One of the reasons for the tarnished reputation of the window and door industry in this country has been laid at the feet of the self employed sales people. The ones who work on a commission-only basis and and therefore under greater pressure to perform and bring in the sales, else risk not getting paid that week or month.
In a climate now where things like zero-hours contracts are falling out of favour, the squeeze on wages in getting tighter and the general public is more acutely aware of certain sales tactics, are self employed sales people still relevant in the window and door industry in 2017?
The cause of the problems?
My own personal situation is slightly different to most who work in sales in the UK fenestration industry. I am part of a small family run installations company. I have worked here for nearly 12 years in sales self-employed. No basic salary. We are always busy however, and I do come away at the end of the week with a good wage. But unlike most who are self employed, I have a degree of job security that others won’t have, because I work for the family business. It will one day be mine and my brother’s.
For most others, this level of security and backup is not the case. Most who do work on a self employed basis for companies have the inherent risk of not being paid if they fail to sell something.
This in turn puts them in a pressure situation to bring the sales in and earn something for that week. Therein lies the problem. In order to guarantee sales, often those who are self employed will use the much maligned hard sell tactics which the better parts of our industry are trying very hard to banish from the industry.
Over the years the less professional parts of our industry have used these hard sell tactics in people’s homes and have helped to shape the negative view of our otherwise hard working sector. That being said, not every single self employed sales person will be a bad apple. There will be very good ones out there, that for one reason or another prefer to be self employed, who go about their business in a professional, efficient manner. Still, bad news always gets the press over the good, and the underhand ways in which many sales people have gone about their jobs has have no doubt had a bad impact on the image of our industry.
Are they solely to blame for all the image problems our industry has had? No. Are they at least partly to blame? Yes. Perhaps if they had some level of job security, knowing that no matter what might happen that week they would take something home to put in the bank, maybe less would feel that they have to use hard sell tactics to guarantee some sort of income.
There are differing views on whether the role of self employed sales people is still relevant in today’s industry. But you need to look at both company and person.
For the company, a self employed sales person gives them the flexibility to expand and reduce sales staff levels according to demand at the time. More demand, hire more. Demand falls, shed some staff. Unlike employed roles, those who are self employed can find themselves out of a job quicker.
For the person, they risk being pushed out of the door on very short notice if things start to go south at the company they are working for. Not much level of job security.
That being said, I have come across some sales people, gifted ones, who say they prefer to be self employed as they have the chance to earn more than they would on an employed contract. They also have the ability to chop and change companies as they see fit. As we know, some people simply don’t settle and prefer to play the field, so to speak. So on the one hand self employment in our industry gives little job security. But on the other it gives flexibility, which some prefer.
Overall though, I see the role of self employed sales people as old hat and archaic. As a society I think we’re moving towards a situation where employment in all sorts of roles will become the absolute norm. Pressure on other parts of employment and the business of employment will mean that companies will look to employ sales staff.
Do I think this is a good thing? Overall yes. I think this is one way we can tackle the scourge of the hard sell. Not the only way, but it is a start. By giving people job security, a basic wage that can be topped up via sales commissions, we give them a platform to sell windows and doors to home owners in a less pressurised, more professional manner.
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