Sales is a complex process; not a destination or single event. It is about solving problems, introducing new ideas, building and maintaining relationships. In just one word, sales is about TRUST.
While I do see the temptation to pay sales people a percentage of the end result (deals they close); I feel that this act alone is the breeding ground for underhanded, greedy sales tactics that seem to ruin the reputations of the dedicated professionals working their craft. It also sets a precedent that some people are ‘more important’ or ‘more advantaged’ than others within an organization. Few things prevent trust more than greed and favoritism.
The Internet, with ready availability of information, has re-shaped the way consumers and businesses make purchasing decisions. Buyers are much more informed by the time they step out from the shadows of anonymity and become a ‘prospect’.
‘Buyers’ are not just limited to consumers or purchasing agents. The term includes your new sales staff as well. They must buy your message before they can sell anything. It is time to update your compensation structures – your entire organization – to better reflect a modern scenario.
Such radical departures from the norm are frequently met with resistance. Why would someone opt for changes when ‘everything seems to be working’? (Revenue from sales does NOT necessarily mean your process is working – much less that it is working efficiently.)
Here is a glimpse of what will happen if you don’t update. Actually it is already happening.
- You will fail to attract new talent that will keep your catapult your brand, or even keep it contemporary.
- Your existing top producers will become less effective or will leave (taking experience and relationships with them).
- Your up-and-coming producers will find it increasingly difficult to reach their potential.
While there will never be a definitive way for every company’s sales operations and compensations; it doesn’t mean there are no guidelines to follow. Here are some to consider:
Appreciate contributions. Each of us has plenty to offer – critical thinking, innovative approaches, personal connections, experience, and a variety of personality strengths we are willing to contribute for the good of the organization. Build ways for your people to invest themselves into your brand and they will extend it to customers.
Reflect business culture. Trust comes from authenticity. Your sales team must personally project the core values of your business. They are not outsiders with a different mission; they are an active part of the company. Convincing potential buyers to ‘believe’ doesn’t come from a script, nor does it come from brilliant marketing. Belief is only transferred through other believers.
Reward effort AND results. Commissions and bonuses put value on results, salaries value effort; but both come with pre-conceived ideas about what is expected. The best compensation systems come from intimately understanding the buyer’s journey and relating best interests of sales people, company, and buyers.
By building your systems to appreciate individuals’ contributions, reflect the business culture, as well as reward their effort and results you will keep both sales team and buyers excited about the process. This excitement will build engagement and commitment; minimizing much of the traditional incentives (carrot and stick approaches) that diminish loyalty throughout your organization. And it will allow you to close more deals.
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david r frick is a business artist and founder of SuccessVentures – a consulting firm focused on helping owners and entrepreneurs through a holistic approach to building sustainably-growing companies that meet the needs of contemporary business environments. Please feel free to follow and share his regular postings here or on twitter (@drfrick)