There Are More Good Salespeople Than There Are Good Manufacturers

With so few new companies in video surveillance, and the ones that are primarily consumer focused, there does not seem to be a lot of good opportunities for sales people working their way up into leadership roles.

Agree / disagree?


Agree, but this is true almost anywhere. No matter how large or small the organization is, leadership roles in sales are usually a 1:10 ratio of leaders to individual contributors. Much of sales is strategy at the top, executed at the "bottom" by an army.

Is it true in VC backed tech companies right now? Lots of startups means lots of opportunities for sales people moving up, no?

In my experience it's just generally true across the board. Many times the VC-backed companies end up with a *really* small sales team for a good year or two until things really get rolling. Then they often bring in cheaper talent for the first few positions.

A given startup will likely hire a "VP of Sales" in the first year(ish), but they might not really promote anyone for another 3+ years as they go through initial growth.

Also, a VP position at a startup might not always be a "promotion". The title is better. But let's say you're a regional sales director for Tyco. You've got 12 RSM's working for you and you cover a territory of 9 states. You're making about $300K/year and showing steady growth in your region. The job isn't easy, but it's pretty managable. People know you and you could probably jump out to any other manufacturer for a similar role or maybe a "Senior" sales director role. You get an offer from a small startup. They've got a new panoramic camera, or some funky storage thing, or an access control badge reader with a built-in finger print scanner. You get offered a VP of Sales role. The "package" is for $300K, but really you're unlikely to break $225K the first couple of years. You have no sales pipeline, the product hasn't shipped yet (but engineering promises it will be ready by ISC West) and budget to hire 1 (cheap) inside sales person and 1 outside sales person. If things go perfectly you'll become known as The Guy that launched Newco. If things go poorly, the board will look to replace you in 18 months and you'll be looking for a new job, essentially stuck between an unsuccessful VP role and an RSD role.

Not sure if you classify that as "moving up" or not.

I didn't know you had so much love for working at Tyco :)

This raises a more general question - bigco vs startup.

Amongst the people I interact with, rarely, if ever, do they say things like 'If only I could be a mid-level manager at Tyco'. And sure, Tyco has a really bad reputation but similar sentiment towards working at Axis, Sony, Panasonic, etc. None are horrible jobs, just boring without quick opportunity for advancement.

What you describe is the higher risk / higher reward nature of startups. There's no doubt about that.

I would add to your description of startups the importance of what you learn from having more responsibility / issues to deal with. At Tyco, edicts are handed down from Rome Boca the Bahamas Ireland. As a mid-level guy, you deal with the bureaucracy and implement as best you can. At a startup, you get to see and experiment first hand what works.

But ultimately, the biggest thing is that young, growth companies is the upside both in money and recognition when they succeed. You won't get at that Tyco even if you work their 40 years.

Amongst the people I interact with, rarely, if ever, do they say things like 'If only I could be a mid-level manager at Tyco'.

I think that is partly because there are so few "big" companies that have positive future outlooks right now in the security industry.

When I was more in the IT sector, people LOVED getting jobs at Cisco, NorTel, Dell, CA, etc. Though some of that has changed as the IT sector has leveled off.

The startup stuff has a little bit of survivor bias. Yeah, we all know about the success of Exacq, Avigilon, Arecont.

But Timesight, Intransa, Firetide, IQI, NoblePeak, Pivot3 and lots of other lesser-known names have all pretty much failed to explode in terms of growth and value. I know lots of people from all of those companies that had high hopes in the sales org and walked away with far less earnings than anticipated.

Yes, startups may have big-title positions, but they offer very little in terms of sales leadership positions if they never really get above a low hover orbit-wise.

Just to be clear, I'm still a "startup guy" and I'm not saying you're going to find the best opportunities at a big manufacturer, but you will find more opportunities for leadership. You need to hone your skills both in terms of general leadership, and in terms of understanding what startup product/technology/team has the best chance of success.

This does all come back to the fact of your original post, which is that there are more good people than opportunities for them. Sales is a cutthroat job at every turn.

"But Timesight, Intransa, Firetide, IQI, NoblePeak, Pivot3 and lots of other lesser-known names have all pretty much failed to explode in terms of growth and value."

For sure, we all can't be Schmode...

I just don't think the downside of working at startups that don't succeed is too significant compared to being at a Tyco or other slow paced conglomerate.

It's similar to the Hacker News startup approach. Your startup succeeds. You win the lotto. Your startup fails. You still can land a job with big co with more experience, etc.

I just don't think the downside of working at startups that don't succeed is too significant compared to being at a Tyco or other slow paced conglomerate.

Depends on your hobbies...

The Best Sales People Have Expensive Hobbies

For many "good" sales people, the risk of severely reduced income makes it a tough sell.

...there are more good people than opportunities for them.

Maybe not if companies purge the 'bad' people first.

Sales employment may ultimately be governed as a meritocracy, but it can be a slow painful one.

We all have seen that charismatic new Sales guy, confidently walking in the door with a Rolex on his wrist, and a Rolodex in his case, nonchalantly reminding everyone of the lengthy sales cycle that 'we're dealing with here'. Filling up his pipe line with pipe dreams. Until 3 or 6 or more months later his desk is empty again and nothing remains except his fancy business cards... But you knew he wasn't gonna make it after the first week, didn't you?

The 80/20 rule applies in Sales just the same as the rest of the company. Companies should start making room for the best and brightest, and stop making excuses for the dead-weight. Just my opinion.

I had to google Rolodexes.

A salesman didn't just have a Rolodex, he was his Rolodex.

Source: The Staples Museum

I find this a very interesting question and one that I answered for myself this past Monday. A recruiter, who seems to be a big fan of mine, got me an interview with one of america's top ten integrators, a name everyone knows. The interview was in the afternoon and I had had all weekend to think about it. The scales had this on each side for me. One, I currently work as a sales manager for what was a start up and now is a strong small intergrator and monitoring control center. We have a unique niche (not trying to sell it here) and its easy for me to get people's attention with that differentiation. I have built a good pipe line in my first year. It has paid me well and looks like I will make a 100%+ more this year...nice for all that hustling to pay off. But, I am doing it for a company that does not even show up on anyone's radar in our industry...yet.

Two, then I get an opportunity to interview for same outside sales role at this behemoth. Obvious upsides of career development, bigger and better clients, better jobs at better companies etc... However, as I am waiting for this gentlemen to come and speak to me I realize I don't want the job. They are selling the same integration packages as everyone else with, in my mind, their only differentiator being high service levels and a rock solid reputation. At least from a macro sales perspective. I am not trying to disrespect all the details that go into making a good systems integration package work well and the service levels it requires to keep big company clients. I know that just having their name on my card will get me into bigger opportunities but when it comes to winning new business...not so much in my 20 years of expereince selling (only 1.5 in Security and Systems Integration though).

So, the interview was polite but I basically punted...and I think the guy was a little offended that I wasn't laying out palm fronds and such; but, was grilling him more on how they win deals and what their current outside sales people are doing etc...I don't doubt thier success, that speaks for itself. But, as a sales person I chose to go with a more unique product and a ground floor opportunity. Only time will tell. I am interested in circling back on this in one year.

Not exactly apples to apples but thought I would share.

Thanks

Maybe from a manufacturer standpoint, but this is a labor-centric industry so there are many more opportunities at the Installation/Integration level

Most manufacturer sales people consider working at an integrator to be going to the minor leagues. Primarily, it's about money, i.e., Manufacturer Salary Results vs Integrator Salary Results

Video business goes along with high tech. You want more money or responsibility you have to change jobs. With startups, getting the company ready for sale you have to cut expenses, and the easiest person to justify is that $300k manager.

Just remember, if you are not the lead dog, the scenery never changes

"With startups, getting the company ready for sale you have to cut expenses, and the easiest person to justify is that $300k manager."

Startups are typically revenue driven, far more than costs / profits. So if the sales manager is making their numbers, the last person they want to cut is him. On the other hand, if numbers are missed, the easiest thing to do is blame the sales guy, rather than the product.