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Programmers v Salespeople

By Steve Jones,

Last year my wife moved from a sales engineering position to a sales rep job with her company. It has been a bit of a challenge, but she's enjoyed it, and it's been good for the family. On top of a small raise, she has a large potential upside to her income as a sales representative. I'm amazed how much money some of the people in her company make from selling software and services, and I sometimes wonder how it works out.

Recently I sent her this link about salespeople and commissions. It talks about the problems with commissions and the potential misunderstandings of what commissions actually do for our company. I know that some companies think paying salespeople flat rates and no commission is heresy. I know others that have transitioned to flat rates, including many retail companies, and they have continued to achieve high sales.

As we debated the benefits of paying commissions,  we argued a bit about the relative value of the positions. She asked me if everyone received a salary, who shoudl be paid more. I said that I thought it was easy to replace salespeople in a company, so developers. My wife countered with "it's easy to replace programmers." So for a Friday poll, I thought I'd ask the tech people out there.

Should salespeople make more than programmers?

You can assume a commission structure, or salaries for everyone, but when you look at the value each brings to a company, and the ways in which they can help grow business, which is more valuable? Which is easier to replace? Replacing a top performer in either place is probably hard, but what's your opinion?

I still stand by the idea that it's easier to replace salespeople. While I think selling is a skill, I think it's one more easily learned by a wider variety of the population. I think programming has a fundamental mindset that is hard to teach.

Or maybe it's a larger number of people would be more willing to spend their days trying to sell something than sitting in a cubicle writing code.

Steve Jones

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