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The Highest-Paid Sales Executives

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March 13, 2018

Top sales leaders at public companies are becoming more prominent in senior executive ranks, and their pay is increasing in parallel. As we enter the 2018 proxy season—when executive compensation data will be reported for fiscal year 2017—Equilar analyzed how sales leadership roles have evolved as one of the top named executive officers (NEOs) at U.S. public companies in the recent past. A similar study in November 2017 analyzed chief marketing officers.

There were 218 top sales executives disclosed in annual proxy statements as one of the top 5 highest-paid employees at their respective companies in fiscal year 2016, and median compensation for these leaders was approximately $1.3 million. Below is a list of the 10 highest-paid executives in a sales-specific role (often the Chief Revenue Officer) that were disclosed in public filings for 2016.

Company Executive Name Title Total Compensation (Fiscal Year 2016)
ServiceNow, Inc.
David Schneider Chief Revenue Officer $16,799,462
Splunk Inc.
Susan St. Ledger Senior Vice President and Chief Revenue Officer $10,813,533
Zendesk, Inc.
Bryan Cox* Chief Revenue Officer $8,764,252
United Continental Holdings, Inc.
James Compton** Vice Chairman and Chief Revenue Officer $8,402,354
Red Hat Inc.
Arun Oberoi Executive Vice President, Global Sales and Services $7,874,758
Cisco Systems, Inc.
Chris Dedicoat Executive Vice President, Worldwide Sales and Field Operations $7,834,248
Yahoo! Inc.***
Lisa Utzschneider Chief Revenue Officer $7,040,554
FireEye, Inc.
William Robbins Executive Vice President, Worldwide Sales $6,586,632
Yext, Inc.
James Steele President and Chief Revenue Officer $6,529,874
Tesla, Inc.
Jon McNeill**** President, Global Sales and Service $6,464,510

*Former executive: Left the position on September 15, 2017.
**Former executive: Left the position on December 31, 2016.
***Company was acquired in 2017.
****Former executive: Left the position on February 7, 2018.

To request a list of the top 50 highest-paid sales executives in the most recent complete fiscal year, please fill out the form below this table. The complete methodology for the study may be found at the bottom of this article.

Historical Trends: More Sales Officers, Higher Pay Packages

In 2016, there were 218 CROs or other top sales executives that were named in proxy statements as one of the top five, highest-paid employees. That number has increased in each of the past five years—growing from from 195 in 2015 and up from 123 just five years ago. Overall, there was a 77.2% increase in the number of sales executives named as top 5 highest-paid officers across the study period. This clearly shows that companies are putting greater emphasis on sales expertise and revenue growth.


Median pay for the individuals who were included as NEOs in proxy statements increased significantly as well during the years Equilar studied. Overall, median total compensation for sales executives grew 26.0% over the five-year period, reaching $1,278,550 in 2016, up from $1,002,408 in 2012. By comparison, CEO pay was up 22.2% in that time frame for Equilar 500 companies, the largest U.S. companies by revenue.


Just two of the 10 top-paid sales leaders were female in 2016, earning the 2nd and 8th spots on the list. While 20% may seem low, women in leading sales roles are even more sparse across the public company universe.

The proportion of women in leading sales roles has increased marginally, despite growth in absolute numbers. Four of 123 executives named as one of the highest-paid employees in proxy statements were women in 2012, or 3.3%. By 2016, the number had increased to 13, representing 5.9% of total sales executives named as highest-paid officers. By comparison, 18.4% of all marketing executives named in 2016 were women. In addition, 16.5% of board directors are women, and about 5% of CEOs are women, as has been reported in various studies.


Methodology: Equilar analyzed all U.S.-based or listed public companies with more than $650 million in market capitalization in fiscal 2016 and that filed proxy statements for fiscal 2016 before August 15, 2017. The study then looked at that universe of companies historically over the preceding five fiscal years.

Learn more about how Equilar data can help identify executives and board members for business development, recruiting and benchmarking at https://www.equilar.com/boardedge-business-development.html.


Dan Marcec, Director of Content & Communications, authored this post. Please contact him at dmarcec@equilar.com for more information on Equilar research and data analysis. Alex Knowlton, Senior Research Analyst, also contributed to this publication.

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