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Working 8 Figure Deal, concerned may get let go before signature

I'm working a marquee client on an 8 figure deal that would have a high 6, low 7 figure payout. The deal is looking to close in August. The company just had a round of layoffs including the head of sales. I'm getting the feeling that the CEO may let me go before signature to avoid paying out the commission.


Any solid advice how to protect myself in this situation?

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๐Ÿง  Advice
24
SaaSam
Politicker
13
Account Executive
Plan for the worst and hope for the best.

Talk to some lawyers about what's going on and what your concerns are so that you know which one to go with, in the event things go south and you need to file suit, you might even be able to strong-arm your employer into giving you what you're owed just by having him send a letter stating your intent to file suit.

Keep notes on paper, and scrub the CRM of important data that would be needed to close the deal. Turn yourself into the key to seeing this deal through.

Develop a closer relationship with your prospect if possible. Meet in person, golfing, dinner something. You want that guy on your side.

Once you've done all of the prep work for your contingency plan in the event you get fired. Push like crazy to get it closed before that can happen.
LordOfWar
Tycoon
24
Blow it up
I would not advise scrubbing the CRM, that can get you into lots of trouble.

Now adding notes that will ruin future calls, no laws against that.

"Mike is SUPER pro-trump and I've told him the company is a campaign donor. Remind him of this next call"
DungeonsNDemos
Big Shot
2
Dialing for Initiative
Solid stuff here. Always cover your ass and have a contingency plan.
@atx22I hope you're able to have smooth sailing through this!
saaskicker
Politicker
5
Sr. AE
maybe, close the deal...sooner?

not solid advice but this is quite the predicament. might not work in your favor but work on ways to make yourself the project owner and don't share too many details -- if you lock up the intel and there's no one to pick up the slack, they need you?ย 

LordOfWar
Tycoon
4
Blow it up
Unless your CEO is a total douchebag he should value the actual closing of the deal more than just saving the commission. Then again, CEOs are notorious for thinking they can do anyone's job yet are brazen, rude and put their foot in their mouth.

Companies can adjust commission and you don't have much recourse anyways. If they wanted to screw you this is the likely way they would do it.

If I was let go right before or after a big deal I'd walk straight to the competitor and serve up customer lists, pricing and market info on a platter. If they're gonna do you like that then they can shove their non-compete directly up their ass.
atx22
Contributor
0
Enterprise Account Executive
This is pretty much the tone. The CRO that hired me was part of the layoffs. They have gone through 3 CROs, multiple sales people. One exceeded their quarterly quota goals for the first time, got the commission check and quit the next day. The environment isn't good. The CRO was going to build a team to change that, but didn't happen fast enough.
braintank
Politicker
3
Enterprise Account Executive
Can they close the deal without you? How do you make yourself indispensable?
UrAssIsSaaS
Arsonist
3
SaaS Eater
Why do you get the feeling they are going to let you go?

The way most companies do layoffs is to cut DEEP 1x. There is nothing worse for company morale than multiple rounds of layoffs in a short perior of time.

Does your company have a history of doing the above?

I think you might actually be OK here because you have this massive deal in the pipe.

All that being said, as other have stated, what do you bring to the table for this deal that they cannot replace? Figure out what that is and make sure everyone knows about it.
Sunbunny31
Politicker
0
Sr Sales Executive
I'm curious about the company history too, as you are right, nothing is worse for morale than incremental layoffs.
atx22
Contributor
0
Enterprise Account Executive
So they let a rep go in Jan(performing ok), 1 in March, 1 in April, layoff in June so multiple cuts haven't been an issue. It is not a good culture. The CRO was brought in to change it around but it didn't happen fast enough.

They might go the route of making my life miserable so I leave and they can save face a bit. I was at an offsite customer event and was told that it would no longer be reimbursed(flight, hotel, travel expenses, etc) Then all of a sudden I don't know how to pitch, I'm not establishing value, and a few other items. The CEO doesn't have a background in sales but is overly involved. The VP of Sales saw it first hand and said it was out of line.

Another option is that they drastically change the comp plan for me or enact the windfall clause.
CRAG112
Good Citizen
1
Account Executive
Yup. Sounds like you need to start making detailed notes. Times, dates, etc. of everything that has been occurring. Consult with a lawyer, hell, I wouldn't even speak about comp without my lawyer present from now on.

You know exactly what they are trying to do. Don't make it easy. Save all of your data. Take screenshots of files and don't actually download them too. Makes it harder for anyone to actually know you did it.

Also time to start looking for a new role and taking all those interviews and calls recruiters have been asking you for.
TheShark
Good Citizen
3
VP
Document EVERYTHING.

As many people have told you, talk with a lawyer - not just any rando, a true employment attorney.

If you need one in the bay area, I have one that I can recommend to you.

The lawyer will tell you what you should document, but you need to make sure you act as a model citizen so they don't pull some bullshit on you - which if your spidey sense is telling you they are going to pull some bullshit, you best be sure you're acting like a model employee (I know this sounds horrendous).

I've seen many salespeople bail after they close The Biggest Deal - unfortunately due to commission and general unhappiness after having to fight so hard internally to get the deal done & get paid.

I hope you close the deal, keep your job, and get paid a fatty comish check.
atx22
Contributor
0
Enterprise Account Executive
@TheSharkI'd appreciate the recommendation to the one in the bay area. Thanks!
rharris415
Praised Answer
3
Founder
1. Depends on the state you are in.
2. Depends on the state your company has an HQ.
3. Depends on the language of your employment documentation.

My advice is based on what I know (not a lawyer) about CA employment law.

1)California Labor Code2802is the law that requires employers to reimburse workers for โ€œall necessary expenditures or losses incurred by the employee in direct consequence of the discharge of his or her duties.โ€ Employers that fail to do so can face a wage and hour lawsuit. (Meaning, what they can tell you and what they can actually do are two very different things)

1a) This is not your biggest concern now, your commission is.

2) What you need to know is in your commission agreement does it say you must be employed on the date commissions are usually paid? If so, then expect to be terminated before that date.

This is called a "forfeiture provision". In many cases, they are considered legal. Even in California.

However, there is one case in your favor, and is seen as unconscionable.

Ellis v. McKinnon Broadcasting Co.(1993) 18 Cal.App.4th 1796, 1807 [โ€œthe [forfeiture] provision is a commercially unreasonable forfeiture clause, exacting a penalty far in excess of any potential detriment suffered by [the employer].โ€]; see also Civ. Code ยง 1670.5 [defining unconscionable contracts].- Source:https://wrklyrs.com/ComSales#p35
This is probably one of the better resources for understanding commissions. Granted it's geared towards California so definitely consult an attorney.

https://www.worklawyers.com/commission-payments-california-employment/#california-law-on-commission-agreements

3) The rationale your company is using:
a. Its our money
b. We can offer a lower severance and keep more money ourselves because we don't think he can win.
c. Even if he sues us, it will be cheaper to not pay him and we can write off the legal fees anyway

4) As for the reimbursement, that should be an "easy win", but don't let them tell you it's part of your severance.

Ping me directly if you want to have a conversation about how to have the conversation. I would suggest that sooner than later though, don't wait until the week of, it's too emotional.

You want to do your homework now in prep for the final exam. This is not something you cram for overnight
atx22
Contributor
0
Enterprise Account Executive
@rharris415this is great! Thank you. I'll start to look for recommendations on a lawyer as they are a CA based company.
rharris415
Praised Answer
0
Founder
Be mindful of what state your documentation is being used. Sometimes it could be a different state than where they are physically located.
AgastyaAdams
Politicker
1
Sales Development Manager
You're not going to like this: if at all, they'll only let you go off once you close it.
TennisandSales
Politicker
1
Enterprise Account Executive
this is what i was thinking.....really shitty situation. @atx22i would start reviewing your contract and see what language there is in there about commission if your get fired.

get a good attorney and try your best to close the deal.

keep us updated on this for sure!
CRAG112
Good Citizen
0
Account Executive
Companies try every which way to make it ok to steal your money, but wage theft is wage theft.

Thank goodness it's a federal thing. Companies can't create rules that casually violate your federal rights. But it's still up to you as an individual to push back and make things happen.
atx22
Contributor
1
Enterprise Account Executive
So I've done a solid job to build value, champions, and the business case, so they could essentially close this without me at this point.

Additionally, we have a software vendor that captures all activity and puts it into the CRM, so scrubbing intel would be impossible to do.

It isn't a great situation on my side as I'm exposed if the company wants to make this move.
LordOfWar
Tycoon
3
Blow it up
You can't scrub, that would be considered destroying company assets. You can backup/copy everything you have on them so you have evidence if needed.
Juancallclose
Good Citizen
1
ae
First of all, I really hope this doesn't happen as this is a lose faith in humanity moment for me. Second, you better out the company if it does. Holy crap
jefe
Arsonist
1
Head of Sales
Oh God, I can't imagine the stress you're feeling right now.

There's some good advice here, so I'll just say best of luck
atx22
Contributor
1
Enterprise Account Executive
Thanks @jefe. Yes it has, constant thinking, running through options moves, and countermoves.
CRAG112
Good Citizen
1
Account Executive
Get a lawyer, ask the lawyer to call your CEO regarding wage theft. Nothing straightforward or serious, just a casual inquiry.

That's called wage theft. BS like this continues because no one does anything against it.
saaskicker
Politicker
1
Sr. AE
@atx22 how you doing??? been thinking about this one today...
atx22
Contributor
0
Enterprise Account Executive
@saaskickerthanks for checking in. There is a lot of good and useful information here. I have my documents in order and sounds like I need to find a recommendation for an attorney in CA. Reviewing my docs, I don't see a forfeiture clause. There is a windfall clause but how it is worded also gives me hope.

This a major game of chess. It is more stressful internally than it is working this deal.
revenuegenerator
Good Citizen
1
Sales Management
Just collect documentation of the deal. If you can get updates from the prospect, over email, that say the deal is happening and when. Forward them to your personal email to use in the event a lawsuit gets filed by you. Aside from that just work hard. 8 figure deals don't grow on trees, if you're going to land one it sounds like you may want to keep on at this place. Go above and beyond to make sure it's not in his interest to fire you.
Big_Building_Energy
Executive
1
Sales
Maybe start to dangle out a 2nd major deal that you're "working on"? Not that they should need it, but maybe thinking you have another major deal in the works will give the CEO/company incentive to keep you on past this 1 deal.

I have been terminated before (2x, same employer, long story), and each time, I presented proof of sales made prior to termination, and they paid me out for those sales.

Our commission agreement at the time was that anything contracted would be paid commission upon execution of the actual work (months later). So I just provided proof of contract/order dates, threatened to engage a lawyer, and they promptly paid commish on those outstanding projects.
TheRealPezDog
Notable Contributor
1
Account Manager
Document everything and get you a lawyer, try to document your involvement in the deal and if they cut you loose sue the everliving shit out of them and retire
Pachacuti
Politicker
0
They call me Daddy, Sales Daddy
I guess just let it be known that you are the only one who can close it. Itโ€™s your relationship alone and that if youโ€™re gone thereโ€™s no way it can be closed. Talk about how you socialize with the client outside work (even if you donโ€™t). So that if they let you go, the client will know and it wonโ€™t close.
sfsalesdude
Opinionated
0
Sales Team Lead
Iโ€™d be curious as to whether the company would be in a better or worse spot once this deal closes (and accounting for your payout). Seems sizable enough where layoffs might no longer be a concern if you pull in 8 figs for the biz
atx22
Contributor
0
Enterprise Account Executive
The deal would end up being 95+% of the company's ARR, so it can be painted in multiple ways. The board would like to see more logos instead with one customer. The company needs cash.
sfsalesdude
Opinionated
0
Sales Team Lead
I see. Unfortunately that does make sense because thereโ€™s a massive risk that the whole company tanks should the customer churn. Kudos to you for getting this far but as others have said, prepare for the worst. Make sure you read all the fine print of your comp plan and get familiar with your employment laws. Good luck!
Angusmacg
Executive
0
Territory Account Mgr.
Why not have a conversation with the customer, without giving too much away, so that maybe they can make the deal contingent on your follow through and support after the deal is closed?
saaskicker
Politicker
0
Sr. AE
interesting take, but i think this torpedo's the whole deal. if i'm signing an 8 figure deal and they are laying people off, i am not signing an 8 figure deal anymore.
Angusmacg
Executive
0
Territory Account Mgr.
Very trueโ€ฆbut you can be subtle without tanking the deal. Then again if he is going to be fired/let go then why not tank the deal anyway.
saaskicker
Politicker
0
Sr. AE
how would you go about being subtle about this? "hey customer, if i go missing call my mom and don't sign the docusign from a stranger?" why would you not tank the deal? you tank it if they fire you, if you close it, you take the money and run.
Angusmacg
Executive
0
Territory Account Mgr.
Iโ€™d have the conversation about follow up after the deal is signed and make sure that they know I will โ€œhave their backโ€ and make sure that any red tape on my companyโ€™s end will be handled by me and infer that others arenโ€™t as capable. It only works if u have a solid relationship with the customer
Sales12
Executive
0
Account Executive
Haven't been in this situation, so take this with a grain of salt.

It could be worth trying to share your concerns with leadership. This could provide you helpful info and might develop an internal champion if those conversations are happening behind closed doors.

I'd definitely recommend reviewing your comp plan to make sure you understand the language, as well.

Any other deals on the horizon that the CEO/org would find particularly valuable?
IYNFYL
Politicker
0
Enterprise SaaS AE
So youโ€™re saying thereโ€™s a chance
Deetroit
0
Strategic Account Manager
Do you have a tight relationship with your champion? I was in a similar spot and had built an amazing relationship with my champion were we could be legit honest with each other and knew it wasnโ€™t going to be used against the other. I shared some (not all) info with him and he low key sent an email to our CEO praising our whole team with a very light but serious joke that if they let me go, thereโ€™s no way in hell theyโ€™d work with the company (heโ€™s that good). Landed the deal, got paid commish and CEO doesnโ€™t fuck with me bc they know the level of relationship Iโ€™m building at customers.
13
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