Commission, Bonus And What Really Motivates Sales People….

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I used to subscribe to the notion that compensation drives behaviour in the world of professional sales but in recent years I have changed my view.
Sometimes sales people in organisations get treated like some untamed beast. You throw some raw meat(bonus/commission) at once every now and again and they will carry on with their show trick. Meanwhile for every “non-selling” member of staff lots of other things get considered to improve their work environment, increase their engagement and productivity as well as ensuring their services are retained.
Sales people need all the same things as every member of staff. If you want the best from them, they shouldn’t be treated any differently. Don’t get me wrong, it won’t be easy.
“Culture drives behaviour and compensation manipulates it.”
Well, that’s my belief anyway. We often hear that buying habits have changed, so too have the drivers behind the next generation of sales talent. I hear and read a lot around the buying habits of millennials. What about understanding how we motivate, engage, retain and develop the next generation of sales talent?
We simply can’t just throw a catalogue and a promise of a big bonus at them and expect that incentive to drive all their behaviours. Or that they will be the correct behaviours.
For me sales people succeed for so many more reasons than a good commission structure:
Great leadershipProfessional DevelopmentSecurityOpportunities to contribute in other areasFeeling valued beyond just their sales targetBeing bought in to the company’s “Why”
The last on that list is so vital and often over looked. If you want to win the hearts and minds of your customers you first have to win the hearts and minds of the people that serve them, your sales people.
On my own personal sales journey over the last 15 years the best sales people I have met have completely unequivocally bought in to the business they work for, the leadership of that business and get out there on the front line to do their bit for the cause rather than just to take a bonus. Don’t get me wrong, bonuses are earned and they serve as a motivating factor especially in the dark days where all you are getting is no’s. The prospect of a bonus will keep you going to a point but it should be more than that that motivates your team.
Anyone can pay a sales person a bonus
Quite frankly if you think your sales team only get out of bed for the commission or bonus on offer then give up trying to keep them right now! In a competitive environment where excellent sales people are worth their weight in gold there will always be someone else willing to pay them more or give them a bigger bonus.
It’s rare that a sales person resigns because they are not getting paid enough commission. It happens but in my experience, they truly leave for other reasons and rationalise it with the opportunity to earn more money. Often the only reason sales people have their ears open to new more lucrative opportunities is because they are demotivated or disengaged.
There will be times in the career of a sales professional where the lure of more money will entice them away. If you are not able to compete then you must accept that they will leave or change your culture. Just ask West Ham United or Southampton FC how that works for them. They get the best out of their talent and accept that they will move on. Be proud about it and accept that it may be part of the life cycle of your business. Most sales people will leave for one or several of the 6 reasons I listed earlier.
A sales team of mercenaries
The danger of just throwing cash at a sales team and nothing else is that you end up with “Guns for Hire”. It happens and you see it, a churn and burn culture that short sighted leaders feel will yield the sort of results that will get them through the next quarter. However it fails to build for more sustainable success.
Discover talent, develop that talent, lead it, encourage it, be patient with it, continue to invest in it, show gratitude other than financial. You will end up with a group of highly motivated brand ambassadors. W ho will create fans from your customers by truly representing you and your company’s values.
Give security to your team and they will reward you for it.
There may be some people reading this thinking that the fear and insecurity of a sales person not having a job next time they miss target in some way serves as motivation. It will motivate some behaviours but not the ones you want, I assure you! When people feel insecure they start “Playing not to Lose” rather than “Playing to Win”. On the surface of it this may sound like the same thing but they create a completely different set of behaviours from 2 very different mind-sets.
“Playing To Win” encourage bravery and ensures your team are driving towards a positive outcome with security and courage.
“Playing Not To Lose” creates fear, no risk taking, self-preservation and bad health in your team. There’s hundreds of sporting examples of teams who go ahead on the score board in a game. Only then the mind set shifts to defending that lead rather than pushing for more. The focus has shifted from winning to not losing or conceding a score. Hanging on at best!
I’m going to end on a couple of questions:
How much do you invest in your sales team?Does each member of that team have a personal development plan?Do they each clearly know what is expected of them beyond this year?Do they know and buy in to the companies vision?Does your team feel secure?Are your team “playing to win”?When was the last time you incentivised your team with something other than a financial reward?
Find the best people you can afford and work as hard to develop them and keep them engaged as you do on marketing to new clients.
You keep what you sow when it comes to sales team development.
Happy team building!