In an increasingly active economy, life is good for sales people. Higher targets are achievable and bonuses flow. At the same time, competition to close the deal and make the sale is increasing, as is rivalry between organisations for the best sales staff.
The BMS Quarterly Sales Index, carried out in early 2014, found that over a quarter of sales leaders expected recruitment to increase. According to the index, there is also pressure from the board, which is pushing sales growth targets upwards. Hanging on to sales staff is becoming a real issue once more.
The answer is not simply to throw money at the problem. As Daniel Pink explains in “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us”, although we may think that we are motivated by money, people share three main drivers – autonomy (self-determination), mastery (of a task) and purpose (doing something meaningful at work). It is vital to tap into those intrinsic drivers to create loyal sales staff and build sales incentive schemes that work to retain staff.
It is key to incorporate a recognition element into incentives, not just to reward plain sales totals, but to personalise incentives to individuals and build engagement. ‘Recognition’ refers to awards that deliver status and acknowledgement of achievement. This could be anything from a simple certificate for a top performer to a trip to an exotic destination. It should be high profile and well reported to peers. ‘Reward’ refers to an intrinsic reward where the value of the reward item or prize is paramount. Reward catalogues, vouchers, prepaid cards, and personal travel tend to dominate this category.
Recognition that taps into salesperson’s intrinsic drive might include improving education and training so that sales people have a deep knowledge of the product or service set and a clear picture of the organisation’s goals. It definitely includes targeting rewards and recognition to individuals and defined demographics – one size does not fit all.
If sales people perceive that the organisation and their managers understand what makes them tick and are rewarding them for their efforts, the result will be a loyal and effective sales force.
Here are five tips to create and maintain staff loyalty through sales incentive schemes:
1. Measure up against the competition. A professionally run employee survey can benchmark your scheme against those offered similar organisations, so you can see how to improve what you are offering to keep employees loyal to you.
2. Talk to your staff either informally or in structured focus groups to create an effective scheme and build engagement and loyalty. The feedback process will create sales staff ownership of the final scheme.
3. Link recognition to corporate values. This is a great way to communicate what the values mean in behavioural terms and build a culture that fosters loyalty.
4. Keep it simple. While it is important to design your sales incentive scheme in a granular way, to reward individuals, too much complexity will put people off.
5. Sell the incentive programme! Sales directors and managers should employ all their sales skills at the programme’s launch to make it a success, then work with marketing people to continue to promote the programme and keep it high profile. Many sales people leave their employers still unaware of the full range of benefits available to them.
Healthy competition remains vital to engaging sales people in a competitive market and keeping them focussed on and loyal to organisational goals. Effective sales management, incorporating both recognition and reward at all levels, will contribute hugely to fostering an engaged and loyal sales force.