How Taking Away Tools and Benefits Ultimately Hurts Sales Organizations and Countries

By Katherine Fry, CEO/President of Mediafy Communications Group

The British Government decommissioned the Royal Yacht Britannia in 1997. According to the government’s official website, “On 23 June 1994, John Major’s Government announced there would be no refit for HMY Britannia as the costs would be too great. After a long and successful career spanning 44 years and traveling over 1 million miles around the globe, it was announced that the last Royal Yacht was to be decommissioned.

There was no immediate decision about a replacement, but the question of a new Royal Yacht became a political issue in the run up to the 1997 General Election. The Conservative Party’s Secretary of State for Defense announced that if they were to be re-elected, they would build a new Royal Yacht, funded entirely from public monies. However, the Labour Party opposed this, stating the expense could not be warranted given the state of the economy. After the election, the new Labour Government eventually confirmed in October 1997 there would be no replacement for Britannia.”

While to many this seemed like a practical decision, to others it appeared incredibly short sighted. With the royal family’s popularity at an all-time low following the death of the Princess of Wales, this decision could not have been altogether unexpected. Nevertheless, following my most recent trip to Scotland, I encountered a completely different and perhaps enlightening perspective.

For many months, my niece and I anticipated our invitations to dinner on the Royal Yacht Britannia. My husband purchased our niece a tiara at Universal Studios. Everything from our dresses to our nails had been planned to the finest detail. And the Brittania delivered. A very knowledgeable historian gave us a tour of the royal yacht, showing us everything from the former royal car, to where the Queen would sit and have breakfast. Most poignantly, and perhaps unexpectedly, our guide showed us the royal family’s sitting room and dining room, where multi-million dollar trade deals were stuck all around the world. Trade envoys, vying to open trade routes around the world for British goods, succeeded in getting individuals to the table on Brittania, where others had failed. Billions dollar deals were struck at the very tables and couches where we sat drinking champagne, pouring countless monies into the British economy. In truth, while the Labour Party in Great Britain viewed the Royal Yacht Britannia as merely an expensive toy for the British royal family, it actually functioned as a highly valuable sales tool for the the royal family and the British government. After the decommissioning of the yacht, Tony Blair expressed his regrets in not fighting this haphazard decision. He realized it was shortsighted, and ultimately hurt the British economy.

Shortsightedness in making business decisions is a common malady often affecting business owners. The Queen is, in effect, a sales executive for the country of Britain. She earns a commission of 17% on the gross profit brought in by all of the crown properties. The better she performs, the more money she makes. But like all sales executives, she needs support. And her majesty needs a vacation.

Being a sales executive is a tremendously difficult job. When I chose this as my career, I truly had no idea it would become not only a career, but also a way of life. I am always on call, always on my best behavior, and always having my customers at the forefront of my mind. Even on vacation, I am not truly on vacation, because clients still need my assistance, regardless of my circumstance. As a sales executive, and now a business owner, I am well aware that sales executives need support. Most importantly, they need the tools to succeed. Over the course of my sales career thus far, I have encountered hard-headed sales managers who felt that sales executives expected too much, and should thus be on commission only, with no benefits. Arguments for this include, “it makes then more motivated to sell,” “they are in control of their own destinies,” and “they put less drag on a sales organization.” However, in my experiences as a business leader, I have become convinced that putting sales executives on commission only is a grave mistake. Because they are not held accountable to the organization for which they work, they ultimately are not successful. In order to monitor the time of a sales executive, and to hold them accountable for their behavior during a sales day, that sales executive must be receiving an hourly wage. A smart sales organization also provides that executive the tools they need to be successful. Benefits such as paid vacation, a company car, and/or a 401k, not only enhance the life of a sales executive, but also increase employee loyalty. Ultimately, the entire organization benefits.

The life of a sales executive is incredibly difficult. As a sales executive for Great Britain, the Queen’s life, also, has substantial challenges. Her Majesty and her family must perform to earn their 17%. The Queen must generate enough interest in herself and her family that tourists will flock to Britain, visit her properties and buy her goods offered in crown property gift stores. She is constantly on display, with her every move scrutinized, and face the constant criticism upon her and her family for not inheriting and not “earning” her position. But the reality is, if the Queen does not sell, she does not get. Items such as the Royal yacht Britannia not only had a direct positive impact on the British economy, but they provided for the Queen and her family a much needed respite from constantly working for not only their country, but also their own livelihoods. When tools for success and benefits are taken away, sales executives can “lose their will to sell,” and then they truly do become a burden on the organization of which they are a part. If the Queen and her family are stripped of all their benefits, they may stop performing, with dire consequences not only to themselves but to the British economy as a whole.

As business owners, the well-being of our sales executives is paramount. Their positions are challenging, as well as stressful, and they need the tools and benefits for their own success as well as the success of the organization to which they belong. I, for one, no longer hire sales executives on strict commission. I provide them with a salary, as well as additional perks. As time goes on, my organization will provide them more. Punishing sales executives by taking away tools and benefits, as parliament punished the Queen by taking away Britannia, is a terrible mistake and very shortsighted. Let’s remember this when hiring sales executives and then when supporting them out in the field.