Okay, that’s a little bit too much. First, it’s a pride thing – most CEOs wouldn’t want to know that some sales person earns more than he does. Second, it sounds crazy on paper. Third, it sounds even crazier in real life.
But sometimes, reality is crazier than fiction. In fact, there’s a handful of CEOs who practically earn just a dollar – not a typo, that $1.00 — in salary! Meaning, some sales person in their company could go home to the kids and the wife and proudly proclaim, “Honey, I’m earning more than our CEO does! Get dressed, we’re having steak at the new restaurant down the street.”
Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Google’s Sergey Brin and Larry Page, Oracle’s Larry Ellison, and Twitter’s Jack Dorsey, are but some of famous CEOs who officially received $1 as salary. The late Steve Jobs also earned $1 dollar since coming back to Apple in 1997 until 2011. Of course, they didn’t go hungry despite being “underpaid” because they were also compensated in other ways, but when it comes strictly to salaries, these guys have sales people whose salaries are tens of thousands more.
But for the sake of argument, let’s try to justify why sales people should earn higher than CEOs.
Selling is Hard Work
While some people think sales people aren’t working as hard as say, the software developers or engineers, they actually are. Don’t let the dinners at posh restaurants and meeting at exclusive clubs fool you – business happens anywhere for sales people. It doesn’t mean that if a sales person is invited to a five star hotel for a luncheon meeting, he’s not working his behind off in trying to convince the prospect to buy the product or avail of the service. The HR hires people, the finance department takes care of the money, the engineering team does their own stuff. The sales people sell, and if selling means playing golf with the client, it’s not their fault. The luxury sales people enjoy just comes with the territory.
Selling is Talent (and companies pay well for premium talent)
Some would say selling is an art and sales people are artists who are out to perfect their craft. Other would say that there’s some science to it, too. But whether it’s an art or a science, you cannot ignore the fact that it takes talent to be just a good sales person (and even more to be a great one), and companies pay a good amount of money for great talent. Take a look at professional sports like basketball or baseball or football. The best players almost always earn the most, and deservedly so. You can argue that credit and equal compensation should also be given to trainers and anybody who helps them reach their optimum best, but really, it’s the athlete that does shoots the impossible three-pointer, hits the curve ball, and makes the difficult corner kick. That’s why you never hear a coach complain that he’s earning far less than the team star. Talent, man, talent.
Revenue is Directly Brought In by Sales People
It’s no secret that whatever the company earns is the result of the sales people doing their best effort. Increased sales could mean anything from widening the company’s lead in the industry to increasing the market share to even displacing a competitor. Of course, it takes everyone to get the job done, but without the sales people, who would sell the products?
And so, it leads us to this simple conclusion: sales people deserve to be paid proportionate to the profit they bring in for the company. Some sales people earn purely on commission basis, while some really earn a lot. But they deserve it. Do you think CEOs or company owners just pay them that much because they like them? Don’t you think anybody who owns a company would gladly pay less if they thought they can get the job done for a fraction of the cost? Of course, they do. It’s not even about being fair – it’s about being right, and paying a premium for such a talent as selling is the right thing to do.
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