Why organizations shoot themselves in the foot in their quest to have a sales culture

The typical pyramidal organizational structure does not favour the sales orientation many organizations say they want. We shall look at two scenarios, starting with the first today and the other next week.

To begin with is the organization that chooses to have a specialized sales force. Everybody from the top of the pyramid down agrees this is the way to go. They also agree that these staff are contractual; as such they shall not enjoy the “benefits┝ that come with being inside the pyramid like medical cover, leave days, pension scheme, staff loans etc. The sales people are like animals in the wild who are not meant to mix with the domesticated ones in the protection of the pyramid. Even their remuneration is unique-a retainer plus commissions; and that the retainer is just about enough to get by-the magic of their income is in the commissions. And magic it is: from a paltry retainer of say 15,000shs it is demonstrated to them that they can build their commissions to hundreds of thousands of shillings-“your job is special; you determine your income; the sky is the limit.” Heads of department who understand salespeople expertly inflate their motivation like a balloon. And so the salespeople are released to the wild to go hunt and fend for themselves.

By and by, the normal distribution graph takes shape and the lions in the wild emerge. The most successful salesperson’s commissionâ’s rise unabatedly with every passing month until someone, possibly in human resource, starts questioning the huge payoffs to him.”How do we pay him 300,000shilings in monthly commissions? And we are told this figure will keep rising. He is earning more than staff three times above his pay grade. We can’t keep paying him this amount.”There is so much to say about those even holding a meeting to discuss this, that only editorial space limits it; suffice to say, they lack a business orientation. When the salesperson was being recruited, it was clear he was outside the organizational chart; now he is being victimized based on the very organizational chart he isn’t a part of. That aside, listen to the unsaid part of the basis of the victimization- â”it is because he is bringing in too much business”-talk of shooting oneself in the foot! It’s even worse when the salesperson starts earning in two years time what those”three grades above him” took fifteen years to earn!

And so the unsolicited domestication of this wild animal begins; “let’s promote him; let’s bring him into the fold; let’s give him a salary; he must start reporting to work at 8 and come back again at 5. His pay is causing animosity with senior managers. We should also increase the pay of other persons at the same level.”

And on and on. And all this because the structures of the organization do not support the growth of the salesperson as a salesperson; it’s almost as if to suggest that it works so long as the salesperson is earning amounts which are “acceptable” to the pay scale. But when he bursts at the seams, then no, it’s not okay. Sadly, extremely few people, including human resource personnel understand the sales profession and are able to nurture the salesperson’s growth. Using the typical pyramidal organizational structure as the yardstick to the salesperson’s growth is an exercise in double standards. The sales job is comparatively unstructured, relative to the desk job for which the pyramidal organogram was designed; equating the two is comparing the domestic cat to a lion!

To support a sustainable sales culture, organizations must invite those complaining within the pyramid, to step out of it and into the wild, and enjoy the benefits therein, instead of encouraging them to having their own cake and eating it. For this to happen there must be someone within the pyramid with the business acumen and managerial strength to drive this message home in the interest of staff development and business growth.

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