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Rewarding the Rainmakers

How to motivate and compensate your sales team.

If I were to survey business owners asking them to identify the most important parts of their business, I likely would receive a wide range of responses. It wouldn??"??"??t be much of a stretch, however, to assume that sales would rank pretty high on the list.

Simply put, without sales, we have no business. Our next assumption, then, is that without sales reps, we would have no sales. That said, you probably agree with this statement as well: It??"??"??s critical that you motivate your sales reps to perform at a consistently high level.

The internal makeup of a salesperson is different than most professionals. Think about it for a minute: Your sales reps all begin each month entering the unknown??"??"?uncertain of whether they will make a lot of money or perhaps just a little. Each month brings the possibility of losing jobs, or worse, losing a customer. On the other hand, there is the chance of securing a huge job or landing a new account.

While most of us in the professional world know exactly how much we will make for at least the next year or so, it??"??"??s different for someone in sales. As business managers, it??"??"??s essential that we understand the ??"????wiring??"??"? of our sales reps. So what do they need from you? They need communication, feedback, sympathy, recognition, direction, and, often, your tender loving care. Let??"??"??s examine some specific ways to provide just that.

A target to shoot for
Every sales rep out there beating the streets needs to have some direction. They need a goal. You can argue that a good sales rep will set his or her own goals and be self-motivated enough to achieve them. That may be true in a few cases, but for the most part, your sales reps will always do better if they have a target to shoot for.

It??"??"??s important for you, as a manager, to be involved in the goal-setting process. Additionally, it??"??"??s vital that your company??"??"??s goals be congruent with your sales team??"??"??s goals. For example, by the time you??"??"??re reading this column, you probably have set an overall company sales goal for the 2007 business year. In conjunction with that, you should also be sitting down individually with each salesperson to determine what his or her sales goal for the year is going to be.

At the end of the day, of course, if your sales team??"??"??s totals don??"??"??t add up to your corporate goal for sales in the coming year, you have to make some alternative plans. Either hire more sales reps to accomplish your goals, or go back and get higher sales commitments from your existing team. The critical part is getting management and sales working together to agree on a goal??"??"?and then moving forward as a team to accomplish it.

Working together
One of the best ways to show your team that you??"??"??re committed to helping them reach their goals is to get the management team or other company support staff involved in sales calls. Getting out of the office to make calls will help in a couple of important ways.

First, it sends a message to your team that you??"??"??re interested in helping them reach their goals. For instance, if a particular sales call involves a technical job coming up, you might want to send your production manager or perhaps one of your best technical people with the sales rep to support and answer any questions that may come up.

Second, it communicates to your customer that management values their business and is interested enough to give them extra service and attention. Our sales reps love to meet with a client when they have the opportunity to introduce them to one of the owners of the business. I have always had a very positive reaction, and I??"??"??m often able to get feedback from the client that they may otherwise not give to the sales rep.

When you make visits, take the time to ask your customers questions about their business. Get to know them individually, so that you can begin to establish a relationship with them as a business owner or manager. Ask them if there are areas in which your business can better serve them. Be careful not to spend all of your time talking about your business??"??"?chances are, they already know most of what you might be telling them.

Having someone in management in the discussion also accomplishes another important element: team redundancy. If a sales rep decides to leave your company, you have a much better chance of retaining those customers when you have a relationship with them extending beyond the sales position.

Also falling under the umbrella of ??"????working together??"??"? is the concept of regularly meeting with your entire sales team. Coming together as a team will generate enthusiasm that simply cannot be developed on an individual basis. If you have sales reps in various locations, it??"??"??s a good idea to plan to host a sales seminar or conference or even an informal gathering to get everyone together at least two or three times a year.

As an example: This fall, we took the opportunity to gather our entire sales team together at the SGIA Expo in Las Vegas. We spent one day in a conference with different sessions on strategy, markets, products, etc. The next day, the entire team spent the day at the trade show with additional training from some of our vendors. While this certainly wasn??"??"??t an inexpensive endeavor, the money spent was well worth the opportunity to get everyone together to build a more effective sales team. These types of events can be critical to the success of your team, but you??"??"??d be surprised at how many companies do not pursue them.

Recognize and reward
Always look for ways to recognize and reward your sales reps. Be careful that you don??"??"??t fall into the trap of believing that a nice big commission check is the only reward a sales rep may need. Recognize their accomplishments in front of their peers, in front of management, and in front of the whole company if possible.

When your sales reps achieve their monthly goals, recognize them immediately. And if they have a huge sales month or even a record month, reward them with something extra??"??"?something simple like movie tickets or a gift card to a restaurant works great. If your sales rep reaches his or her annual goal, this is a big deal??"??"?so go ahead and make a big deal of it.

At our company, we have established a ??"????Million Dollar Club.??"??"? Any sales rep that reaches $1 million in sales for the year quali??"?fies for a trip for two to a preplanned destination with the other winners and the owners of the company. Your reward program can be something entirely different; just keep in mind that it isn??"??"??t really the type or extent of the reward that??"??"??s important??"??"?rather, it??"??"??s the fact that you take the time to do it.

These few ideas should encourage you to examine the way you interact with your sales team. They are the rainmakers, and when they do indeed make it rain you need to be there??"??"?letting them know how much you appreciate the moisture. Spend the necessary time, effort, and money in building your sales team and you will be building your future success.

Marty McGhie (marty@ferraricolor.com) is VP finance/operations of Ferrari Color, a digital-imaging center with Salt Lake City, San Francisco, and Sacramento locations.

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