What Is The Formula For A Winning Sales Team?

I have heard, over the years, that sales reps are just about the money. Many organizations spend incredible amounts of time doing and redoing sales compensation plans. The sales compensation plan is the most highly scrutinized compensation plan when compared to all other job plans. All of this further feeds our mindset that since we spend so much time, effort, and money on this specific issue, it must be what motivates our salespeople.   

In my experience regarding money with salespeople, money is no greater a motivator for salespeople than other professions. Salespeople just talk about it more, and do not necessarily work harder than others to achieve more money. I believe that in the years before technology, some organizations paid higher compensation as a tool to balance a sales rep’s tremendous freedom. Since we couldn’t see them, we structured outrageous compensation as a way to push or pull salespeople out of bed to work harder for their money. And some salespeople achieved that high compensation mark.

Manipulation of any kind has very limited and short term value. Money may move my hands and feet but if you want to engage my mind and heart, I need more. Truly inspiring a sales force has much better results.

Elaina Engel has summarized. in her writing and consulting work. key areas for real sales force motivation. The more satisfied high-performing salespeople are, the better retention you will have, and the better results you will get. Beyond money, there are at least 4 ways you can motivate your reps:

1. Recognition. Reps want to feel that they are making an impact on the company’s successes, and they want others to know it too. Ask sales members what types of recognition they have valued in the past, ie. public, written, or on conference calls with teammates. When a rep is recognized for their hard work, it confirms that they’re a real asset to the team. If they feel their work was recognized, they’re likely to reproduce even greater results.

The real key here is a genuine sense of appreciation for the individual who is the middle performer. We all give recognition and rewards for top performances but top performers are only 20% of our team. The middle 60% need care and nurturing way beyond a compensation plan.  Sometimes, for a variety of business reasons, middle performers are only a location on a list in the middle of the page and not a reflection of their engagement and full determination to receive top performer recognition.

The best sales teams are defined by the performers in the middle, who also feel engaged. The majority of sales teams need to feel involved and encouraged to improve, not de-incentivized. Sometimes performers in the middle need something more than a great compensation plan.

2. High Standards. Set expectations for sales conduct and an environment to compete and you will win. This involves realistic goals and proper boundaries for achieving good sales, not sales gained by bending or breaking the rules. Goals need to be high and attainable for organizational growth. Innovation and creativity are not achieved through ongoing routine compensation plans.

3. Visible career path. Many of today’s reps are focused on “what’s next.” They want to know that high performance may gain them opportunities to be promoted or to gain more responsibility. We’ve all heard countless times that millennial sales reps don’t stay at the same company long. But research shows if they know there is a possibility for an increase in responsibility, they’re nearly 40% more likely to stay.

4. Development. In my experience, the first question a sales interview candidate asks is about money. Again, this jades our thinking that money is their highest or only concern. We don’t consider it might simply be a less important question, that they think has a simple answer.

The #2 question a sales candidate may ask is “What development will I get?” Daniel Pink talked and wrote a great deal about sales reps’ motivation. Money was not in the top 3 (unless it was related to a simple task ie.moving dirt, or the household income was below $75,000 annually).

He found mastery, autonomy, and purpose as the biggest motivators. Knowing that salespeople will have access to further development can also help retain high-performing reps.

Focus on the sales rep being only about money, and you may have minimized your responsibilities. If salespeople are only about the money – try this.  Simply mail the compensation plan to the sales rep and provide none of the above – how far do you think you will get? If you verbalize a compensation plan face to face, you bring in other emotions and issues.  And intuitively we know performance is more than a scorecard or check – it’s knowing that we all have value and can contribute. That we matter to something bigger than ourselves.

Loyalty is not built on money,  rather loyalty is built on compensation in the 10% – 20% range of other companies, and the extra praise you give – sales people will feel genuinely valued and strive for greater results.

Money plus Motivation = Power


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