Last week, we addressed the question of sales compensation plans in “What Do You Pay Yours Sales Staff?” As a side note, I suggested that incentive plans narrow their focus to the top few sales objectives, and that sales managers find other non-financial ways to encourage the rest.
Well, great. But what, exactly, would be a non-financial incentive? Aren’t sales people — or nearly all employees — motivated by money?
Sure, most employees are motivated by money, at least in part. But money is far from the only motivation. And that’s a good thing, since most start-ups and small web businesses are not exactly flush with extra cash. Salary and compensation packages for good sales talent are already high in the competitive Internet advertising market. Smart and budget-conscious sales managers look beyond the checkbook for incremental incentives.
In survey after survey, sales people rank only steps above politicians and lawyers in terms of the low regard in which they are held. (Although after this latest circus in Washington, I’m guessing salespeople will have jumped in esteem!) But despite the narrow and negative stereotypes, most sales professionals I’ve met are spurred on largely by their own desire to serve clients well, to provide real value, and to rise to the challenges of the job. Yes, just like any other professional.
Sure, they want to make money, and a good, fair, and easy-to-understand compensation plan is important. But that’s not the whole story. Contests, public recognition, sincere praise, and opportunities to learn and grow. There are many additional steps smart managers can take to keep their teams inspired and focused on performance, and their top performers rewarded.
Opportunity As Reward
How about approving travel to desirable industry conferences based on performance? There are dozens of Internet advertising trade shows, many of which might be a good investment for your business. When a trade show, conference, or other industry related event is not large enough to justify sending your whole team, you can staff it with salespeople who merit an extra reward.
That sort of reward is not really considered compensation, in that it’s still a business need being filled, and the sales person does not benefit monetarily. Yet, you’ll find many of your sales staff putting in the extra effort to warrant a trip to such an event.
The same applies to additional training courses and seminars. Award such attendance as an acknowledgement of behavior beyond the definitions of the basic compensation plan and you’ve got an additional incentive working for you.
Need a sales spokesperson to join the CEO on analyst tours, to support your business development team in a partnership discussion, or to attend a board function? All of these privileges are non-cash incentives that can motivate and reward ambitious individuals.
Praise Goes A Long Way
This may be obvious, but it needs to be said. Sadly, sales managers get busy (especially when sales management also has accounts to handle and personal revenue responsibility) and forget the basics.
All employees need and deserve to be recognized and thanked for their contributions. Just because a salesperson earns a commission for results, the desire to be acknowledged does not disappear.
Make public praise a regular part of your motivation program…. with announcements at staff meetings, all staff emails, signs and posters around the office or mentions in the newsletter. None of which should be gratuitous praise; patronizing is not an inspiration to anyone. Always be on the lookout for genuine accomplishments, and then make the action and its owner the focus of positive attention.
Involve other managers too; a personal thanks from the CEO for a big sale can re-ignite even the most jaded salesperson.
Want more teamwork and cooperation on your sales force? Add a group prize for cooperating to hit a goal. A group activity, an extra holiday, or a more desirable sales meeting locale awarded for an above-expectations result can get the whole team working together to produce the result.
Management behavior can either pit the team against each other or get them working to support each other. Make sure you know which one you are encouraging with the reward system you put in place.
Are you hoping to build a high-performance, low-turnover, highly-motivated sales team? The sort of team who can grow your business faster than the pace of the market? Hiring right, training well, and crafting an appropriate compensation plan are all necessary steps. But the more subtle messages you send your team make the difference, molding individual talent into a first-rate team of sales professionals.
Sales management, the choice is yours.
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