Peter Thiel on the sales industry
The U.S. sales industry is even bigger than advertising. Some 3.2 million people are in sales. It’s a $450bn industry. And people can get paid pretty well. A software engineer at Oracle with 4-6 years experiences gets a $105k salary and an $8k bonus. But a sales manager with 4-6 years experiences gets $112k and a $103k bonus. The situation is very much the same at Google, which claims to be extremely engineering driven; at a $96k base, $86k in commissions, and a $40k bonus, Google salespeople earn quite a bit more than their engineering counterparts. This doesn’t mean everyone should go into sales. But people who are good at it do quite well.
Salesman as Actor
The big question about sales is whether all salesmen are really just actors of one sort or another. We are culturally biased to think of salespeople as classically untrustworthy, and unreliable. The used car dealer is the archetypical example. Marc Andreessen has noted that most engineers underestimate the sales side of things because they are very truth-oriented people. In engineering, something either works or it doesn’t. The surface appearance is irrelevant. So engineers tend to view attempts to change surface appearance of things—that is, sales—as fundamentally dishonest.
What is tricky about sales is that, while we know that it exists all around us, it’s not always obvious who the real salesperson is. Tom Sawyer convinced all the kids on the block to whitewash the fence for him. None of those neighborhood kids recognized the sale. The game hasn’t changed. And that’s why that story rings true today.