Does Incentive Pay Drive Sales Success?

October 13, 2010

Many companies, including start-ups and small to mid-size organizations, make decisions regarding incentive pay for sales executives, account managers, sales/client support team members and others connected with the sales process.

In some cases the goal may be to implement a program for the first time; in other instances the objective may be to modify an existing plan.

Whenever incentive pay is being considered, it is wise to take into account at least three factors:

  • The definition of success
  • The nature of your selling systems
  • The role of management

THE DEFINITION OF SUCCESS:
A properly designed incentive program will align rewards, commissions, bonuses and other payments with organizational objectives. The chief–and most basic principle, is that sales, account executives and client support team members are given rewards for achieving results.

If the comp plan is appropriately linked with business strategy and objectives, the organization will be able to attract, motivate and retain the best and the brightest sales and client support team.

On the other hand, failure to define success will invariably lead to poor morale, employee turnover, lackluster productivity and increased cost of sales.

Some questions that need to be addressed are:

What is the organization endeavoring to accomplish? Are the business’s strategic interests and objectives aligned with the results you want your sales team to achieve? Are these results reasonably attainable—and do they realistically define “success” as it is communicated and understood by the sales team?

THE NATURE OF YOUR SELLING SYSTEMS

Sales professionals often speak of their unique style or method of selling. My many years as a sales executive and sales manager in a variety of industries attest to the fact that indeed there are as many different styles as there are personality types. Sales success is not dependent on any one style. I’ve observed many top performers who were “low key” individuals, and other highly productive individuals  who demonstrated a more outgoing and demonstrative demeanor.

Nevertheless, every organization needs to have a standardized selling system to which all representatives adhere. If you research virtually any successful company, you’ll find there is in place a series of tools, principals, procedures and methods that provide a foundation whereby success may maximized.

The selling system involves the manner in which a sales entity interfaces with prospects and clients. It also addresses how sales is integrated internally within an organization via sales support, account management, operations, IT, marketing, HR and other departments.

A CASE STUDY

Some time ago I did work for a technology company that specialized in serving multiple location businesses, including retailers.

National Account Managers had two key responsibilities: they were responsible for driving new business and for maintaining a single-point-of-contact with existing customers. Over time it became apparent that the most productive “hunter” type NAMs inevitably became bogged down by their own success; the more clients they acquired, the less time they had to prospect for new accounts, because the existing business they had sold required maintenance as well.

The traditional company “solution” to this problem had been to hire an additional NAM to pick up the slack and break up the existing NAM’s territory. The message that came through was that a productive, quota-busting NAM actually ended up being penalized for his or her success.

My recommendation to the CEO was that we introduce a pilot program in Boston where the NAM would be linked with a Client Support Representative (actually a NASR or National Account Support Rep) who would handle the single-point-of-contact duties, up-grades of systems, follow-up on new store or facility openings and ensure client needs and questions were handled in a professional and timely fashion.

I designed a compensation plan for the NASR position, including an incentive tied to all of the accounts sold by the NAM.

This new program more than doubled sales within nine months and eventually was brought to Dallas, Chicago, Ohio, Los Angeles, San Francisco and other key cities and sales grew 1000%.

In addition, customer service improved, client retention was phenomenal and employee turnover was brought down to a minimum. Most importantly, as revenues increased, the cost of sales plummeted.

In this instance, the selling system paradigm shifted to a team concept, aligning sales, support, technical services and operations. All offices used virtually identical methods, tools and approaches which were aligned with the business objective of acquiring, maintaining and retaining profitable national account business.

THE ROLE OF MANAGEMENT

Management support and involvement is crucial in order to maximize the effectiveness and success of any incentive pay program. It should be fully recognized and understood that incentive compensation for the sales team acknowledges their very unique challenges and contribution to the organization. Nothing happens until somebody sells something. Properly designed, incentive pay rewards those behaviors that produce the results desired by the company.

It is the sales manager’s job to train, direct, motivate and inspire members of the sales team to excellence.

A genuine sales management professional knows how to hire the right people up front, communicate effectively (including the details of the comp plan) and  mentor his or her people—ultimately  building  a most highly effective sales team.

Incentive pay, rightly designed and managed by a pro-active, hands-on professional sales manager, is a winning combination that will not only drive increased sales, but also improve morale, retention of employees and lower the cost of sales. Elimination of one or more of these factors will likely minimize, if not stifle a maximum positive impact.

Traininguru

John A. Fallone

JOHN A. FALLONE is a Biz Dev Consultant, Marketing Strategist, SEO Specialist, Sales Executive, business growth expert, turnaround specialist, motivational speaker, legendary sales manager, training specialist, copywriter and Founder, President, & CEO of Traininguru and THE HUMAN FACE OF TECHNOLOGY

TRAININGURU solves business and interpersonal problems, specializing in creating simple, yet highly effective business strategies to accelerate revenue growth while reducing costs.

For more than 20 years, John has assisted successful entrepreneurs, CEOs, business leaders and IT executives in the development and implementation of proven, powerful, high growth strategies that have exponentially boosted revenues and increased profits, while dramatically improving employee motivation and retention.

Contact:

John
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