Retaining Your Assets

By Malcolm Fleschner

What do sales organizations need to do to motivate salespeople? In the old-school way of thinking, the answer would be to pay them big enough commissions. But as sales trainer and Mission Possible! author John Boe ( points out, compensation structures based exclusively on sales commissions fail to take into account the multiple motivational factors driving sales performance. As a result, he says, commissions alone are not sufficient to retain sales reps.

“To be effective, a sales incentive program must appeal not only to top producers, but also must excite average to below-average salespeople as well,” Boe says. “Once salespeople stretch to a new level of personal production, their self-confidence and expectations skyrocket.”

Boe acknowledges that there’s more to addressing an imposing issue such as sales turnover than tweaking the company’s incentive and commission plan. He offers five additional tips for giving your reps every reason to keep producing for you.

1. Find the leaders. As a number of studies have shown, employees don’t leave companies they leave managers. Rather than rubber-stamping top performing salespeople into management positions, companies need to promote individuals with genuine leadership potential and then offer ongoing leadership and communication development training.

2. Success depends on good relations. The best managers understand that their success depends on their ability to recruit, develop and retain top producers. Job satisfaction is inextricably linked to the relationships between managers and the associates who work for them. That’s why managers who understand this fundamental truth tend to treat reps more like business partners than employees. This is a critical facet of enlightened leadership, along with leading by example, praising achievement and striving to maintain open communications.

3. Test your recruits. A great deal of a sales team’s performance is determined by which applicants are offered positions. While there are no perfect tests to judge individuals’ suitability for a sales career, there are some good ones. Temperament evaluations provide sales organizations with a highly effective tool for making the right hiring decisions today that will result in reduced turnover tomorrow.

4. Train them early and often. Both new and veteran sales reps need ongoing training. Sure, many reps resent taking the time out of the field, but that’s why the manager’s job is to make sure salespeople feel the training is timely, relevant, realistic and recurring. Quality sales training and personal development are little-known but key ingredients to rep retention.

5. Plan for a bright future. Thoughtful companies retain top performers by offering a clear path for advancement while actively developing leadership abilities within the sales organization. Progressive-minded sales managers find ways to extend opportunities for reps to grow both personally and professionally.