons:
(1) Salespeople work in an atmosphere of uncertainty. From pay period to pay period, their earnings can and usually do, fluctuate. A professor’s wages are set in stone, by the quarter, semester, or year. Therefore, salespeople accrue an uncertainty premium.
(2) Salespeople deal with greater interpersonal unpleasantness, i. e. with rejection. Because their ego armor is stronger, they’re paid a battle premium.
(3) Salespeople expect to be paid more, and they insist on it. It’s very hard to find one who will work his heart out for average or sub-par pay.
(4) There is a long, societal history of rewarding salespeople at a higher level than others with similar educations, experience, and the like.
(5) The contribution of salespeople is denominated and carefully measured in dollars. Customer service people may actually face as much rejection and withstand equivalent stress, but currently, they earn a fraction of what sellers earn. (This may change soon: See my article, “Introducing Merit-Pay Into Customer Service. ”)
I transitioned from college teaching into full-time consulting, and my earnings soared. Of course, I had to sell my services, but in effect, I still trained people for a living—I stayed in the knowledge business, if you will. And my earnings jumped by ten times, within 18 months.
How did I do it?
I decided I was worth more, and would no longer settle for less.
I abandoned the doomed-to-near-poverty label, “teacher. ”
I welcomed the uncertainty associated with having no imposed ceiling on my earnings.
I became an independent businessperson, with all of the expectations they have for earning profits.
I’ve always made a point of translating my results on behalf of clients into dollars saved and earned, into profits. Therefore I have been paid from profits, from results.
Anybody can do these things.
You might say salespeople are lucky, inasmuch as they have inherited this legacy. Or, maybe they’re just a little smarter than the credit they commonly receive.
Dr. Gary S. Goodman © 2005
Dr. Gary S. Goodman, President of Customersatisfaction.com , is a popular keynote speaker, management consultant, and seminar leader and the best-selling author of 12 books, including Reach Out & Sell Someone® and Monitoring, Measuring & Managing Customer Service. A frequent guest on radio and television, worldwide, Gary’s programs are offered by UCLA Extension and by numerous universities, trade associations, and other organizations in the United States and abroad. Gary is headquartered in Glendale, California. He can be reached at (818) 243-7338 or at: email@example.com .