We in sales work in what we like to claim is one of the highest paid professions, yet statistics indicate we are, in fact, employed in one of the lowest paying professions. In fact, we are engaged in a business that is unevenly divided between a relatively small group of highly skilled professionals, earning some of the highest wages in the world, and a huge group of unskilled and semi-skilled laborers, earning unskilled and semi-skilled wages.
One of the Lowest Paid Professions
Take a look at the following income statistics for some other professions (these are MEDIAN incomes from 2006*, meaning half those in the profession make less than the income listed, while the other half make more that the income listed):
Median income for those with less than 1-year experience: $30,539
Median income for those with 10 years experience: $48,654
Less than one-year experience: $42,000
10 years experience: 82,539
Less than one-year experience: $44,969
10 years experience: 58,988
Less than one-year experience: $98,041
10 years experience: 122,248
Less than one-year experience $101,423
10 years experience: 130,593
Less than one-year experience: $47,218
10 years experience: 68,968
Less than one-year experience: $57,494
10 years experience: 102,709
Less than one-year experience: $55,011
10 years experience: 81,221
Less than one-year experience: $35,697
10 years experience: 50,107
Less than one-year experience: $28,885
10 years experience: 50,319
Now, here's the median income for sales:
Less than one year's experience: $32,500
10 years experience: 47,240
Notice something? The only professions we start at a higher rate of pay are truck driver and carpenter-but by the 10th year we're trailing them, as well as every other profession listed, in median income.
Can We Really Call This a Profession?
Why do so many of us make so little? What do the other professions do that we don't?
One glaring factor is education and training. Seven of the ten non-sales professions above require a minimum of a college degree-along with additional specialized training. Only two-banking and carpentry-don't require a professional license of some sort (OK, some engineers don't have to be licensed either, but a great many do).
And sales? With a few exceptions by product or company, no degree required. Specialized training? None required and little, if any, sales training provided by most companies. Certainly, most companies provide product training; they want their salespeople to know the company's products and services. But most companies offer little sales training.
Selling is one of the few professions where the 'professional' is often left to train him or herself because, after all, anyone can do it. Give someone a phone and a list and they're a salesperson, right?
Few professions or trades allow an untrained individual to "practice" their "craft," because until trained, they don't have a craft to practice. That's certainly not the way most companies and salespeople see selling.
No rational person would accept a doctor or lawyer who had not received extensive formal training in his or her profession and then proven a minimum level of competence by passing a professional licensing exam. Likewise, we expect those engaged in skilled trades such as plumbing and truck driving to also have both formal training and certification in their profession.
The reward for their training? For many, the rewards of their training are job satisfaction and enjoyment, but the primary reward is increased wages. We naturally expect that the more time-and money-invested in one's professional training, the larger the income reward.
A doctor will invest 8 to 10 years beyond college in learning the basics of his or her craft and is rewarded with one of the top wages in the country. An attorney will invest 3 or more years beyond college and is likewise rewarded with top wages. Plumbers go through an apprenticeship and extensive testing to acquire their license and are rewarded with a top hourly wage, and those plumbers who continue their studies beyond the Journeyman stage and proceed on to become Master Plumbers are rewarded with even more income.
Yet few salespeople have undergone extensive and comprehensive sales training. We, as a group, are woefully under trained, yet we expect to make professional wages.
The typical company gives their sales team members less than 50 hours a year in formal training-and the majority of that training isn't sales training but is rather product training. Studies have discovered that the typical salesperson invests less than 30 hours a year-two hours a month-in study and training outside of what they receive from their company.
As a group, we are among the least prepared and skilled of any profession or trade. Is it any wonder we are also one of the poorest paid?
The Professionals Among Us
Nevertheless, there are a great many highly skilled professionals in the sales industry, men and women who through hard work and substantial personal investment of their time and money have developed the knowledge and skills to reach the top of their profession.
Although many average and less than average salespeople rationalize these top performer's success as nothing but luck, having been given a book of business by a favorable manager, or as simply being a 'natural,' that is seldom the reality of their success.
Top producers for the most part entered the sales profession in the same way as most salespeople-by accident, without knowing anything about selling, without the contacts and skills needed to succeed. Most struggled for months or even years before they discovered the 'secret' to success.
Virtually all of these top producers were given the standard advice to always be prospecting, ask for referrals, spend time in building rapport, find and solve the prospect's needs, ask for the order. Like most salespeople, they were told what they should do but were never taught how to do it.
It wasn't until they began to acquire training on their own through reading, listening to tapes and CDs, attending seminars and workshops, and diligently applying what they learned that they began to move from unskilled laborer to true sales professional. Many, if not most, in this group invest anywhere from 200 to 300 hours per year or more in personal training and skill development-that's 7 to 10 times the investment in training as the average salesperson. Is it then any wonder they are not only better prepared to sell, but make 2, 5, 10, 20 or 30 times what the average salesperson makes?
Professional or Semi-skilled Laborer-It's Your Choice
You don't become a sales professional or stay an unskilled or semi-skilled laborer by accident. You either do those things that will make you a highly paid professional, or you do those things that will keep you in the unskilled or semi-skilled labor category.
You get to choose whether you want to become a professional and enjoy professional wages-or whether you're happy being an unskilled laborer. There are thousands of quality books, CDs, seminars, workshops and other training opportunities available. You can pinpoint your specific needs and find a multitude of training resources to address them. All you need do is commit yourself to getting and applying the needed training, and then do a simple Google search to find thousands of learning opportunities.
If you're waiting for your company to train you, you stand an excellent chance of never growing beyond a semi-skilled wage. You control your destiny. Yes, it takes a commitment of time, energy and money-but rewards are not only a far more enjoyable and satisfying job, but also one that will provide you with the income you dreamed of when you entered sales.
* Salary information has been gathered from several sources such as salary.com and various industry sites.
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