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Ask Slashdot: Compensating Technical People For Contributing to Sales?

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the better-snacks-and-more-espresso dept.

Businesses 331

cloud-yay writes "I work for an IT consulting firm and recently I've been tasked with heading up our engineering consulting team — which without the fancy corporate speak means that we're trying to empower our engineering team to think a little like sales people instead of being purely service orientated. To clarify, our technical people are viewed by our customers as trusted advisors and when they see a opportunity for a complementary sale/network refresh/project they often involve our sales team, however when the customer sees the sales people, they always clam up because they're 'sales people' and customers think they are just interested in alleviating them of their money! I'm interested in what the Slashdot community thinks of how we should remunerate engineering teams for this 'sales' work (which would cost us commission to sales people anyway) but in a way that doesn't foster any animosity between sales and tech staff because in the end sales people live and die on commission. Has anyone worked in this environment anywhere and what works/doesn't work in your experience?"

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331 comments

Inside vs. outside sales (1)

cultiv8 (1660093) | more than 3 years ago | (#36343460)

Give your outside sales reps something like 20% commission, have a few engineers that work as inside sales reps (ie they are the main point of contact for clients) for like 10-15%, and then give your engineering teams 5% as a whole for all inside sales.

Re:Inside vs. outside sales (3, Informative)

sjbe (173966) | more than 3 years ago | (#36343580)

If you give away 40% of revenue in commissions you'll be out of business faster thank you can say "stupid idea". Sales commissions are usually single digit percentages. Even software companies don't earn margins high enough to justify the kinds of margins you are proposing. Manufacturing companies gross margins are normally much less than 40% and that is before any SG&A or interest or taxes.

Re:Inside vs. outside sales (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36343632)

Your math is painfully faulty. The commissions for outside sales and for inside sales are not additive, they are separate things. The plan to which you replied suggests 20% commissions for one type of sale and 20% or less for another type. No sale ever results in more than 20% commission, thus there is never more than 20% of revenue going to commissions.

Re:Inside vs. outside sales (2)

rockman_x_2002 (1791612) | more than 3 years ago | (#36343812)

Ah. I think I understand here. So basically, either an outside OR an inside salesperson makes a sale. But not both. Therefore, if it's the outside guy, that person gets 20% and the inside people get zilch. But if it's an inside guy that makes the sale, the engineering salesperson gets 10-15% while the rest of the engineers as a whole get the remaining 5% to share, and the outside people get to work a little harder next time.

In either case, if this is what you're saying AC (and I believe it is), nobody is making over 20% for any individual sale. So what you're basically doing is setting up a 20% commission and telling both groups that it's up for grabs for whoever is able to make the sale happen.

Seems a little high still at 20%. I'd probably bump that on down to about 10-12% tops with perhaps an additional end-of-year 10% bonus for your top sales rep (either inside or outside, as that gives an incentive to make more sales). Sounds ok unless you're aiming to share the commissions with everyone. In which case, it would take some retooling of the numbers. But every situation is different, of course.

Re:Inside vs. outside sales (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | more than 3 years ago | (#36343806)

Depends on what you are selling.

Commish on mausoleum crypts/bronze coffins is about 40%.

Admittedly that is an edge case. Whole life insurance is almost as bad.

Re:Inside vs. outside sales (5, Interesting)

JMJimmy (2036122) | more than 3 years ago | (#36343814)

It's not about the % - the idea is ass backwards!

Instead of turning your highly skilled techs into sales people spend the money training your sales people to understand the tech. They don't need to understand the minutia but they should understand it well enough to be able to converse with a tech. Rather than having them hand off a client from one person to the next have your sale's guy be the primary and only contact point. They should never need to consult with the technicians as to how/whether something can be done rather only be able to understand and communicate exactly what the client needs.

It doesn't work (4, Insightful)

jmauro (32523) | more than 3 years ago | (#36343464)

When you change the incentives of engineers to be the compensate them the same as you would a sales person. The engineers become sales people pretty quickly. It's just human nature.

The opposite is also true by the way, if you change a sales person's salary to the same as engineers they're change into engineers pretty quickly. Incentives matter.

Re:It doesn't work (4, Insightful)

MrEricSir (398214) | more than 3 years ago | (#36343480)

When your sales people barely know how to turn on a computer and your engineering people are too socially inept to carry out a conversation, the danger is quite minimal.

Re:It doesn't work (0)

Seumas (6865) | more than 3 years ago | (#36343506)

Wow, way to stereotype. Where do you work that all your engineers lack social skills?

Re:It doesn't work (0)

MrEricSir (398214) | more than 3 years ago | (#36343554)

-all
+most

And the answer at that point is any tech company.

Re:It doesn't work (4, Informative)

realityimpaired (1668397) | more than 3 years ago | (#36343642)

If your engineers are in a customer-facing role, they won't survive very long without soft skills. Or at least, they won't advance in that customer-facing role.

*everywhere* I have worked which has engineers in a customer-facing role, the engineers are good at what they do while still having social skills. Where I'm working now, they won't even get to a second interview if they can't demonstrate some social ability.

Re:It doesn't work (1)

neumayr (819083) | more than 3 years ago | (#36343784)

What's that strangeness, there are multiple interviews? Besides that, yes, some social skills might be helpful, but don't people usually learn those automatically in a corporate environment? About when they notice they won't get what they need for their project, that they themselves won't get anywhere without getting into office politics and generally socializing with other people.
Of course, they probably won't quite acquire the sales-person level of communicative skills on their own.

Re:It doesn't work (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36343902)

Social skills can improve over time, but from personal experience it's best to hire people with the skills or at least an aptitude for communication. Some people can be technically great, but just don't get the importance of being able to convey that to a client.

Re:It doesn't work (3, Informative)

paitre (32242) | more than 3 years ago | (#36343748)

-all
+most

And the answer at that point is any tech company.

Most of our folks are customer facing and =have= to have a personality to get past our interview process.

I've recommended not extending offers to prospects because of personality dissonance despite having the technical chops.

Let's look at that, okay? (5, Insightful)

khasim (1285) | more than 3 years ago | (#36343712)

... and your engineering people are too socially inept to carry out a conversation ...

Okay, now from TFA.

To clarify, our technical people are viewed by our customers as trusted advisors ...

So, the "socially inept" engineers somehow manage to convince the customers that they (the engineers) are trustworthy.

While the socially skilled sales people are unable to do this.

I question your definition because it seems to be the opposite. At least in the case presented in TFA.

I'd look at the root cause of why the customers seem to trust the engineers more than the sales people.

Re:Let's look at that, okay? (3, Interesting)

Jon_E (148226) | more than 3 years ago | (#36343874)

It has to do with honesty and the perception that the person you're talking to has your best interest at heart. People are generally pretty good at smelling a rat, and if your engineer is in the same boat as your customer - then there's a trust that's there that's generally pretty easy to work with. The problem breaks down if the engineer or sales person doesn't have a broader view of the coming problems, or architecture changes that might be necessary as this typically comes from pure experience.

Working for a large consulting arm of a large (now mostly defunct) technical company .. we really turned a corner when we convinced our mgmt that it was bad practice to always have to recommend our companies products - particularly when there were better products out there .. this also enabled us to work more closely with the backline engineers to either make things better, or eliminate dead weight. Honesty can go a long way in developing trust, and can help you either really believe in your product or take you to the place where you can help others understand what needs to be done for customers to believe in your product.

Re:It doesn't work (1)

matunos (1587263) | more than 3 years ago | (#36343926)

Exactly, because your consulting firm will be out of business anyway.

Re:It doesn't work (3, Insightful)

Seumas (6865) | more than 3 years ago | (#36343482)

Also remember, most companies see sales guys as their lifeblood and engineers as a financial liability.

Exactly. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36343576)

If you pay engineers a commission that a salesperson would have otherwise gotten, you have put them in direct competition with each other. That will foster animosity.

If you put in blanket rules like 'all engineers always get 20% commissions of inside sales' the salespeople will feel like someone else is caching in on their hard work, and in cases where the engineer won the sale entirely by himself, he will feel like someone cashed in on 80% of his pay. Neither person will feel like this evens out, even if it does.

Pay engineers to be engineers and pay salespeople to be salespeople. If both do their jobs right, you don't need to blur the distinctions in order to profit.

If you want an edge, here is what you should do: Train your sales people to be (or seem) trustworthy, to be (or seem) technically competent, and above all to regularly put effort into really understanding their clients' needs (or at least seem to). How much the client trusts the salesman is the #1 contributor to a sale. That directly addresses the root cause of the problem you are trying to solve. Also, allow salespeople to recommend engineers for bonuses based on sales assistance, and actually pay attention to the recommendations. That could help a bit too without creating animosity.

Re:Exactly. (4, Insightful)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 3 years ago | (#36343730)

Our best salesman also happens to the the only one who volunteered to spend time in the repair department with the technicians, actually helping to fix the products and learn their limitations.

Re:Exactly. (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36343960)

Our company uses an internal billing mechanism. Each sales person is allotted (x) hours of engineering time a month. Engineers are expected to perform (y) hours of consults with sales as part of their normal job (x and y are different because we have more sales people than engineers). Anything above (y) is considered bonus pay for the engineer and he earns extra pay at a relatively high hourly rate. The bonus pay comes directly from the sales person's commission. All engineering consults must be scheduled in advance through the project manager, to keep sales from killing our internal development timelines.

It works for us. Engineers get a chance to see the sales process, see what customers are doing with the product or what problem they want the product to solve, and a chance to earn extra pay. Engineers that have good social skills get requested by sales more often than others. The project manager is available to control the impact on our development. Sales people see the cost of having engineers on the call and thus are encouraged to keep it to a minimum or learn the technical details themselves.

Re:Exactly. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36344010)

If you put in blanket rules like 'all engineers always get 20% commissions of inside sales' the salespeople will feel like someone else is caching in on their hard work

That's funny. I always considered the sale of someone else's talents more like caching in on their hard work. Salespeople aren't the sort that study sales methodologies through the middle of the night when they're kids. Sales is just a social skill that allows you to capitalize on the productivity of others.

Re:It doesn't work (0, Flamebait)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 3 years ago | (#36343722)

if you change a sales person's salary to the same as engineers they're change into engineers pretty quickly

Please tell me where you work and what you produce.

I've already broken my bargepole and burnt the pieces, just in case I ever get tempted to touch anything with it that you made.

Trusted Advisors (5, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | more than 3 years ago | (#36343738)

If this fellows customers get wind of their "trusted advisors" getting kickbacks for making sales, they'll be a lot less trusted.

If the OP wishes to compensate his engineers for their time, that's all well and good. But they need to be compensated whether they make a sale or not. Anything less is a conflict of interest for an engineer who is used to operating based on facts.

Re:It doesn't work (4, Funny)

Have Brain Will Rent (1031664) | more than 3 years ago | (#36343878)

if you change a sales person's salary to the same as engineers they're change into engineers pretty quickly

Wow! Just think, we can completely eliminate engineering schools - just capture sales guys, stick them in a cubicle, pay them a crappy salary and bazinga - engineers!

Shoot most of the sales team (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36343466)

Use the last 10-20% of them to screen for people that will be actually interested in your product so the tech staff time isn't wasted.

Translation Time! (5, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 3 years ago | (#36343474)

I'm going to paraphrase your submission. I apologize ahead of time for being a blunt sarcastic asshole but this should be an indicator to you that I'm one of your "trusted technical people" that will tell the customer the true PROS and CONS of everything even when it means my company takes a fiscal loss.

I work for an IT consulting firm and recently I've been tasked with heading up our engineering consulting team — which without the fancy corporate speak means that we're trying to empower our engineering team to think a little like sales people instead of being purely service orientated.

Translation: We're asking our developers to wear more and more hats and now we're asking them to sell the product because our customer listens to them.

To clarify, our technical people are viewed by our customers as trusted advisors and when they see a opportunity for a complementary sale/network refresh/project they often involve our sales team, however when the customer sees the sales people, they always clam up because they're 'sales people' and customers think they are just interested in alleviating them of their money!

Translation: I hate it when my customer is smart. They're supposed to be stupid and buy whatever we tell them to. Now I've realized that prior deals have built cracks in the trust between our sales team and them so now we have to try to leverage our technical team as salesmen. Sure, it will destroy their credibility after a few deals but we have to make every bit of profit off our customer until we don't have any.

I'm interested in what the Slashdot community thinks of how we should remunerate engineering teams for this 'sales' work (which would cost us commission to sales people anyway) but in a way that doesn't foster any animosity between sales and tech staff because in the end sales people live and die on commission.

Translation: There seems to be some credibility we can capitalize on yet, what's the fastest way to do that?

Has anyone worked in this environment anywhere and what works/doesn't work in your experience?

Your technical team is doing you a favor and they sound like they're managing to stay technical. The phrase "technically correct" might seem foreign to you as you're probably used to dealing with "fiscally correct" more often than not.

My suggestion is to leave your technical team intact and trusted by your customer and don't try to turn your entire company into a sales team like Microsoft. Here's a helpful hint: your technical team will inadvertently become your sales team when what you are leading them to do for your customer is truly innovative and inventive and maybe even a little bit risky. Don't ask how you can turn your technical people into salesmen, ask how you can change yourself and your company's vision so your technical people can't help but logically be salesmen. If your technical team starts sounding like salesmen, your customer will simply stop listening to them and trusting them. You practically answer your own question and would come to the same conclusions were it not for profit margin motivations!

Re:Translation Time! (1)

yuhong (1378501) | more than 3 years ago | (#36343534)

Yea, what do you mean by "thinking like sales people"? FYI, when I read about sales people being money motivated, I knew something was fundamentally flawed.

Re:Translation Time! (5, Insightful)

Seumas (6865) | more than 3 years ago | (#36343544)

What they should do is find out why their sales guys have no credibility and aren't trusted. Chances are, it's because they're like a lot of sales people that end up pissing engineering people off. What they're doing here is saying "our sales guys are fucking us over, so how can we not blame our sales guys while making our engineers pick up the slack?".

Chances are, the sales guys are the typical "promise the customer all sorts of shit and let the engineers be the ones to uncomfortably explain six months down the road that the product doesn't do seven of the forty two things that the sales person claimed it did".

Re:Translation Time! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36343720)

Chances are, the sales guys are the typical "promise the customer all sorts of shit and let the engineers be the ones to uncomfortably explain six months down the road that the product doesn't do seven of the forty two things that the sales person claimed it did".

Yeah, and God forbid the sales people should have to deal with their own messes. Amazing how quick that selective amnesia kicks in after they collect that commission check.

Re:Translation Time! (1)

sgt scrub (869860) | more than 3 years ago | (#36343578)

I'm confused why this response isn't +5 informative yet.

Re:Translation Time! (1)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 3 years ago | (#36343660)

...too many offended 'non-technical' types.

The fact that these technical folks are not acting like salesmen is precisely why they are trusted. You will crassly exploit that trust only at your own peril.

Original Poster's sales team sucks bigtime. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36343680)

I'm confused why this response isn't +5 informative yet.

Yeah, and there's no reason to read anything else other than this thread.

If the sales people were actually doing their jobs, there wouldn't be a need for this "question". The best business sales people are experts in their field - yes, they would understand the engineering part even they weren't trained in that area.

The original poster needs to stop hiring ex: car (new and used), consumer electronics, insurance or any type of financial service for that matter, telco, real estate, and every other type of "slash and burn" sales people.

Nobody begrudges honest and informed sales people. It's only the crooks that folks hate.

Re:Original Poster's sales team sucks bigtime. (1)

DF5JT (589002) | more than 3 years ago | (#36344032)

<quote>Nobody begrudges honest and informed sales people. It's only the crooks that folks hate.</quote>

Amen, brother, amen.

I like to think of myself as honest and informed and funnily enough I spend quite some time talking to customers, trying to convince them that I am more interested in actually helping them with a problem than just making a sale that in the long term will actually hurt my income.

Re:Translation Time! (3, Insightful)

Co0Ps (1539395) | more than 3 years ago | (#36343870)

Sorry, I understand what you're saying and why, but you're wrong on so many levels. I'm an experienced programmer/software architect and entrepreneur. Sales is a vital part of a company and I'm sorry that many technical people appreciate that more. They have an incredibly difficult task - selling is not about "telling people what they need", what sales actually do is to create buyers and this is incredibly complex stuff that requires understanding of decision making, the potential customer (their needs, pain and organization) and the technical details of the product or service you offer.

...but this should be an indicator to you that I'm one of your "trusted technical people" that will tell the customer the true PROS and CONS of everything even when it means my company takes a fiscal loss.

A good sales person wouldn't risk loosing credibility by withholding critical information or lying. This is not what sales people do. You need to understand that making a deal is not about presenting the features and non-features of your product/service and waiting for him to say "yes" or "no". Decision making is much, much more complex than that, especially in large deals.

In a well functioning company sales and development work closely together as they both have crucial information that the other department needs. The salespeople usually have in-depth market knowledge like not yet addressed customer pain/requirements that the developers could utilize to improve the product/service and thereby sales. You need to understand that the goal of the company is to sell more and the better the developers understands sales and their situation (the tighter they are connected) the better they can understand the selling process and the potential clients and thereby improve sales. Likewise - if sales can understand the technical details of the product better - they address the needs of the potential clients better in the vision they give them of the solution - increasing sales.

Re:Translation Time! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36343928)

See my read on this was

"Dear Slashdot, our sales team sucks and thinks the way to keep and retain customers is to lie to them or promise them things that are completely impossible, or is just generally technically incompetent. As a result our engineering team is now taking on the sales teams role for them. How can we make our engineering team more like our sales team."

The solution is simple, implement whatever brain dead recruitment strategy you used for your sales team for your engineering team. Then your engineering team will be just as foolish as your sales team.

If you actually want to make more sales fire your head of sales, they are doing a crap job. In order to sell something and get customers to keep coming back (and not just make a quick buck) you need to have a decent understanding of what you are selling and be honest about your product. Sales people in the technical field don't need to be wonder engineers, or even good engineers, but they need to be competent engineers who are good or excellent at sales (that is providing your customers with as much information as possible, with an emphasis on why buying your product is good for them). From the sounds of things your sales team are either a bunch of liars, or a bunch of morons.

Value Added Advice (3, Insightful)

hinesbrad (1923872) | more than 3 years ago | (#36343476)

Sales comes from a genuine need. Your perspective clearly indicates you think this is product pushing - and value added sales isn't product pushing. If your customer needs an external hard drive RAID array for backups of mission critical data, would benefit from a hosted solution, or would obtain other value from a software upgrade, SELL IT. Your salary doesn't fall from the sky. It takes a team of people bringing customers in and generating revenue to pay you. You should share in the challenge of keeping the enterprise afloat if you expect to be compensated for what you do.

Alleviating people from their money (4, Insightful)

Sgs-Cruz (526085) | more than 3 years ago | (#36343486)

So you want your engineers to stop acting purely as trusted advisors, and start thinking more about how they might push your own companies products. That seems like a good way to have your clients stop trusting your engineers. If your product is the best for the job, they should already be advising the clients to use it.

I mean, it's a tough economy, you gotta do what you gotta do. But still, I'm not sure you're going to get a lot of good advice on here.

Sales weinies are better paid than engineers? (1)

RNLockwood (224353) | more than 3 years ago | (#36343496)

At least senior engineers? And they have less education and get free lunches, drinks, and travel, too? I'm aghast! The world turned upside down!

Re:Sales weinies are better paid than engineers? (3, Insightful)

Seumas (6865) | more than 3 years ago | (#36343574)

You notice that engineers are never the ones being sent by the company on a two week annual retreat to a tropical resort to celebrate and reward having done their job while the sales guys put in weeks of extra long days, nights, and weekends to make important milestones.

Effective performance measurement is qualitative. (1)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 3 years ago | (#36343508)

The most effective way to incentivize your employees is to have good management which is capable of recognizing not only quantitative contributions to the bottom line, but qualitative contributions, and who consistently rewards such contributions - ideally with a relatively short feedback loop. Companies where the employees can trust management to treat them fairly find the employees pretty well motivated.

Regrettably, many companies don't meet the prerequisite of having good management, so the point may be moot, but when you make something a numbers game, people have a tendency to chase the set of numbers you pick, rather than actually improving the health of the company.

Also of note: stock options work okay, if the company is small enough.

Use engineers for sales (4, Insightful)

SydShamino (547793) | more than 3 years ago | (#36343516)

Our entire sales staff consists of engineers. You know the type - got good grades in college, yes, but the social type of engineer, not the introverted perfectionists.

It seems to work. Yes they work on commission, but customers don't see them as know-nothing idiots. They all worked their way to a sales position by going through application support, so every one of them has the ability to help the customers troubleshoot problems, figure out solutions to new applications, and competently demo equipment.

It sounds like your company probably hired extroverted non-technical people for sales and introverted, detail-oriented people for R&D. Now it wants to take those R&D engineers and turn them into half sales people. That's going to fail. Hire the right people from the start and you'll find success.

If you insist on putting the wrong type of people in sales support roles, make sure there is a technically competent person to interface for them. A technical business analyst / technical marketing person can keep your non-social engineers from interacting directly with customers for the social feel-good stuff while allowing communication to flow unhindered for technical matters.

This spells disaster. (3, Interesting)

MrEricSir (398214) | more than 3 years ago | (#36343518)

Ok, let's say that by some piece of luck your engineers become sales people. Good sales people, even.

Now they look around and realize something -- they don't need you. In fact, they don't need anyone else, because they can do the R&D *and* the sales.

If they don't have the power to fire all of you, they certainly have the power to take your customer list and leave to start their own company.

You need to form a team of these guys. (5, Insightful)

naz404 (1282810) | more than 3 years ago | (#36343538)

You need to form a team of these guys. They're called Sales Engineers [wikipedia.org] . They're hybrids who are extremely technical and knowledgable people who are part of the sales teams.

They often come from engineering backgrounds and cross over to the sales team and are hybrids of the two critters you are discussing.

Maybe you can ask management to tack on "sales engineer" to the titles of some of your engineering guys and have them actively help out in sales (and get appropriately compensated). Their roles are extremely important as sometimes sales/marketing only people are not equipped to handle extremely technical questions about tech products and software solutions.

Re:You need to form a team of these guys. (1)

Jon_E (148226) | more than 3 years ago | (#36343988)

Of course .. Because every office needs a Tom Smykowski [imdb.com]

Re:You need to form a team of these guys. (1)

bogaboga (793279) | more than 3 years ago | (#36343996)

The trouble is they might have to fire some of them. Some folks are just not good at selling. They need to hire sales men with an atttude like that of a used car salesman.

These salesmen employ tricks like lowballing, timing and cheap financing etc.

Re:You need to form a team of these guys. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36344028)

I'm remaining AC for a reason (I have co-workers who read Slashdot). Currently, I work for an IT MSP (Managed Service Provider) that requires us field Server/Desktop admins to also sale software and hardware. There's also large-scale projects that require a more in-depth presentation to the client. This is where things start to fall apart. In the past, we've had great sales people work for our company. I say "great" because they have the people skills. But they're not technical. Often, the would sale the wrong solution or product that would often put us admins between a rock and a hard place. The deal is sealed and committed, we must now make it work.

So here we are. Engineering providing admin services for our clients, and sales people providing pro-active solutions and keeping customers in compliance. When any of the two have a discussion, important things get lost in translation. What we need are Sales Engineers. If there was ever a textbook example of when they're needed in IT, it's within an MSP.

Small Referral Bonuses (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36343540)

I think the best way to do this is to give the tech people a small commission of whatever by referral. For example, they find a customer that needs this upgrade or this piece of equipment that you offer, the tech person turns in a referral and a percentage of the sale goes to them. The sales people still are the point of contacts for the customers when managing the deal so they receive the larger commission. I think the partnership works well like this, or get your engineers to be "Sales Engineers" which would understand all of the technology and can relate to customer's true needs without being smooth talking and give off a sleezy talk you out of your money type vibe. These individuals can be kind of a bridge between the sales and the engineering team. As long as you keep the commission to the engineering team worthwhile, and don't take too much from the sales people, everything should be fine. The sales people won't get as much money, but they would be hard pressed to make those sales if the engineers weren't there working with the customers showing them technically this is how this works and doing this would be helpful to your business etc etc. Some commission is always better than none, and to satisfy the sales people's money grubbing needs, they still get the larger part of the commission.

The only incentive that I need... (2)

Deorus (811828) | more than 3 years ago | (#36343552)

Is to be allowed to work with the technologies that I want and implement all the features that I deem necessary. In essence, GET THE FUCK OUT OF MY WAY, allow me to ENJOY DOING MY JOB and I'll make it epic! There's only so much money can buy!

Re:The only incentive that I need... (1)

pandrijeczko (588093) | more than 3 years ago | (#36343652)

Beautifully put, sir!

And nothing makes me chew and spit out a salesman more than the classic "...but the customer is spending $1,000,000 with us so I need it this week rather than next week like you promised."

This is the point at which I inform the salesman that I can no longer work on his project as he has just personally insulted me by accusing me of not already working at full speed to get the thing working because, in his words, my work speed is directly proportional to the amount of money the customer is spending with us - I then just put the phone down or walk away... and just wait no more than an hour for him to come back crawling with an apology.

it's a good way (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36343556)

...to get rid of your engineers.

When the engineers start feeling like sales people they feel dirty inside - they're not used to lying to the customer like sales are - they just want to deliver a good service.

When they realize you're pushing them towards sales they'll leave.

All the big boys do it (2)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 3 years ago | (#36343572)

All of the big technical companies like HP, IBM, etc do what you are talking about, it's often referred to as "pre-sales technical engineering." It usually consists of engineers who have some development/support duties but are also made available to sales staff to bring in to their clients when the clients have a need but aren't necessarily sure as to what exactly are the technical solutions to that need.

For the most part those guys are salaried, just like all of the other engineers. I bet they get more bonuses though and I am also sure that different corps handle their compensation differently, there probably are some who get commission too. But, in the long-run paying them commission would probably undermine the customer's trust in their impartiality.

Contrary opinion... (2)

rlanctot (310750) | more than 3 years ago | (#36343588)

It seems to me this is entirely backwards to where you want to go. You want to give your sales staff the cachet that your IT people have, so you want to turn your IT people into salespeople when what you should be really doing is making the salespeople more like the IT guys. It's like trying to make firemen into lawyers. Sure you can, but why in the hell would you want to?

Technical Manual In My Cold Dead Hands!!! (0)

pandrijeczko (588093) | more than 3 years ago | (#36343594)

"I work for an IT consulting firm and recently I've been tasked with heading up our engineering consulting team — which without the fancy corporate speak means that we're trying to empower our engineering team to think a little like sales people instead of being purely service orientated.

I'll make a deal with you - when I find a bunch of loudmouthed "geezers" in loud suits who are prepared to listen to my "made as simple as possible for the sales mind" technical explanations as to why what they've sold/promised to the customer WON'T FUCKING WORK, rather than caring more about how big an expense lunch they can have that day, then I'll sit down and learn something from them.

BTW, do you own the latest and most expensive MacBook by any chance?

Re:Technical Manual In My Cold Dead Hands!!! (0)

DF5JT (589002) | more than 3 years ago | (#36343958)

It's that kind of attitude among a very small percentage among technical guys that in the past made me furious. Today, I have nothing left but a knowing smile, making sure these people never get into contact with my customers before there is a signed contract.

People skills make money. Technical skills make products, which need to be sold and *may* make money, provided you have someone to sell them.

BTW, as head of sales my notebook is a Thinkpad running Linux. However, I drive a black company Audi, which in you eyes probably qualifies enough to be put into the "stupid sales droid" drawer.

Oh well...

HP, IBM, etc. are bad comparisons here (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36343598)

The poster said this was an I.T. "Consulting" firm. Typically such firms don't have engineers in the back room working on future products, at least not in the same sense that IBM and HP and Oracle do. So to give a good answer we need to know more about how this company is organized and what it means to be an "engineer" at a consulting firm - most consulting firms don't have such positions. Bottom line, the question is a bit weird.

Equal work = equal pay (1)

aaronb1138 (2035478) | more than 3 years ago | (#36343604)

Give the engineers the same cut the sales people get for one time sales. Structure the procedure such that any ongoing or contract sales for services get coordinated with a sales rep to handle the details (after the initial sale is made) and give a split cut between the sales staffer and the engineer (based on time investment).

Also, if this is the kind of sales you are doing, maybe you should look into making your sales people come off more like engineers. Get them some experience with technical matters and some training. It will also help insure they are asking the right questions and getting the right details and most importantly, budgeting properly for projects when sending tasks out to engineers.

If people clam up around their sales reps it's because they put off the slick salesman vibe. Get rid of that. The only people who like that vibe are hip-hop aficionados, drunk guys at the strip club and MBAs. Outside of the whole MBA to MBA community, real people don't like doing business with people like that.

Being at a managed hosting company, I've noticed using the title Account Manager as well as endowing them with the responsibilities of that title reduces the slick sell everything attitude. Your sales people should be focused on long term relationships and the residuals from that powering their paycheck.

Dilbert potential (4, Insightful)

hubie (108345) | more than 3 years ago | (#36343612)

This sounds like it has potential for Scott Adams to get a good number of strips out of this.

If your compensation rests purely on sales... (1)

jameslore (219771) | more than 3 years ago | (#36343614)

So your customers think salespeople are there only to sell them things they may not need, and your sales people live and die by commission?

Surely there's your problem.

If you're paying for sales, surely whoever makes the sale should make the money. And if you're paying people to sell, who then cannot sell because they have no neutrality, why not rethink your compensation structure?

Re:If your compensation rests purely on sales... (3, Informative)

paiute (550198) | more than 3 years ago | (#36343858)

So your customers think salespeople are there only to sell them things they may not need, and your sales people live and die by commission?

Surely there's your problem.

If you're paying for sales, surely whoever makes the sale should make the money. And if you're paying people to sell, who then cannot sell because they have no neutrality, why not rethink your compensation structure?

Making salespeople live by commissions is an outdated business model. It makes savvy customers react just the way described. Is this guy looking out for my interests or his bank account?

You don't want your company lumped in with car salesmen in customer's heads.

Sounds like you guys need sales engineers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36343620)

At my company we have a small group inside sales that is called 'Sales Engineers'. These are a technical group of sales people who get a cut of the commission for sales they are involved in. Their primary job function includes setting up customer specific demos and providing pre-sale technical support. They speak technical talk and are a good way to keep your engineering department focused on making products. Putting your Engineering resources into sales can be a HUGE time drain on the engineering department.

It is called a Sales Enginner (3, Interesting)

Rantastic (583764) | more than 3 years ago | (#36343622)

...or sometimes a Solution Architect.

Most big tech companies (think SAP, Oracle, IBM, Red Hat) have a specific role for this. It is someone who could be an engineer but is specifically assigned to the sales process. Once the sales person has found the lead, the SE works with the customer to identify their needs and how best to meet them with the company's products. The sales person writes the deal and handles all the "sales" stuff.

Oh, and the SE gets a set percentage of the commission.

Re:It is called a Sales Enginner (1)

lennier1 (264730) | more than 3 years ago | (#36343678)

Sales people who actually know what the fuck they're talking about???

Re:It is called a Sales Enginner (1)

Wintermancer (134128) | more than 3 years ago | (#36343790)

Don't laugh. The company I currently work for is filled with Sales Engineers, most who have Engineering degrees and professional designations (P.Eng in Canada, P.E. in the US, etc.)

If selling product was the core focus of the company, our sales force would be nothing more than a bunch of trained monkeys with product catalogs, whereas our trained monkeys can solve differential equations as well.

It's a good role. They have the engineering know-how to solve problems, understand issues that the customer is facing, and have good social skills. They are also compensated very well.

Not every Engineer has dreams of being a desk jockey, you know.

Re:It is called a Sales Enginner (1)

AngryDeuce (2205124) | more than 3 years ago | (#36343792)

Sales people who actually know what the fuck they're talking about???

Someone call Audobon, it must be a new species...

Company and Product Quality! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36343624)

If your company is selling a product that can't be backed by the foundations of its engineering and technical capability, and requires 'sales techniques' and the prospect of 'alleviating people from their money', your problem isn't compensation and delineation between the sales and tech people. It's that your management doesn't care about building a long-term customer base and is only looking to make sure the next quarter looks good.

If you're planning on making this job a long-term relationship, either point this out to the appropriate ladder rungs and make your concerns heard, or get the hell out of their look for a company that has some respectability.

They're called "sales engineers" (2)

bwcbwc (601780) | more than 3 years ago | (#36343640)

And they used to exist in a lot of industrial marketing lines. A good idea that got chopped by short-term management philosophies directed toward wall street performance. Basically, it's an engineer that promotes sales of the product by facilitating its use, suggesting good applications, etc.

As far as compensating? They are part of the sales staff. Maybe geared more towards salary and less toward commission, because their role is more directed toward long-term market growth than the main sales force, but yes they should be compensated for scoring the big deals too.

Perhaps? (4, Interesting)

Swaziboy (1457667) | more than 3 years ago | (#36343656)

In an attempt to actually answer the extremely good question as opposed to some of the perfectly good personal opinions: As some of the comments have alluded to you are referring to Pre-sales Engineers who are this lovely breed of technically savvy, personable (mostly) and engaging characters who can articulate a technical message, marry it to a business requirement/message and do it convincingly. I have been working in this capacity for 6+ years now and have been through many iterations of compensation, some of which were better than others. They were: 1. Per-sale based compensation - not so good as you're eating into the sales person's comp, and they don't like it. It also incentivises you to act more and more like a sales person. Not so good either. 2. Qualified pre-sales visits compensation - generally "how many pre-sales calls did you make". The goal is to measure the ability to generate new business. Not so good, as it's very difficult to quantify and track, and the general pattern of behaviour is to just have stacks of meetings without providing any quality. 3. Quarterly/Annual Revenue based - this has been the most successful in my experience. Success is measured on overall revenue generation of the sales organization (of which this kind of person is a part of) rather than individual sales based commission. Commission is generally a fixed amount per-quarter based on attaining revenue figures or % growth thereof over previous years/periods. This is good as it tends to remove the person a step or two back from chasing individual sales, and then bickering over the commission for each one. The fixed comission amount (say 15% of gross annually or something) coupled with the quarterly revenue targets creates a more team based focus for everyone to assist in the success of the venture. As for the trusted advisor vs. sales debate - the sad truth is that no matter who you are, if you're asked to sell a single product/suite (instead of solutions) you're going to lose a little bit of your trusted advisor status as you're only pushing that single product rather than considering the larger picture/industry solutions. I hope this helps, PM me if you'd like to discuss further as I have had exposure to a fair bit of this type of situation and may (or may not!) shed some light to help you come up with something that works for your company.

apologies (1)

Swaziboy (1457667) | more than 3 years ago | (#36343662)

for some reason all my formatting died in the posting - that should read a lot easier :(

Tech Commission in the Copier Industry (1)

Symnron (1533857) | more than 3 years ago | (#36343668)

I don't know how it works all over but I work for a copier sales and repair company. When a service tech sees an opportunity for a sale they discuss it with the customer then tell them that they will pass on the lead to the sales rep. After that they write up a lead sheet and give it to the appropriate sales rep. If there is a sale from the generated lead within 60 days then the tech gets a commission in the range of 25 to 150 dollars per machine sold depending on the cost of the machine. The techs also get a commission on selling professional IT services time blocks at a rate of 8% for new IT services customers and 4% for renewals. As a tech myself I find it gives me an incentive to keep my eyes and ears open for potential sales leads. Get Moose and Squirrel! Ray Moore Analyst/Technician Premier Office Equipment Marshalltown, IA

Money (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36343674)

Thinking outside the box, give them a bonus?

Compensate them on delivery of what was committed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36343690)

Don't compromise them with the sale itself, which would create a bias and hurt their ethics.
Compensate them on the product being delivered as promised to the spec.

So, will they still be doing engineering? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36343698)

One of the big problems is that you're adding work to your engineering staff without staffing up for it. The real engineers will dodge the sales role, and other may step up and become application or sales engineers. I'd develop the exact skills you need and not dilute your engineering resource by loading non-engineering tasks on them. If they currently help, you might want to figure out how much that's costing you in opportunity cost as well.

You want your customers to trust nobody? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36343700)

our technical people are viewed by our customers as trusted advisors and when they see a opportunity for a complementary sale/network refresh/project they often involve our sales team, however when the customer sees the sales people, they always clam up because they're 'sales people'

So you want your customers not to trust either of them? It sounds like they'll eventually develop the same distaste for all of your employees that have customer relations. The reason they are viewed as trusted advisors is because they don't think like sales people, but you're trying to make them do exactly that, it sounds like.

This is the ONLY compensation I need... (3, Interesting)

pandrijeczko (588093) | more than 3 years ago | (#36343726)

...merely to see that look on your once-smug face when you wrap that commission-funded Porsche of yours round the nearest lamp-post after one too many bottles of Pinot Grigot at your expenses-funded lunches.

Here's how it should work:

1. You tell me what you need and when you need it by.

2. I laugh in your face and tell you what you really need and when you can have it by.

3. You get two phone calls or two emails to me between now and the deadline to ask me "How's it going?" Any more than that and I get 10% of your commission for each additional call or email over the limit.

4. You are a salesman, you deal with persuasion and lies. I am a techician, I deal with reality and fact. So don't try to get all technical on me because you read 5 pages of the product manual.

5. When it's ready, I will call you and you can have it. It will leave my lab working but if it's broke when it gets to site, you lose 10% of your commission immediately plus 10% for each 4-hour period I have to spend on making it work again.

That's it. Simple.

Re:This is the ONLY compensation I need... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36343856)

Hold up. So "how it should work" includes salespeople who try to dictate your time estimates, lie to customers, and are incapable of absorbing technical material?

What a sad place you must work in, that you think that's as good as it gets.

Having done this before, it is possible (2)

mzito (5482) | more than 3 years ago | (#36343732)

In a former life, I ran the technical sales organization for a company I started with some friends, and later sold to a much larger organization. So I've seen a couple of different models for how to do this.

The first question is - how are your sales people currently compensated? If they're compensated with a straight percentage commission, or something similar like a sliding percentage based on quota achievement, then the easiest thing to do is to also give your consulting engineers a straight commission on add-on deals that they are involved in. That percentage is typically a fraction of what the sales person makes - for example, if your sales people get 10% commission, then the technical presales folks get between 1-3%. It's critical to understand that the sales person also needs to get their commission, and the SE/presales guy is getting his cut almost like a bonus for bringing the opportunity to the sales person's attention.

This can get tricky, though, because what happens if you have multiple engineers working on one account? You can't very well pay every presales guy who touches every account 1-3%, as your margins will go to hell. In those cases, if you want to keep doing straight percentage, you need to divide it up account by account as opportunities roll in.

The other way to handle that situation is to have revenue targets, and to pay people a bonus based on their achievment, along with a personal target. So, perhaps across all the engineers, they have a target to generate $1m in revenue worth of add-on business in a quarter. If they get that target, each engineer gets $10k as a bonus, plus a variable amount based on their personal contributions. This can cause hard feelings sometimes because it involves passing judgement on people's contributions, but may be more sustainable, and also helps align the presales person with the overall goals.

Which brings me to the last point - impartiality. It's true that sales people are often incentivized to sell things that the customer doesn't need, or at inflated prices, because of their commission structure. However, engineers tend not to think that way, partially because as a percentage of their income, commission represents a dramatically lower amount compared to a sales person, and partially because they understand that if they help sell something the customer really doesn't need, they're going to be the ones who have to implement it or help fix the situation once it's screwed up. Also, if you set the revenue targets to be communal, it helps encourage people to think about the business as a whole, instead of closing one gigantic deal.

Hope this helps.

Sales people (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36343742)

in the end sales people live and die on commission

And you wonder why your customers don't like your sales people?

Instead of trying to work around a problem, why not solve it. Pay your sales people properly, and they might start listening to customers instead of trying to make every sale they can (without the customers interests in mind).

When we have customers approach us, we set them up with a technologist: they gather all the details from what the customer needs without trying to sell them anything. the technologist hands the details off to a sales person, who themselves MUST be familiar with the products/services the company sells, who contacts the customer with some ideas of what might help them.

Commissions are for people who don't know the value of what they're selling.

Uh... (1)

AngryDeuce (2205124) | more than 3 years ago | (#36343768)

Maybe you should find some less sleazy salesmen. It IS possible to sell a product or service that genuinely helps a client without coming across like a corporate shill. If your salespeople are pushing product like a Bestbuy employee stalking the TV department trying to sell replacement plans, you've found your problem...

Of course, you may not sell as much, and we all know that's the real bottom line...

Approach is everything (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36343770)

Consultants will talk about hunting verses farming. Software companies talk about inside verses outside sales. Executives will talk about synergistic commission plans.

What does it all boil down to at the end of day. Create metrics, Measure metrics reward desired behavior.

Do not make bad assumptions - Good Engineers do not always make Good Salesmen. Client satisfaction is an important metric as well. Maybe upgrading your sales team would be a better approach rather than trying to get your delivery team to do sales.

So, to sum up... (1)

Chris Mattern (191822) | more than 3 years ago | (#36343772)

..."Our customers trust our technical people because they aren't part of sales. How can we change that?"

A couple points I'd like to make, hope they help (1)

Rinnon (1474161) | more than 3 years ago | (#36343796)

Some people will tell you the simplest answer is don't push your technical staff to be sales people, and there is some merit to this. I've worked in a lot of different "technical" environments, and I could count the number of technical support or engineering staff that "liked" sales on a single hand. But business is business, and if you can make more money, that only ensures their jobs stay secure. Engineers may not recognize this as a valid argument though. They will counter with "us being able to do our jobs without having to sell also keeps this company afloat." They are of course correct, if you didn't need them for the job they are doing... you wouldn't have hired them. So, burdening them with extra responsibilities can have detrimental effects. The last job I worked at had a sales quota for every member of it's technical staff. The staff despised this, despite the fact that the commission they were paid was identical to what the sales staff were paid. Many engineers will strongly dislike sales... so IMO putting a quota on your engineering staff would be a HUGE mistake. That being said, it'd definitely worth giving the engineering staff the tools an incentives to make sales, without making it a requirement. Then you can have the best of both worlds: Engineering making sales, without destroying morale that comes with forcing sales.

So on to how to actually implement it. First off there is nothing worse than there being discrepancy between commission in two departments, assuming the entire sale can be processed by each department of their own accord. If an engineering staff signs up a customer for a product, he should get the same commission the sales staff would get for it. If there was a difference, it wouldn't take long for engineering to find that out, and I promise they will not be pleased that they are getting less commission for doing the same amount of work as their sales counterparts. Having engineers be capable of placing the entire order themselves id ideal. Sales might be a little peeved that engineering can put sales through themselves... but that's like being upset they aren't being handed free sales they don't have to work for anymore. Another commenter suggested a varying commission bracket for inside sales vs outside sales, and this makes a lot of sense to me too.

Now, if engineering is not capable of putting a sale through themselves, and it HAS to be sent to a sales rep... you have a problem. There isn't going to be any one way to do this perfectly. If an engineer sends a "sale" down to sales to be completed, how do you compensate each member appropriately? Well, if you try to split the commission 50/50 you're going to have situations where an engineer says he "sold" a product, and a sales staff says the customer got down and asked 30 minutes more worth of questions, and so he didn't put the engineering staff's name on the sale. This will be common, and it will be a headache. It's also terrible for morale, as THIS is exactly what would create animosity, so that's no good. The other option, which will not disrupt morale or create animosity but will cost you more money, is to have the sales staff put the engineering staff's name on a sale... and give the engineering staff 50% of what you gave the sales staff. Sales is not going to be upset about putting the engineering staff name on now since they get all the commission they were going to get anyways, and the engineering staff will hopefully understand that "closing the sale" part can be tricky and it's worth the extra commission. This has some of it's own problems too though. It leaves the possibility for fraud open a little too easily. If an engineer and a sales staff get friendly, you might notice one of your engineers is pass a LOT of sales down to a specific sales team member.

So, in closing, here is (IMO) the best way to handle it:

Do not have sales quota on your Engineering staff.

Give your engineering staff the tools to fully place an order themselves.

Allow engineering to defer a sale to the sales team if they wish (at the cost of their commission)

Give some kind of brief training on how to put through the sales into the system.

Have equal commission for the sale of a given product between departments.

Consider tiering commission based on Inside vs Outside sales.

In this way, you should be able to avoid animosity between sales and engineering. You should also be able to encourage engineering to make sales, without them feeling like you are adding a new role to their most likely already very full plate.

Perhaps a bad idea (1)

atari2600a (1892574) | more than 3 years ago | (#36343798)

Once they learn the slease of the businessman they have the option of going rogue & making much more money on their own terms. Just starting up a servicing business here in CA & I have to say, the assholinness of pushing "system optimization" for another $50 is the hardest part.

That's what she said (1)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 3 years ago | (#36343804)

Hmm, I had no idea that Michael Scott was a slashdotter.

Non Commission Rewards (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36343816)

Don't treat engineers like salesmen. Engineers might look down their nose at the "charlatans", but they can be just like them if their pay depends on it. Instead go for less monetary benefits, like a 3-day weekend. Engineers hate sitting idle and much of their work is thinking, so as long as they can connect from home, you might even get some work done, (and even if they get work done over the weekend, the engineers will still enjoy the freedom). Quaterly sales bonuses based on their pay-grade rather then % of sale, (engineers like to think analytically, and so this will automatically make sense; just make sure you also have performance bonuses, as well, so they will work just as hard at their main job). A paid 3-or-4 day trip could do wonders, to visit family, maybe someplace tropical... maybe a convention... some place to get away.

Another solution would be to get that fancy new piece of equipment they've been asking about, but you can't justify in the normal budget. Maybe even a couple couches in an empty cubical.

Compensating Sales People for NOT contributing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36343820)

What about Compensating Sales People for NOT contributing to Technical work?. I've had so many problems with Sales guys telling the development staff how things should be done without regard to the entire project itself. The sales guys oversell (lie) to a customer and then it's up the the development staff to fix their obligation.

Profit sharing (1)

DaveGod (703167) | more than 3 years ago | (#36343824)

Rather than sales I'd suggest some kind of participation in profits. Perhaps x% of profit above $x is divvied up amongst staff in proportion to their salaries + commission for the year.

It should be clear to engineering staff that when they "make a sale" it's appreciated and noted, a slight nudge forward to promotion maybe, but I really don't think it should be a focus for them.

Trust with customers is important, particularly for repeat business. Your engineers have it, your sales staff do not, and your response is to make your engineering staff like your sales staff?

Agree on a cut-off date (1)

bazorg (911295) | more than 3 years ago | (#36343826)

Try thinking about where do your salespeople's work ends and when should other client-facing people be the main interface between client and company. Agree on a deadline and ensure the client relationship is "owned" in a way that complies with that deadline. I think it's important to ensure that commission is paid a fairly long time after the actual contract signature, so that salespeople are kept honest. On the other hand, I think it's important that account managers and support are given sales targets to keep them aligned with the needs of the business.

I have worked in companies where the first sale is handled by a specific team, who hands over the client to support and account managers, who will take all the commission thereafter. As long as the deadline is clear for everyone involved and the commissions are based on margin, people can live with this kind of agreement without losing sight of the long term goals of the company.

Some engineers can make great salesmen. (2)

greatica (1586137) | more than 3 years ago | (#36343828)

When I call my major vendors, I have a single main sales contact. This person is usually pretty darn smart about what people need and want. When we get to some details that he/she can't answer, they set up a conference with a technical lead (who may or may not also be in sales). While this conference occurs, I can tell that the primary salesman is taking hardcore notes and prepping up so he doesn't have to waste the engineer's time again on this particular subject. I've watched a good amount of these salespeople learn and grow until they no longer need to consult with anyone else.

As a customer, a salesman's admitted lack of knowledge doesn't hurt. In fact it helps strengthen our relationship because he's not only honest, but he still has the ability to point me towards someone who does know. In contrast, I quickly drop salesmen that completely bluff with high confidence (these can lead to expensive mistakes, especially in terms of volume licensing if the vendor blows it).

During lunches and other casual chats, the really good salespeople are genuinely curious about what motivates me and what is exciting me about the direction of our company. This isn't just idle chit chat - they're boning up on their knowledge. Just last week a vendor asked me "What tech news sites do you read?" and proceeded to bust out his notepad and write them down. And some of those special sales/tech pros I talk to are actually sales people that used to be engineers, but love the interaction and incentives of sales. They weren't failed engineers. They were looking for a new challenge with a potential for higher rewards, and they were extremely well equipped to earn those rewards because of their knowledge. The age old adage of "engineers are socially awkward" doesn't always stand true.

That being said:

1. Don't touch your engineers at first. Leave them in their current positions.
2. Start by coordinating some method of training your sales team on the product - connect them with engineers for a while, or get them reading materials. Do this tactfully and lean heavily towards rewarding the engineering team. If your sales team comes off as a bunch of scavengers with no respect for engineering and only want to leech enough to make profits for themselves, your engineers will probably feed them the wrong info and laugh over it later. Prep your sales team accordingly, and reward your engineers accordingly. Engineering will be doing you a huge favor here, don't screw it up.
3. Also set up a way to bring in engineering knowledge on special sales calls. Provide some sort of incentive to engineers and/or an inter-departmental billing process for sales support (when the sales guy calls on the engineer for a conference call). This measures potential abuse of engineering's time from your sales staff and tells a story to management of why engineering projects might not be chugging along as quickly. Also allows you to measure the proficiency of your salesmen (the # of calls should decrease over time for each salesman, and you can figure out the average training time until a new salesman is effective).
4. With the metrics of #3 in hand, you should be able to gage how many full time engineers might be needed for the sales team. Meanwhile you can feel out which of your engineers enjoy this new consulting duty, and see if you can't transition them to a full time sales role (provided they aren't all senior engineers whose salaries would destroy the sales margin).
5. Once you transition any engineers over, they are now officially in the sales group as "product experts" or something of the sort. Get them out of engineering, make a clean break from their old jobs, and start providing them with the same sales incentives as others (if you already haven't been giving them a percentage for their previous consulting). They won't turn into some greedy self-serving salesmen nightmares. If they worked on the products before, they're going to trust and have faith in the product enough to be solid salesmen.
6. Treat those previous engineers nicely and reward appropriately. They will be key players in your new sales process and may even be part of your higher paid sales staff. If your junior salesmen are making all the profits while your product experts are doing all the heavy lifting, they're going to drop you quick and move back into a safe and solid engineering role.

There's a lot of room for leverage in this plan, but the gist is to get an educated sales team that believes in the product, help sales & engineering make friends, and possibly nab a few pros into your court. Certain types of engineers can really shine in this mode.

Yes (1)

PotatoHead (12771) | more than 3 years ago | (#36343832)

Yes I have, and I do.

I am currently a VP of pre-sales, which is basically the technical role you are describing. Our people do services, and help with sales.

One good comp is to give the technical folks a bonus when sales hits their number for the quarter. This can be cheaper than just comping them straight off the deal they contributed to, and it's very effective as sales will often consult with them often, on lots of deals, which is difficult to track and quantify. You don't want to discourage that behavior, because it will create the best sales and technical sales people you will ever see otherwise.

Another way is through time off, "toys", etc... Technical people often value those things differently than sales people will.

Do not take away from your sales commission to pay techs. You will discourage the team behavior that is necessary to get where you are going.

You will also find that spending that extra money, above and beyond your comp, pays off. Why? Because you can expect bigger deals, and you can expect some extra effort out of the techs, because there is money, or some material comp attached to it. Sales people will do what it takes to chase a deal, because that is how they are paid. You want your techs to do this when it matters, which is why you do the comp. Ideally, you will see some bonding with your sales and tech people, and that is worth gold. Encourage that, knowing you will lose a tech or two to sales for it, but they will be some of the best sales people there ever are, and you can get more techs mentored in anyway, where you can't always get new technical sales people.

Yes, your cost of sales will go up, but so will your deal size, and or number of closes in your pipe. Been there, done that many times.

forked tongues (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36343838)

all sales people have them and it sounds like you even have one.
Dam right all sales people want is the closeing, and they will say what they need to.

Sales Engineers or System Engineers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36343854)

I've spent a lot of time on this subject and consulting companies trying to come up with the right strategy. My approach is this - pre-sales engineers should be "Sales Engineers", even though their technical, they represent the company and should be promoting sales. I've been a pre-sales engineer for over 12 years, and make a high six-figure salary so I really enjoy what I do. I'm not interested in moving up the corporate ladder or into management. I've gone on sales calls where the account manager simply introduces me, hands his card over to the customer and says if you need pricing let me know, otherwise my SE will handle it from here. I've also gone on 12 legged sales calls to large corporations that get frustrated when the entire sales team shows up. They just want the technical details. A strong sales engineer should be extroverted enough to be a good sales person and introverted enough to do the engineering part - attributes that are very, very difficult to find, especially today it seems. Most system engineers can only see as far as the technology and technical objectives of their engagement - a sales engineer understands the technical as well as business objectives, and can spot an opportunity and approach it effectively so that the end result is sales. My last favorite sales people are "gathers" or engage in "transactional" selling and there's no shortage of them. The joke has been for years - they just sit around the fax machine and wait for an order to come in. The best account managers are the "hunters" and that still engage in "relationship" selling.
clientsvcs@gmail.com

Misunderstanding of "Sales" (3, Insightful)

DF5JT (589002) | more than 3 years ago | (#36343868)

Any salesman will be happy to share a commission with you, provided you actually sell something. However, from your description I can only see that you are reacting to a specific customer's wish to purchase something. Neither have you actively made the customer come to a decision to purchase something from your company, nor have you done anything with regard to the administrative side of sales.

In short: You have done what you are already paid to do, nothing more. Had you done anything less, you would have actively hurt the company that pays you to do your job.

I am head of sales for a software company and I expect support in sales from our engineers. That is covered by their salary. My base salary, however, is a lot less than theirs and I actually take financial risks to be compensated only when I or my sales team do well. You, on the other hand, want a commission on top of a risk-free salary and in that case I would either demand a cut in your salary if you ask for a commission, or I would tell you to be happy with what you earn.

You can't have both.

However, if you feel comfortable in dealing with a customer and if you are willing to put some effort into learning all the soft skills necessary to be a good sales rep, you will probably be an enrichment to both the sales and the technical department. Few sales people do actually understand deeply technical stuff and can rarely transport customers' technical input to the engineers.

Someone who speaks both languages is a valuable asset and I would immediately hire you and make sure you make lots of money.

Get ready to fucking fail. (3, Insightful)

CAIMLAS (41445) | more than 3 years ago | (#36343948)

Get ready to fucking fail. Your customers will start looking at your competition. Short term gains will be up, but long-term, you're fucked.

Why do you think the salesmen are mistrusted and the engineers are trusted? Ever bother thinking of that? It's probably due to salesmen lying only slightly less than politicians for their bread and butter, and engineers being about as factually oriented as you can get. Sales types are hated by engineers for this very reason: sales will commit engineers to one lie after another without second thoughts, making things difficult. It's just a lie to the salesman, but it's actually something the engineer has to perform.

Furthermore, competent 'engineers' don't need to be told to "upsell" products. They'll recommend the most technically appropriate (per their knowledge/experience/etc.) product to the customer. This is not only why they are called engineers, it's why they are trusted. If you try that to try and 'improve the bottom line' you're a fool and don't understand your customers or your employees.

Furthermore, the competent engineers will become disatisfied with falsifying things or pushing products, and look elsewhere. I've seen it happen. If they don't become dissatisfied and look elsewhere directly, they're going to start asking for larger and larger raises because they dislike the work. I've seen it happen time and time again.

On the other hand... getting rid of sales outright might improve the bottom line, as well. It really depends on what you'll be having the engineers do. (Broadly speaking your requirements do not sound that broad.) Overall, I'd say axing 'sales' is a good idea. Keep marketing, kill sales.

so you want to go from good geek squad to best buy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36343974)

so you want to go from good geek squad to best buy geek squad.

why commisions? (1)

spongman (182339) | more than 3 years ago | (#36343976)

i don't understand why sales people need commissions in order to do a good job. how about giving them stock options or bonuses just like everyone else?

surely a work force that's interested in furthering the interests of the company as a whole is better for the company than one that's only interested in their own well-being?

if you're getting a commission then you're less likely to be a team player, less likely to find innovative ways to collaborate with your colleagues, less likely to benefit the company.

sales and technical compensation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36343978)

I agree with Potatohead (12771) in the assessment of incentives to reward technical personnel for getting the sales of material. I have been in this position on both sides of the fence, and although you do want to reward technical staff for helping, the percentage of the sale can overall have other implications within the company (positive and negative). Instead, the bonuses, "toys", time off, etc are more effective, provided you make sure the technical staff know why they are getting it to encourage the sales again! Good luck!

Here's how you do it (1)

matunos (1587263) | more than 3 years ago | (#36343980)

Pay your engineers a salary, make customer consultations one of the goals and factors for career advancement and raises.

If you want to give them a percentage cut, give them shares in the company, so their incentive is to benefit the company, not just wring dollars out of customers.

Yes, it can work (1)

abhikhurana (325468) | more than 3 years ago | (#36343990)

I used to head up product and pre-sales in a company that we were trying to turn around. The way we got around the issue was that sales people had commission for each and every sale but for engineers, that was scoffed upon. So we increased the overall bonus bucket and made 30% of bonus of engineers and 50% for pre-sales engineers (Who also used to get commission for sales, but not as high as sales people) dependent on overall annual sales. The bonus was paid every 6 months so we could tweak it as we needed (e.g. if we needed a product done within tight timelines, we could dial up the engineers' bonus on hitting the timelines rather than sales).

Must say it is all easier said than done though, and it did take engineers sometime to get into the new mindset. However, once a few of them started getting bonuses and public recognition, people gradually started seeing value in that (I must admit, the first couple of times we actually paid bonuses even though the guys maybe didn't fully deserve it, but once that was done, that motivated others to do better). The most important change that happened was that when sales people asked engineers for help, they actually were willing to help, rather than considering it as a distraction as they used to do earlier.

Sales and marketing people suck (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36344008)

They have no soul left. The world IS a worse place because they exist.

It's been pushed too far. We once had just salespeople. An ok thing. Then it became sales and marketing. And it all went to shit.
These people are soulless greedy fucks.

Why the hell would any tech want to give up their soul?

Fuck you man. I like my soul. I might need it.

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