ID's 2016 Salary Report: Sales & Sales Management

In this third and final installment, see the factors affecting compensation and overall satisfaction levels of sales and sales management employees from our recent readership survey of industrial distributors.

The results are in for Industrial Distribution’s annual Salary Report, one of our most popular and contentious features each year. Here, you’ll find the factors affecting compensation and overall satisfaction levels of our readership, which is comprised of distributorship employees ranging from those at very small companies to those firms on our annual Big 50 List.

Distributed via email, the 2016 Industrial Distribution Salary Report funnels survey respondents into three separate question pools based on where they identified their specific job functions. The following results are based on three separate sets of data from Executives (Owner, Chairman, CEO, CFO, CIO, COO, President or VP); Mid-Level (non-sales) Management (Product, Operations, Branch and/or Purchasing); and Sales Representative/Manager. This year’s split of nearly 300 respondents came at 21.4 percent executives, 29.2 percent mid-level management and 49.4 percent sales rep or sales management.

In this third and final installment, we examine the results from our sales and sales management respondents.


Though our sales and sales management group of industrial distribution personnel still shows the pronounced lack of gender diversity it always has, this year’s group has notable improvement over 2015’s. This year, 13 percent of respondents are female, up 10 percentage points from a year ago.

This year’s group might be more diverse, but several respondents point out ongoing social issues that seem to plague the country as a whole. “A male that does the same exact responsibilities gets paid twice as much and he does half the work,” says one respondent. “I'm not sure if my company is doing anything to combat the wage gap, and it's difficult to be a millennial working with individuals who want to keep doing the same thing expecting different results,” comments another.

This year’s group is also younger, with 51 percent under the age of 50, compared to only 34 percent last year and 36 in 2014. Only 18 percent of this year’s group is near retirement age at 60+ years old, compared to 29 percent in 2015.

Like last year, the largest portion of our sales/sales managers — 44 percent — represent companies with at least $500 million in annual revenue. Similar to last year as well, 11 percent are at companies with $100 to $500 million in sales (-2 points from last year), 19 percent represent firms of $25 million to $100 million (-1) and 26 percent are from smaller companies with less than $25 million (+3).

Over the past couple years, our amount of sales/sales management professionals with no college education has actually grown from eight percent in 2014, nine percent in 2015 and 11 percent this year. Thirty-one percent of this year’s respondents have a little college under their belt, while the amount that have at least a college degree — 58 percent — is down 10 points from a year ago.

In terms of geographic region for our sales/sales management group:

  • 20 percent are in the Northeast
  • 34 percent are in the Midwest
  • 28 percent are in the South
  • 12 percent cover the West
  • 6 percent are outside of the U.S.

The average salary for this group dipped a bit from last year to $72K, while those who said they work on commission increased by three percentage points to 54 percent. For those that do receive commission, the average amount of compensation from bonuses, 401K contributions, education reimbursement and other cash averages to $15.5K, up from 13K a year ago. Overall, this year’s average total salary plus compensation package of $87.5K is nearly identical to 2015’s. Going deeper into compensation numbers:

  • 22 percent reported compensation of $10K or less
  • 27 percent reported earning six figures in compensation, with most between $110K and $250K

The level of job satisfaction among our sales/sales management group has had considerable swings in recent years – including a 13-point gain from 2013 to 2014 and then a 12-point drop last year. This year’s group was relatively in line with 2015’s, up two points to 62 percent who said they feel fairly compensated.

Coinciding with the leveling off in satisfaction is a 14-point drop from last year in those who said the demands of their job have increased in the past year. Eighty percent of 2015’s group said their demands increased, down to 66 percent this time around, while 33 percent said demands stayed the same — up 14 points from a year ago. Still, that’s two-thirds of our group that say job demands increased. Here’s a sampling of respondent comments on this front:

  • “Manufacturing sales rep is the most demanding intense sales job on the planet and the compensation should be no less than $150,000.”
  • “I think about my job 24/7. The stress is heavy even when pay isn't.”
  • “I have increased sales for five straight years, but my income has actually decreased.”
  • “For as many different jobs that I am responsible, my compensation package is not reflective of the performance value that I provide.”
  • “100 percent commission is extremely difficult due to long sales cycles in large, high-commissioned projects. A base salary with bonus/commission structure would greatly relieve financial stress I'm currently experiencing.”

On the flip side, a few are quite satisfied with their compensation. Here’s what one industry veteran said: “I have been in industrial distribution for 46 years and climbed the ladder, been to upper management and back down. I make close to five times more than when I started in the business in 1970. It has been a great career for me and I plan to retire the end of 2016.” Says another, “The commission is so high, it is almost unfair to the company.”

Traveling can be a key source of stress for this group of professionals, which typically travel more than our executive and mid-level management groups. This year’s batch of respondents travel less than 2015’s, with 55 percent saying they travel less than 20 percent of their job time or don’t travel at all, up from 49 percent last year. Twenty-seven percent say they travel 20 to 50 percent of the time — down 11 points from a year ago — while the amount that travel more than half their job time increased five points to 18 percent.

Twenty-one percent of this group said they faced salary or benefits cuts in the past year, down one point from a year ago. On the flip side, only 52 percent say they received a raise in the past year, up 15 points from a year ago. Going further:

  • 10 percent received a considerable performance-based raise
  • 19 percent received a standard performance-based raise
  • 19 percent received a cost of living raise based on inflation
  • 6 percent were given more incentive-based opportunities for cash rewards
  • 2 percent were rewarded with a stronger benefits package

Fifty-two percent of our sales/sales management professionals say they are faced with adequate job growth opportunities at their company, which is up four points from a year ago but still down 10 points from 2014.

View the Executive results of our Salary Report here.

View the Mid-Level Management results of our Salary Report here.

View our 2015 Salary Report here

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