Few imperatives are as important to a company’s bottom line as knowing how to keep sales executives motivated during lean times. Salespeople drive revenue, and their chunk of a company’s compensation plan reflects their indispensability. When margins and budgets are tight, keeping these front-liners fortified is essential if a company wants to stay profitable and retain top talent.
A decade after the Great Recession, the American economy is still inching its way back to health. Salary increases remain sluggish, if not recessive in certain industries. And on the sales front, bonus pools are often underfunded, and incentives pale in relative comparison to those prior to the downturn.
Today’s workforce — and especially top sales talent — is more savvy than ever with regard to what is available. Thanks in large part to quick access and exchange of information afforded by technology, employees don’t necessarily settle in for the long haul after hiring. And when it comes to sales people, the average tenure is only 1½ to 3 years.
If you are in charge of hiring and/or managing your company’s sales executives, knowing how to retain your talent is as important as knowing how to acquire it. And an important component of that retention plan involves keeping the key players motivated during lean times.
The modern workforce is much more diverse, creative and multi-faceted than in the days of starkly defined gender roles and lifetime tenures. The topic of work-life balance can no longer be swept under the rug if gender gaps are going to close and great talent is going to stick around. People on every rung of the corporate ladder want more out of life. And that includes enjoying it.
Here are several points for conversation and consideration if you have to keep your sales executives motivated during lean times.
- Know your team and treat everyone as an individual.
Progressive companies are seeing great results in performance by treating their sales teams like talent portfolios. In the same way that investments are unique in their need for attention, so are sales people. Not everyone is a rainmaker, but every contributor plays an essential role. Knowing the difference between your stars, core performers and laggards will direct your motivation efforts.
Core performers respond better to multi-tier targets and prizes that cater to their personal priorities, even if the stars grab a bigger purse. And using pace-setting bonuses for laggards who need more encouragement and prodding can keep them mentally “in the game” throughout the year.
- Don’t cap commissions on your star performers.
It’s difficult for a go-getter to stay motivated when finance says, “no more commission after you hit this level.” Capping commissions, even during tight times, won’t incentivize your stars to keep their momentum going. Consider incentives like overachievement commissions and contests that allow for multiple winners.
- Be flexible and responsive to personal situations.
Believe it or not, there is life outside of work. People have families, medical issues and other priorities that don’t always fit a rigid 9-5 work day. While money is a principal motivator, it’s far from the only one. Knowing that an employer is compassionate and flexible when it comes to an individual’s life is a huge retention feature.
- Tailor roles to individuals.
Small firms have more leeway in this area, but it is a worthy aspiration for all companies. How can you tap into the unique, even hidden talents of your sales executives to keep them motivated during lean times?
Who says that the only job titles are the ones that have been handed down in textbooks or through your company’s long history? If you want to edge out your competition in a saturated market, tap into your talent reserves and build around them.
- Say ‘thank you.’ A lot.
The importance of gratitude and recognition can’t be overstated. Elevating your expression of gratitude to meet the personality and response style of the individual you are thanking is as important as the thank-you itself.
Again, it comes back to knowing your team. Be thoughtful and creative in how you recognize the amazing assembly of individuality at your service, and watch your bottom line ask for more room.
Motivated, engaged employees go above and beyond to fulfill the mission and objectives of the company they work for. They contribute more ideas and are more likely to stick around than those who are unmotivated.
Keeping your sales executives motivated during lean times calls upon management to be creative and less general with incentives. Team members who are stressed by harder-won revenues and payouts want to know that they are valued in demonstrated ways.
So, give them what they respond to, including a path to advancement, training, project-leadership opportunities, time off and recognition.
Investing in those who invest in your business with their time and talent will pay off as a great ROI. And those investors will be more inclined to stick around.If you need help keeping your sales executive motivated, we can help. Reach out to us here.