How Much Should I Pay My Support Team?

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In our series on hiring, so far we’ve discussed how to write dynamic job descriptions, and how to hire for both sales and support (including interview questions for each role). 

In a previous post, we wrote about What to Pay Your Salesteam, today, we’re tackling that elusive answer about ways to pay and incentivize your support team. 

Each distributor has their own nomenclature for their support positions, they are often called by various titles: traffic coordinators, sales coordinators, account coordinators, order processing employees, and more.

These folks are as important as your sales team. Don’t believe me? Wait until your first six-figure order goes through their hands to completion. Don’t misunderstand, you must compensate reasonably, within the confines of your profits, but just remember that, without these folks, the smiles and handshakes of your salespeople are worthless. If you treat them as expendable, they will return the favor and treat your business as a pass-through. The whole time that you think you are getting maximum output for minimal investment, they are submitting resumes to better companies. 

“Support” means different things to different distributors depending on the level of work the support team does on behalf of the salesperson and client. 

For example, with some distributors, a support team member might do research on behalf of a client or salesperson and also provide estimates. For others, support doesn’t begin to assist with an order until after the salesperson secures the sale, they take the order from the point of sale all the way through to production and even to invoicing. And still for others, the salesperson or an account coordinator guides the sale most of the way through to the proofing process and even beyond, until a traffic manager intervenes to oversee all the orders in production to see them through to billing. And some distributors use a combination of the above! 

As confusing as that can seem, there are typically two primary categories for support roles: 

  1. Traffic Coordinator/Admin: This is “light” support and consists of overall production management, seeing the final order through to completion. They are typically not doing much problem resolution; they are simply following up or monitoring to make sure all orders are progressing as needed.

  2. Project Manager/Inside Sales: This level of support typically requires more skill and experience, they are selling to clients themselves or they at least provide an integral part of the research and estimating phase of the business. They source products, find replacements when a product is out-of-stock, oversee adherence to the client’s branding guidelines, monitor proofing, and their experience is invaluable because of their agility and problem-solving skills. 

Since the positions vary and there is no set standard for roles in this business, through our own experience running distributorships and also through chatting with friends in the business, we’ve discovered that most distributors are paying between $35,000 (on the “light” support side) and $50,000 (for the more experienced support role), depending on the level of complexity, but there are a few key things to consider when coming up with an overall compensation structure for support. 

Reward for Growth

For starters: build a compensation plan for your support team that rewards growth. If you do this, you’ll avoid sandbagging. What’s sandbagging? That’s where your support team builds excuses (like sandbags) against the flood of new business you bring in (because you are under compensating them). What you want is exuberant responses about growth. Create an environment where everybody wins (not just salespeople) and they will welcome growth, not hate it. 

Additionally, it’s incumbent upon you and the health of your culture to not ignore their education. It’s not just salespeople who need to be treated like career-minded professionals, be sure your production team has every education benefit as well. The more they understand the business, the better your business will be. If you do not purposefully educate your support team, you are abdicating your role as a leader. It’s crucial you give them every benefit of learning possible. The surprising truth is that some of your best future sales talent will emerge from these groups. Often, your sales leaders of tomorrow are in support and production roles today. 

Remember that it takes a long time to learn this complex industry and those that invest themselves to learn more should earn more, plus, the higher the problem-solving skill the higher the compensation. 


Additional Compensation Ideas

A few additional ideas for growth incentives: 

  • One distributor has a profit-sharing plan for support team members based on overall growth goals and company profitability. 

  • Another distributor builds in an incentive-based on quarterly goals exceeded, the bonus comprises 10%-15% of their annual salary, half of which is paid quarterly and the other half is paid at year-end. 

  • Anniversary bonuses, peer-to-peer reward systems, additional days-off, “spot” bonuses for a job well done … there are tons of unique ways you can show your respect for their hard work. 

However you devise it, by adding either a growth bonus or incentive plan to your support team, and with ongoing education, you must invest in your support team to inspire loyalty and encourage longevity.

The bottom line: Think beyond the base pay to creatively support the team that supports you!


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