“[Our system] has evolved,” Priest says. “We used to pay a base and a commission. Then we went to straight commission.” From there the system moved to its current form, with commission paid on gross margin. The idea, Priest says, is to compensate people for doing what you really want them to do. “I don’t want them just putting volume on the board,” he says. “I want them putting profitable volume on the board.”
Pay As You Go
Other companies too have become far more vigilant about margin requirements. “We don’t get excited about anything but profit,” says Joe Percario, owner of Percario General Contractor, a 50-year-old company in northern New Jersey. Percario GC pays the company’s four salespeople “cash in and cash out.” That is, once the “100% expedited” job clears, reps get the percentage of their commission on that portion of the job the homeowner has actually paid. So if it’s a $20,000 job and the rep collects a $4,000 deposit, he is entitled to 10% of that deposit. “He makes money just as fast as we make money,” Percario says. “Everybody’s a partner.” Among other things, he points out, this system motivates salespeople to ask for the deposit, which is something they’re sometimes hesitant to do.
Staying Hungry for Sales
Like many company owners, Kip Lee, owner of The Window Man, in Savannah, Ga., is not a fan of draws. He advises paying salespeople up front. Putting money in their pocket as soon as it’s in yours, rather than dispersing it as a series of draws, “keeps the hunters hunting” (i.e., selling), Lee says. In addition, “that way they’re not trying to manage the job to get you to install it as quickly as possible” so they can get the remainder of their commission. “You sit down with salespeople and they prove to you with photos and their estimates that they sold it at a proper price,” Lee says, then you write a check.
Lee recalls his own days as a salesperson when “mystery Friday” would arrive. Salespeople were never completely sure how much their check was going to be for, and they often ended up disappointed. Then “they burn through leads because they’re mad at the company,” Lee says.
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