Retain Quality Sales People

September 2, 2011

Q: How can we hold on to good sales people when no one is buying anything?

A: By first having a really good sales structure and not just handing out sales quotas. The challenge with any sales plan is to have perfect alignment of the sales people’s compensation plan and the company’s best interests. The really good sales people, the kind you want to hold on to, understand that in order for them to succeed, the company must first succeed. The team must win before the individual. They understand that during slow times, a fierce competitive marketplace or a highly competitive bid project that they too will need to make sacrifices. The best comp plans having everyone sharing the upside and downside of this. The worst sales plans assign fixed quotas with no attachment to profitability.

Sales people relate best to volume, whereas the business owners relate best to profits. Often times a sales person feels pinched by the company’s minimum marks on margins. Some end up leaving for jobs where unit/box sales come with a fixed commission. Those sales people are better off there. The best sales people in our industry understand that the company has to make money first. If no one buys anything, then they are in trouble. But they are in trouble anyway, because especially in this economy, the company can’t afford anyone on the payroll who isn’t bringing in more than they cost the owner.

From a more cynical angle I have to question this question. Is it possible that they really aren’t good sales people? Who told you they were… past sales volume? Remember the good sales people adapted by scrapping and working harder than they have ever done. Or, is it that you’re the last remaining member not to have made concessions on margins? Maybe your sale people haven’t changed their strategies since the downturn in the economy. Our most successful members made pretty dramatic changes in how they have mobilized their sales force since 2008. I wonder if you should re-evaluate your sales structure and at the same time dig deep into finding out if it is truly your marketplace, or if it’s really your sales strategy within that marketplace. A good way to tell is to track the sales efforts and attention given to your signature product in your most primary market. If no one is buying that and you’ve given it your very best effort, then you’ve a much bigger problem. — CW

Member Access