September 25th, 2018

What Sales Executives Can Learn from Kirk Cousins New Contract

The NFL season has begun and three games into the season Kirk Cousins is once again one of the top passers in the league. This is a position he’s enjoyed consistently over the last three seasons by throwing for more than 4000 yards a year (becoming one of only 11 to do so) as the quarterback of the Washington Redskins.

Given the success, most quarterbacks would have been content to stay in an offensive system that produced those results. Cousins, backed by his stats, moved to Minnesota in the off-season, signing a history deal guaranteeing him $84 million over the next three years. Why did Cousins change teams? Because he had leverage. Kirk knew he was a consistent and proven performer in a very tight market for experienced quarterbacks in their prime.

At a recent Gartner meeting, Brent Adamson presented information on the US labor market, along with an outlook on the demand for sales executives. As the chart below illustrates, sales organizations (on average) have to replace a quarter of the sales force each year, in what is now a very tight labor market. In fact, it now takes an average of 70 days to fill a position, an increase of close to 20 days over the last two years.  

Given these facts, is it time for proven sales executives to become free agents, like Kurt Cousins? Consider this …Cousins made $44M his last two years under the franchise tag. Making close to $24 million last year, which is more than he will make this year under his new contract. For Cousins, this wasn’t just about the money. He also wanted out of Washington, a team he viewed as never really wanting him (Cousins was drafted in the 4th round of the 2012 draft by the Redskins after taking Robert Griffin III with their first pick).

Consider these two points as you think about your career. You may be making great money but are you in an environment that makes you feel valued or wanted? For a short period of time top performers have leverage in the market.

Another consideration, the other members on your team. Is your bonus tied to the performance of the team, or the company? Cousins chose Minnesota over a richer offer by the Jets because it gave him a better chance at winning a title. Minnesota not only has many offensive weapons but it also features one of the best defenses in the NFC. Is there another team out there that could offer you a better chance of success, not only now, but also in the future?

One thing is certain, the market will change. For now the demand is high and the supply is low for top performing sales executives who can consistently deliver results. Currently, there are over a million open sales positions listed in Indeed.com, close to 200,000 alone with salaries of $70,000 or more. As they say, “sales is a numbers game.” Maybe it’s time to find out what your number is worth.

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