3 years ago
January 5, 2015

Why Top Sales People Make More Than Some CEO’s‏

At heart, top sales people are entrepreneurs. They don’t run a company in the same way as a CEO does, but they are just as responsible for a company’s success.

Rhys Metler

top sales people make more than some CEO'sAt heart, top sales people are entrepreneurs. They don’t run a company in the same way as a CEO does, but they are just as responsible for a company’s success, which relies on sales to fund the salaries of everyone in the organization – even the CEO’s. This is why in addition to a base salary, which is much less than that of an average CEO, sales people receive a commission on each sale. It is these commissions that truly enable the total salary of a top sales person to rival or even exceed that of a CEO. However, a sales career is tough and top sales people truly do earn the money that they make. Here’s why. 

Sales People Constantly Need to Do More

A sales career is recognized as a high stress profession, and one of the reasons for this is that sales people are time and again asked to take on more – more sales, more meetings, more products and services to sell. There are few other careers that ask employees to do better as regularly as a sales career; an average typist can come in to work and consistently be average, but a sales person who tries to be average finds that the bar for average is constantly being raised.

However, this constant change is not without benefit, and one of the primary benefits is the ability to always earn more. Top sales people earn more each and every year, and this increasing pay is why the salaries top sales people make top those of some CEOs.

The Incentives Add Up

In most organizations, top sales people make a base salary plus commissions and other incentives. In addition to financial rewards for making sales and breaking past quotas, these additional incentives can truly push a sales person’s sales career to the next level, along with their paycheck. Regular incentives common in this career include:

  • Merchandise incentives, from the company or from clients
  • Vacation or experience incentives, all-expenses paid trips to desirable destinations, sports events, and other entertainment
  • Cash bonuses, for individual and for overall team performance
  • Vehicle incentives, generally based on annual individual performance

All together, these incentives can push a top sales person’s annual compensation above that of the CEO.

Sales People are On Call 24/7

People who have never tried out a sales career often complain about the unfairness of their sales counterparts’ flexible schedules and perceived benefits, without realizing how hard top sales people work to get those benefits. A top sales person truly is on call to his or her clients around the clock, since many clients are working around the clock themselves. Product questions can (and do) happen at any hour of the day or night, and when a critical question arises, clients expect that their sales person will answer the phone. Top sales people know that not answering the phone can lead to lost sales, and make themselves available to clients at any time.

Sales People Take Risks

While a sales career can be financially rewarding, there is a substantial amount of risk involved as well. Unlike the CEO of the company, however, a top sales person does not get paid if a risk that they take doesn’t work out. If a sales person takes a risk negotiating with a client and his or her company says no to the deal, the sales person loses out on the commission. At least the CEO knows how much his or her paycheck will be at the end of every month!

As in any industry, top sales people make salaries at the top range of compensation. It is the overall compensation structure that allows top sales people to make more than some CEOs, and considering how much work, risk, and experience goes in to a successful sales career, it’s fair to say that these top sales people are earning their compensation.

Rhys Metler

Rhys is a tenacious, top performing Senior Sales Recruiter with 11+ years of focused experience in the Digital Media, Mobile, Software, Technology and B2B verticals. He has a successful track record of headhunting top performing sales candidates for some of the most exciting brands in North America. He is a Certified Recruitment Specialist (CRS) and has expert experience in prospecting new business, client retention/renewals and managing top performing sales and recruitment teams. Rhys enjoys spending quality time with his wife, son, and two daughters, BBQing on a hot summer day, tropical vacations and cottaging.