Rewards and Cautionary Tales

Creating a suitable selling environment is sometimes compared to pushing water uphill. For a sales team to work it has to be hungry, greedy, and managed. Members must be aware of the result if they achieve nothing, must salivate for the riches that come from success, and realize that the best way to achieve this is through a controlled reward structure.

Good salespeople are extraordinarily smart and learn at a phenomenal rate. Carrots come no bigger than a vested self-interest, so it is hardly surprising that salesmanship attracts powerful personalities. What they are especially adept at is articulating their own remuneration, often with an eloquence you will hear from no other segment of your organization. For everybody's sake, it is vital that you avoid this cuckoo feeding frenzy. Your firm can afford to pay its salespeople what it can afford. If that is insufficient, you just have to get the business off the ground by some other means.

If you can afford salespeople, it is essential to devise a fair incentive system that rewards the successful. Average salespeople on a fair base salary do little to justify their overhead. A good salesman will want a low basic and negotiate as high a commission rate as he can wrangle because he knows his capability. Unsuccessful salespeople live from mouth to hand. They often demand their commissions on the nail. Whereas they are very prepared to take the money, you'd have though that Krakatoa was about to erupt when you mention subtracting commission when a customer cancels his order.

A sale is not a sale in law until the money changes hands for the goods. Where commissions are paid against orders, it is not unknown for friends to invent orders so that the salesperson can collect the commission and disappear shortly afterwards. The only fair arrangement to both parties is for commissions to be paid only after the customer has paid for the goods. This encourages the salesperson to keep the sale sold. However, keep in mind that sales staff, just before they plan to leave, can get very concerned that they won't be paid for orders that are fulfilled after they depart. Their best indication is how their predecessors were treated.

When commissions are astronomic or times are hard, it's not surprising that people start squabbling over money. Anything from answering a phone call from the customer and passing it on can be grounds for claiming a cut. As previously mentioned, unscrupulous salespeople start behaving as if the customer belongs to them. Such people don't usually last long, though they often try to exploit potential customers they have met through the company at their next job. To avoid such issues taking up company time and sapping morale, it is essential to draw up and enforce rules that each salesperson must agree to with management in advance.

There are three useful ways of discouraging client piracy:

♦ Nip it in the bud. If a salesperson interviewee offers you a competitor's list as an incentive, tell him to leave then and there. If they are that unscrupulous to their current employer, how do you expect them to treat you?

♦ Make it clear and write it into their contracts of employment that sales and client information is the sole property of the company employing them and it is a criminal offense to steal it.

♦ Finally, make it very hard to download sales contact lists in any loot-worthy volume. This is perhaps the best argument for having your own sales lead researcher, preferably someone out of house who is paid by a combination of numbers and quality.

Sexism costs. It's a long-held belief that most salespeople are men. Statistically-speaking, this is correct. However, in IT, there is nothing to stop women from being equally successful. In fact, the most successful salesperson I know is a woman. She has worked at the highest level of European sales for a succession of blue chip organizations. She would typically hit her annual targets, which were not insubstantial (7 digits +), in under her first month at the job.

0 0

Post a comment