Champagne Sales Talent is not Attracted with Beer Money

If you read even the most mundane sales role advert the requirements to do the job are anything but mundane. You’ll also notice that relatively few people could possess the number and extent of the listed qualifications. For some sales roles, this doesn’t matter; the role is not as difficult to do as it appears, and this includes sales positions where most of the business comes from existing customers and what is required is more the “good housekeeping” level of salesperson.

Hiring sales talent gets more demanding when the role is mainly about new customer acquisition. By definition, the companies that need to do the most (and the most challenging) customer acquisition are new or new-ish, are often not well-known, frequently are swimming against the tide that is the established industry order and have limited or no marketing resources. If you are an early-growth firm, or may have just received a round of VC investment, or are entering a new overseas market or are trying to scale sales, then you are likely one of those companies that need salespeople who are 2x-5x better than what normally passes for a salesperson. You and any new salespeople you hire, usually have the most difficult of all sales tasks in the least favourable circumstances.

Yet, we often try to reward these high performance, risk-heavy roles with pay and packages that reflect the more normal, easier sales roles. We hope to attract champagne talent with beer money. We insist on negotiating down to the point where the energy goes out of the hiring project. We put a 50k base pay against a role and then judge every candidate with “100k eyes”. (And “winning” in a salary negotiation does not constitute a “successful” hiring.) We try to save 5k, when we should be investing 20k more to attract people whom we need to be 2x-5x better than the rest of the sales population. Unless you’re in a recession when times are tougher and riskier for everyone, Champagne Sales Talent is not Attracted with Beer Money. (Yes, occasionally you can get lucky, but most companies don’t get lucky enough on time.)