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Business + Management: Marty Mcghie

Ensuring Good Sales Personnel Stay Put

Tips to keep your sales staff productive and happy.




You can lose business to a good competitor in any number of
ways”?price, product diversity, quality, turnaround time, and
there are many others. One of the fastest ways to lose business,
however, is when one of your top salespersons leaves for another
company. Let's face it, business is all about relationships, and
your relationships with your customers are established and
maintained through your
sales personnel.

Of course, it's always
wise as managers to create
opportunities to associate
with your clients, so that
your sales reps are not the
only link to your customers.
You need to be in the picture.
Hence, in the event that a
salesperson does leave, you
have a much better chance
of retaining your client. But
better to avoid that problem in the first place”?to set up a plan
enabling you to keep your top sale reps.

Rewarding success, penalizing failure

Your first step in retaining your top salespeople should be to provide
them with a compensation package that allows them to make
good money. Sales people are a unique breed: Essentially, they
are willing to begin each month with nothing in their pocket except
the hope that by the end of the month they will have earned a large
commission from their efforts.

Don't fall into the trap of creating a situation that will stifle a
salesperson from earning big dollars. If, at the end of the month,
one of your sales reps has earned a huge commission check,
you should be thrilled”?that means you have lots of sales. Too
many owners and managers believe that their sales reps should
not make more money than them, but that thinking is wrong.
They are building equity in your business.

To this end, you should set up a compensation plan that creates
the right mixture of salary and commissions to reward
them for high sales. Don't neglect the extra benefits they'll need
to succeed. This can include cell phones, car and expense
allowances, computers, health-care benefits, retirement plans,
and any other fringe benefits (within reason) that may help
keep them happy.


Just as important, however, is ensuring that your compensation
structure does not inadvertently reward poor performers. If
they don't sell enough, they should be penalized financially to
the point that they can't afford to stay with your company”?
basically forcing them to move on to somewhere else. One warning
here: Provide yourself plenty of time to judge a new sales rep
properly and thoroughly. This is a difficult industry to learn, and
it takes a while before a new sales rep gets comfortable and
reaches his or her stride. A colleague of mine believes it takes
two years for sales people in our industry to really learn our
business. A heavier salary with less commission-base initially
will usually allow you time to determine whether a particular
salesperson will make it or not.

Product mix and TLC

Another way to keep your sales personnel happy is by providing
an excellent product offering that they can sell at the right price.
If your shop is a one-trick pony, you might be able to keep a top
sales rep for a time. But as soon as they begin to lose significant
jobs to competitors offering more and better options, you'll soon
lose them, too.

Also entering into the mix is how you treat your sales staff. As
I indicated earlier, sales people are a special breed”?they need
your constant attention. Work closely with them on quotes and
projects; spend the time to teach them the business, and visit
their customers with them. Provide them with capable customerservice
support so their clients can be taken care of.

Nor should you neglect the importance of internal camaraderie.
It's a good idea to hold sales seminars and outings, particularly
if your business has multiple locations. In our company,
for instance, we have sales reps in four different locations in the
western US. At least twice a year we get everyone together in
one place, where we spend time training, having open forum discussions
to solicit feedback on how management is doing (yes,
these can be painful at times), and having some fun together.
Although these events can be expensive, the sales seminars are
extremely beneficial. Our sales reps always go away invigorated,
and are ready to try something new as a result.

These are just a few of a great many ways to ensure your
sales force's stability. If sales are, in fact, the lifeblood of our
companies, you can avoid “company cardiac arrest” by spending
time to properly care for your sales personnel.


Marty McGhie [[email protected]] is VP finance/operations of Ferrari Color, a digital-imaging center with Salt Lake City, San Francisco, and Sacramento locations.



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