Keeping Superior Sales People
Finding top salespeople is one thing; keeping them is another. Fully trained and seasoned salespeople are a valuable asset to your company. You simply can't afford to lose them.
Think about it. Superior salespeople possess attributes every company wants in its sales force. They are masters at sales communication and know how to influence customers to buy through listening effectively, asking the right questions, overcoming objections, and closing the sale. In addition, they have exceptional presentation skills.
Superior salespeople are individuals other people like being around. They have a positive attitude and enjoy interacting with customers, coworkers, suppliers, and industry associates. They know that selling is serving. You don't have to expend energy keeping them motivated; they are self-starters and "go-getters" who act as if they are on a mission. A strong desire to succeed is inherent in their personalities.
Superior salespeople have worked hard to earn their commission, win new customers and build customer loyalty. As you well know, this doesn't happen overnight. Being successful takes a great deal of time and energy to build trust and establish a long-term relationship with your customers. If you have heard me speak at a meeting, conference, or seminar, you may remember my saying,
"The customer is not only buying your product or service, they are buying you."
So, in essence, your customers bought not only your quality product or service and your great reputation, they bought the salesperson. To reiterateyou simply can't afford to lose them. If they are swayed to go to one of your competitors, they will give that competitor a major advantage and possibly your best customers as well.
Over the years, I've seen this happen with many companies. I could give you far too many examples or shall we say horror stories. One company lost a top sales person along with their best customers, another ended up losing their business. (Note: my new book, "Capture Your Competitors' Customers And KEEP Them" will be full of horror stories! Watch for its release in the Fall)
So, before it is too late, here are some recommendations to help you keep your superior sales pros:
Keep them in the right frame of mind.
Treat your sales team with respect. Superior salespeople work smarter and harder than average producers. It's management's responsibility to respect them and treat them well. Never talk down to them or make them feel inferior in any way.
Let them know you appreciate their hard work. Competition has always been tough, but, today, competition is fierce. Your sales pros are under a great deal of pressure to sell. Alleviate some of that pressure by letting them know how much you appreciate their hard work. Communicate your appreciation through both written and verbal communication on a consistent basis.
Send them a monthly letter via e-mail telling them how much you appreciate their hard work. Call it, "Message from the Prez," or "Sales Manager's Monthly Message." Make sure your message shoots straight from the heart or it may come across as "lip-service."
Keeping them in the right frame of mind is not about being a "rah-rah" motivational cheerleader. It's about management continuously demonstrating their appreciation for their ability to sell.
Provide them with reward and recognition--both financial and personal. Give special recognition to the outstanding sales performer in the form of a "Top Gun" (or any other great name) award. It should go to the largest sales and gross-profit leader. Additional awards should be presented in the form of the "President's Club," or "Winners Circle." An "Extra-Effort" should go to the individual who has shown the most dedication to their customers, or to the newest sales person who has shown great promise.
Superior salespeople like money and personal recognition. Financial rewards, trips, and other incentives are great motivators, as are wall plaques and take-home trophies. The office plaque tells your customers, suppliers, visitors and co-workers who the top sales performers are at your company and gives industry recognition. A trophy at home gives the salesperson recognition to his/her family, friends, and guests.
Inspire them to reach even greater heights. Superior salespeople know they are a cut above the rest. Inspire them to be even greater through coaching. Help them to identify their strengths and help them to capitalize on those strengths.
Hold them accountable. Top performing salespeople welcome accountability. Make sure they know what they are being held accountable for. Set up clear standards, starting with an accurate job description, and expectations.
Instill a sense of pride in working for your company. Give them a sense of excitement about how much they contribute to the success of the company. This will result in increased sales.
Listen to them. Many top salespeople leave their jobs because they feel they are not listened to. They know more about your company, your products or service and what needs improvement from what they hear in the field. Have them provide this valuable feedback, and if there's action needs to be taken, let them know you have listened to them and have taken appropriate action.
Give them the tools, training, and support they need.
Provide them with the latest sales technology. People prefer to work for a company that provides the latest sales aids: PDAs, contact management software, and others.
Invest in the training they need. In addition to product training, provide them with training on sales communication, presentation, and negotiation so their skills will remain superior to your competitors' sales forces. Make sure the sales trainer you select has spent a good deal of time learning about your product or service and your industry. If your sales people feel they are receiving a "generic" sales training program, they will get turned off.
A great sales trainer will interview and survey your sales people prior to the training program to learn what their specific challenges are. At the onset of the program, they will identify these challenges and provide solutions, advanced selling skills and of course, sales motivation. Often, I will involve a few top performers in the training to be a part of a panel, to role play, or even facilitate.
Management should participate in the training along with the salespeople. That sends a message to them that they, and their training is important to the company. And, it shows that management is interested in learning and growing. They should also sit with their team, and not in the back of the room with other managers.
Training should be ongoing. Superior salespeople love to learn. They are always looking for that "one thing" that will help them to be even more successful. Ongoing training will keep your top salespeople sharp, confident, competitive, and cutting-edge.
Keep them connected with the rest of the team. Sales can be a lonely job. This is especially true if you have reps who operate out of their homes. Assign them to partner with another top performer. Have them share best practices, and keep each other focused and positive. In addition assign them to mentor a new sales person.
Give them dynamic leadership. If you are losing sales people, the first place to look is at your company's leadership. Regardless of how much money they are making, superior salespeople will be easily swayed to leave if they are unhappy with an executive or manager.
Make sure your leaders practice dynamic leadership and earn the respect of their salespeople. Here's a quote from my book, "Wake Up and Smell the Competition":
"To keep people motivated, you need to display dynamic leadership,
Give them a team to back them up. Your sales people work really hard to sell. They need to be supported by a team of exceptional people who recognize that, without their sales, no one in the company gets a paycheck. Establish a "Sales-Service Excellence Culture" where "Everyone is in Sales," and people think and act as your brand ambassadors. (For a free report with a step by step process to creating this innovative culture http://www.christinespeaks.com/salesserviceculture.pdf
Give them authority.
Depending on what you sell or offer and, if possible, give salespeople negotiating authority (within company guidelines) to close orders. Your sales person has likely worked hardvery hardto get the customer to the point where they are ready to buy. Most customers prefer to deal salespeople who have the authority to close a deal on the spot. If the sales person has to go back to you to get an answer, it will take longer to close an order. That gives the customer time to price shop and you might lose in the long run.
Pay them so they want to stay
Create a sales commission plan that is fair and flexible. Use that same plan for the entire sales force; the only exception could be for new salespeople who need a specified salary until they are ready for the regular commission plan. This should be a relatively short period if you've hired quality people, coached them well and assigned sufficient potential account bases.
If you use the same commission plan for your entire sales force, a select few salespeople will earn a higher income than the rest of the staff. A top performer can have a "career year" possibly being the highest paid person in the company in any particular year. In this case, permit the top performers to make a large income. Their example will set the sales bar higher and, hopefully, inspire the rest of your sales force to worker smarter and harder. Again, if you've heard me speak, you heard me say
"What one person can accomplish, so can another."
Give them sales meetings that are valuable, memorable, upbeat, and fun!
Make your sales meetings memorable. Superior salespeople don't want the "same-old, same old" sales meeting. Surprise and delight them with meetings that provide value to them. Don't just give them company information and product updates, give them what they need most ideas, solutions to their problems, training, reward and recognition, time to bond with their peers and time to have fun! Make them different each time, so they never know exactly what to expect, but they know that it will be great and will look forward to it.
Follow these recommendations and the retention of your top salespeople should be very high.
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