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Digging deeper into specific salary numbers, the survey shows an upward movement of veteran sales reps’ salaries. In 2014, the most common salary range according to distributors was $50,000 to $64,999. This year, the most common salary range for veteran reps was $75,000 to $99,000.

Sales experts say this may be because veteran sales reps who are nearing retirement — and thus commanding a larger salary — are hanging on a few more years, which could be driving up the average veteran sales rep’s salary. Another possibility is that distributors are trying to avoid having to hire and train new sales reps, so instead they shell out higher salaries to keep their current veteran sales reps.

For new and inexperienced sales reps, however, salaries have moved in the other direction. The survey shows that in 2016, 17 percent of distributors pay new or inexperienced sales reps less than $25,000 in salary. In 2014, just 8 percent of distributors paid those sales reps less than $25,000.

To illustrate why this may be the case, Dave Kahle, president of DaCo Corporation, Comstock, Michigan, says to picture a pool of young sales rep candidates. The more talented and professional young sales reps naturally command a higher salary. But the problem, says Kahle, is that there are fewer young sales reps who enter the sales industry with that talent and professionalism. Kahle says this is not necessarily a failing of young sales reps, but rather the jan/san industry as a whole.

“In the jan/san industry, I don’t think there is an acceptance that sales is a profession,” he says. “So a lot of the people who are making decisions about sales forces in the jan/san industry do not have that professional perspective. And so that carries out, that kind of oozes out of them as they’re looking for salespeople and interviewing salespeople. … I doubt if any more than 1 percent of jan/san companies have as a qualification a college degree.”

Those lowered expectations for sales skills and professionalism eventually result in a less qualified pool of applicants. And distributors are forced to consider these less qualified candidates, who typically command a smaller salary.

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