Any interaction between a manager and an employee provides an opportunity for mutual understanding only if the manager is the right person in the right position (this is surprisingly rare), and if the subordinate takes a professional approach. What does this mean in practice?

In my career as a sales manager I have had, and will probably continue to have, many opportunities to participate in negotiations about pay rises and promotions within the company hierarchy. The two parties meet and do their best to present their interests, points of view, approach to the issue, fears, and hopes.

Who makes the real decisions?

Let’s start with the boss. The company president, who is also the sales director, has a different starting position than the person acting as the sales manager. The president is the highest authority and usually makes final decisions immediately, whereas the sales manager may often have limited decision-making power. They may or may not have an impact on decisions about promotions or pay rises for subordinates.

If you are paid only on a commission basis, without a fixed salary, there are theoretically no grounds to discuss a salary increase - you’re paid according to the principle of ‘you earn as much as you sell’. In this situation, we can talk about a ‘raise’, although it doesn’t apply to the amount of remuneration itself.


Example:

The boss proposes access to the company car and other tools supporting a salesperson’s work.

In the case of a salesperson employed full-time on a fixed salary plus a discretionary bonus, a company car is treated just like a pen - it’s a tool the salesperson has to have.

In the case of an independent salesperson working on commission, getting a company car would significantly reduce operating costs while also helping boost income, and thus should be treated as a pay rise.


Thus, we see that the initial situation may be different, in many cases it depends on how the salesperson is paid.

Proper communication above all

Communication between the supervisor and the subordinate works best when both parties try to put themselves in the other’s shoes, and when both think about how they can help. Every parent should know this principle, every spouse understands it, and every manager should apply it.

Every reasonable manager understands that compensating salespeople is not such a simple matter and that, depending on the economic, competitive, and financial situation of the company, it should be both flexible and - as subordinates see it - HONEST.

Therefore, when a subordinate reports to their supervisor with a request for a promotion or a pay rise, a professional sales manager expects to hear arguments to back up the proposed change. In order for the arguments to be properly formulated, the superior should fulfil the role of a client.

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