Motivating and Keeping Your Best Sales Person

November 30, 2011, 4:55 pm Linda Hailey Yahoo!7

Good sales people are hard to find, as every owner of a small business knows. But what’s the secret in holding onto them?...

Motivating and Keeping Your Best Sales Person

The good news is that lack of proper compensation is not the main reason why good sales people leave; it’s much more to do with lack of recognition and effective sales management.

The good news is that money is not the most important factor in retaining staff. That’s not to say that it is not a factor, and that good sales people don’t like getting a big pay packet, just that there are other factors out there.

Who wants mercenaries?

As a Harvard University professor Michael Beer says, “Managers tend to use monetary compensation as a crutch. After all, it is far easier to design an incentive system that will do management’s work than it is to develop an agreement about goals and problems, and confront difficulties when they arise.”

Or as author Jim Clemmer says rather more harshly, “Bribing people to perform turns them into mercenaries. It debases, degrades and demeans work. It sets a vicious self-perpetuating cycle into motion – incentives inducements, rewards, and the like leave people feeling manipulated and overly focused on what they get for complying with management’s goals. The emptier work is, the more people look elsewhere for fulfillment.”

Futile counter-offers

Perhaps at no other time is the ineffectiveness of money shown better than when a valued staff member tenders their resignation. Many companies react to this with a counter-offer in the form of higher pay. But these counter offers are unlikely to keep people around for much longer. The annual Hays salary survey shows that 52 per cent of the employers polled offered more money to get someone to stay, but of those, 37 per cent still walked and another 32 per cent left within a year.

That doesn’t however mean that you shouldn’t design a workable incentive plan in conjunction with your sales people, which allow them to be rewarded with not just a fair wage but also in ways that go beyond their salary. This can include cash bonuses, extra holiday time, days off and an upgrade in their transport.

But sometimes it may be the case that a sales person feels advancement is only possible through moving onto another small business or area. You may have to be realistic and accept that sales people may outgrow your business.

Sales management secrets

The secrets of good sales management are a little more elusive, but one person who has researched the styles of sales management has come up with a perceptive way of looking at the different types.

Allan Mackintosh is a sales coach for a big company and has studied the behaviours of 25 sales managers when they made field visits to their sales representatives. He came up with four types of sales manager: the dictator, the disappearing manager, the demonstrators and the developers.

The dictator tended to tell their sales people to act in a certain way, and was not interested in any feedback, and was certainly not interested in developing the sales person’s abilities. Sales results tended to be average.

The disappearing managers were simply too busy and too obsessed with their own career to be interested in that of their underlings. Their absenteeism caused great resentment within their sales teams and results were below average.

The demonstrators were the opposite of the disappearing managers yet equally annoying as they would take over in sales calls, undermining the integrity of the sales person and often making the customer feel uncomfortable as well.

Let’s hear it for the developer

Not surprisingly, the most effective manager was the developer. Before they went out with the sales person they would jointly agree what would be achieved, take time to plan quality sales calls and work through any ideas or challenges the sales person may have. Although this coaching type of manager would offer support they would also be tough at times in giving feedback. Unlike the other sales manager styles though, the sales person would respect this because they knew the feedback was being given to help with their development and their ultimate success.

Support and develop

So, if you want to keep your best sales person, try not to be a dictator, a disappearer or demonstrator, but a developer. Not only will your business benefit from better sales in the short term, but you will also find your best sales people stay with you for longer.

The best sales manager is therefore one who becomes involved with his or her top sales people in every way possible. This includes making joint sales calls, attending sales meetings, helping to develop a marketing plan and jointly establishing budgets and goals.

It’s important to develop a close bond between you and your sales staff, and this means that you invest time in order to understand what it takes to produce worthwhile results.

Community ties

One great advantage that small independent owner/operators have in retaining their best sales people is that they love living in the community you serve. And you can reinforce this by promoting your business in the community.