The Sales Profession's Bill of Rights

Bob Carr

Today’s sales world has changed. An unstable economy has forced corporate layoffs and other cost-cutting measures to reduce overhead, and financial uncertainty has been a catalyst in the demise of salaried sales jobs that are being replaced with a burgeoning pay-for-performance sales model in an effort to make sales departments more productive, efficient and cost-effective.

The dramatic shift toward pay-for-performance has empowered both veteran and newly employed sales professionals to truly be their “own bosses” when it comes to laying the groundwork for cultivating relationships, developing deals and meeting goals. The days of working 30 years for the same company with a steady salary have gone by the wayside as sales professionals are driven to be entrepreneurial in their approach, knowing they’ll get as much out of their job as they put into it.

Having such direct control over their pay scale should mean the sky is the limit when it comes to flexibility and compensation. This is an attractive prospect for self-motivated employees looking to bypass years of “paying their dues” on the road to building wealth or to counteract recent pay cuts –especially for veteran sales pros whose retirement plans took a big hit when the economy went south.

However, with the financial upside of a pay-for-performance model comes a shift in responsibility from the company to the sales professional to make the initial investment of time and money to learn the business and build a customer pipeline. Sales professionals don’t have the leisure of relying solely on company resources to help them generate visibility and nurture prospects. They must bear the expense of joining professional organizations, attending tradeshows, networking and the like to uncover leads and close deals. This shift in responsibility should be safeguarded by the commitment from a company to extend a consistent, unchanging policy of recurring compensation to sales professionals who bring in the business.

A Pay Structure for Today’s Sales Environment

Without this long-term guarantee, these personal investments carry a large degree of risk in a company where the terms of compensation can be changed on a whim with the installation of a new executive or a revised protocol. Sales professionals deserve to have a consistent compensation program that enables them to share in the business that they work so hard to bring to the organization. They are making an investment in the company’s future, and they deserve a piece of the profits pie.

This is the very basis for Heartland’s portfolio equity compensation model that allows sales professionals to earn and own a portion of the recurring revenues they bring to the company. This approach is simple – for every customer a vested sales professional brings to the company, they earn both a residual and equity piece of the revenue for the life of that customer relationship. Even if the professional leaves the company, Heartland continues to pay that equity as long as the customer remains with Heartland. Or, if they prefer, Heartland will buy him or her out with a one-time payment. This model has enabled hundreds of Heartland sales professionals to quickly build wealth through these generous residuals.

The discussion around compensation is just one example that points to a larger issue. Sales professionals are all too often subject to truly unfair business practices by their employers as they relate to pay, benefits, training and support – but that doesn’t make it right. Employees deserve to work with an employer who tells the truth and is transparent, be paid in a timely manner, earn benefits like medical, dental, insurance and 401(k) contributions, and so much more.

This is exactly why Heartland established the Sales Professional Bill of Rights. Many sales professionals don’t know what they should expect from an employer, and this resource serves as a guide to help them ensure they get what they deserve as they evaluate their current or prospective job opportunities. Sales professionals hold up their end of the bargain of meeting sales quotas and revenue projections. It’s time their employers hold up their end as well.

The Sales Professional Bill of Rights goes beyond money matters to include other elements that are equally important to job satisfaction. During my 20+ years of leading a large sales organization, I have found that proper support, mentorship and flexibility are also vital to encouraging productivity and engaging sales professionals. Enough cannot be said about the importance of providing employees with easy-to-use tools, day-to-day support from a local manager and a flexible work environment that doesn’t require constantly being on the road or in the office to achieve success.

It’s time for sales professionals and managers alike to come to terms with the “new normal” sales landscape, which has been shaped as much by companies’ sharp focus on sales performance and efficiency as sales professionals’ entrepreneurial approach. Employees must realize their value and stand up for the basic rights they deserve, and managers must adapt to the new expectations of empowered sales professionals. It all comes down to offering and enjoying truly fulfilling sales careers.

Bob Carr is the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Heartland Payment Systems, the fifth largest payments processor in the U.S. Heartland delivers payments processing, mobile commerce, eCommerce, marketing solutions, payroll solutions and related business solutions and services to more than 250,000 business and educational locations nationwide.