More Than Just Compensation

The following is a guest post by Adam Boyd of Sandler Training.

Here’s the call I wish I received: “Hey, Adam, I’ve got this sales guy in my office. I don’t really want to deal with him much because I’m super busy. But I want him to do some pretty frustrating work, like calling on people who aren’t interested in anything we have initially, and who will likely lie to him even if they are. He needs to do this all the time, basically be a machine; think the Peyton Manning of salespeople. He needs to be persistent and tough to overcome stalls and objections. He also needs to be smart about what we’re doing and what needs to be said. And finally, he should close lots of business at the right margin, in a short time period. I know these people are really driven by money, and if I get that comp piece right everything will be fine. And by fine, I mean I won’t have to deal with him too much because he’ll price appropriately, do all the work, not need much help on anything, and go make us a lot of money.”

That’s not the call I actually receive, mind you, but I do receive many asking about compensation. It’s what the call should sound like if executives are being very, very honest.  There’s a prevailing belief that the right comp plan is all the motivation people need to behave the way we hope they would, but there’s so much more to it than that. A few thoughts to think outside the comp plan box:

1) Comp is only one piece of a larger puzzle. And honestly, despite what employers and managers may think, it’s almost never the reason salespeople leave a company.

2) The right person is as important, if not more important, than the right comp plan. They should have the desire to succeed in sales, and a commitment to do what it takes to succeed. Most people have seen great comp plans fail to motivate someone to prospect properly, no matter how generous the rewards. The new plan won’t be much more effective if they aren’t willing to overcome the discomfort of looking for new business. I’ve seen research that shows 74 percent of people in a selling role are not a fit. They often lack some of the basic DNA for finding and closing business.

3) The management needs to focus on the right things, such as accountability. Yes, I know you hire “adults,” but many successful adults also hire personal trainers, not because they have no idea how to lift weights, but because they want accountability. Managers need to coach their people through head trash and self-limiting beliefs, as well as on the finer points of the company’s sales process. And managers need to motivate people. No, not the speech from Kurt Russell in Miracle, before the U.S. hockey team takes the ice against the Soviet team (although that’s a good one), but real motivation: drawing out of people the goals they’ve never put on paper or built a plan to reach. Help them understand what comp can do for the rest of their life, not just during the workday.

4) Talk about the comp plan regularly so they understand it and why it is what it is.

5) Understand that no comp plan is perfect, or is going to satisfy everyone in every way. Hopefully it rewards results and drives the right behavior, but know there will be some way that some rep will find a way to game it and that’s not the end of the world.

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