An Entry from the Job Hunter's Journal

The Future of Plastics Sales? – NO MORE WILLY LOMANS

The Future of Plastics Sales? – NO MORE WILLY LOMANS

Arthur Miller’s Willy Loman in The Death Of A Salesman has always defined what is a salesperson for me, possibly because I am an engineer by training and never truely understood salespeople.  Willy Loman always worked very hard creating relationships with everyone from the receptionist to the Chief Executive Officer.  I doubt that Willy would have understood that what he really did was reduce friction in the sales process, even though he believed creating relationships was what he was all about.  Through Willy’s sales efforts, he was able to bring together people who needed whatever product  he was selling at the time with people wanting to purchase that product or something very similar.  What he really got paid to do was simply to find a buyer and seller and reduce the friction in the selling process. 

Willy would be shocked today to find out that sales relationships are not nearly as important today as they were in his era.  The flattening world and the Internet have taken much of the friction out of the sales process.  Buyers can look up the price of copper, coffee, plastic resins, paper bags, etc. on the Internet and get a very good price if not the very best price.  Getting the very best price or product value still may require some help and that is where the salesperson of today enters the fray. 

In my capacity as a Third Party Recruiter for the Plastics Industry, I have several clients who are looking to sell plastic bags, plastic resins, plastic colorants, etc.  The companies are all struggling to find the salespeople they need.  Part of the reason for the paucity of sales candidates is money.  If you are not a salesperson, you must understand that money is very, very important to salespeople.  Salespeople often depend on money to help establish their self worth.  Taking a new sales position with less base pay may have little affect on them financially, especially if they can make up the money through commissions, but the lower base salary may impact the salesperson’s self worth.  Let’s face it, scientists and engineers usually determine their self worth by unique knowledge or skills, others do not have.  Self worth is very important to all of us.

Unfortunately for salespeople who have grown fat on reducing friction in sales process, keeping the high base salaries and incomes in an increasingly hypertransparent world is becoming increasingly difficult.  I have the resumes of several hundred plastic salespeople who once had a six figure base salary and are now out of work.  They are not out of work because they have poor sales skills, most are very good salespeople but the loss of friction in the sales process has reduced their value to potential employers.  The Web’s price-deflating impact and the ever Flattening World, as described in Thomas L. Friedman’s book titled The World is Flat, has reduced the ability of companies to pay the salaries many salespeople believe they should still be earning. 

Instead of six figure base salaries, our clients want to pay experience salespeople with industry contacts base salaries of $40,000 to $65,000 plus commissions and/or bonuses.  Obviously, cutting the base salary in half that a salesperson is use to making will not only negatively impact them financially if they cannot make us the difference with commissions or bonuses it will also negatively affect their self worth.  I believe that the potential loss of salespeople’s self worth is the reason they turn down these positions with lower base salaries even though they are unemployed.  Salespeople are also very optimistic, they have to be, and they may also believe a position paying their old base salary or more is just around the corner and I hope for their sakes it is.