Should Sales Reps Start a Union?

Last Updated Jul 24, 2009 1:29 PM EDT

Most sales pundits seem to believe that sales should be a profession. I'm wondering, though, whether it might not make more sense for sales reps to start a union. Not a union in the "look for the union label" way. Maybe something more like the Screen Actors Guild or the Screenwriters Guild.

The members of those organizations are highly trained "professionals" but they've banded together to make sure they don't get screwed over on a regular basis. They make sure their people get paid fairly, get insurance, and can't arbitrary fired.

A sales reps union or guild could do even more:

First, a union would force businesses to make painful decisions that top management is unable to make. As I pointed out in the post "Sales Pros Know More than CEOs", sales reps usually know more about what's going on in the real world than C-level executives because reps deal with it on a day-to-day basis.

Second, a union would prevent abuses of power. As exemplified in the post "Worst Sales Manager Contest," there are plenty of sales managers who abuse sales reps. If sales reps were unionized, this kind of corporate behavior would come to a screeeeeeeching halt.

Third, a union bring some well-needed democracy to the workplace. According to the poll in the post "Should Businesses be Democracies," 58 percent of Sales Machine readers believe that employees should be able to vote on strategy, corporate direction, and CEO compensation.

Fourth, a union could impose standards of ethics and competence which are entirely missing in the sales world. It would increase the social status of a sales job if such jobs weren't open to every bozo who can't find a job doing something else and thinks he can sell for a living.

Finally, a union would force companies to realize that, if they don't have sales reps, they don't have a business. I'm tired of hearing marketeers (for instance) claim that their job is as important as selling. It not, and never will be, because, as I've repeatedly pointed out, if sales don't take place, you're outta business.

And there's no question that sales rep union would have real clout because, well..., if you don't have a sales force, you don't have a business. With all this in mind, I'm can't help but wonder whether a little organizing might not be a good idea.

What do you think?


READERS: Comments welcome, of course.

UPDATE: Whoda thunk it? Turns out there actually is a guild (of sorts) for auto sales reps: The Legion of Loyal Lizards. Their motto is: "Sell a car, Be a star, Go to the bar." Not exactly what I had in mind, but...

UPDATE (7/24): One of the comments suggested that our putative union should emulate other unions and get some "hired goons". Another comment suggested that the unions had a certain "bitchiness" about them. My response was that we should therefore hire some goons who were a combination of RuPaul and Andre the Giant. I'm happy to say that Sales Machine has managed to hire one already. Here s/he is:

  • Geoffrey James

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