Motivate Through The Downturn

By Malcolm Fleschner

No sales manager can single-handedly turn the economy around and get the nation back in the black. But that doesn’t mean you’re helpless to give your salespeople a leg up on the competition and prepare for when economic prospects improve. The sales-incentive program is one area where you do retain a level of control. Following are a few suggestions for adjusting your incentive program to make the most of a bad situation:.

1. Don’t Eliminate
If you lower commissions or get rid of reward programs simply because business is down, you’ll likely wind up demotivating everyone on the staff, from top performers on down. The manager’s job is to find areas for opportunity, not to be the first to throw in the towel. Instead, maintain your existing programs and simply accept that there may be fewer winners.

2. Lower the Bar
On the bottom end, consider lowering the reward threshold. This way your team’s average performers, whose sales typically suffer the most in a down economy, can aim for realistic rewards. You want to send the message that you understand the effects of the down market, but that you still expect people to be out there hustling.

3. Incent Other Activities
If your salespeople aren’t closing a lot of deals, then look to other activities that improve customer relationships or lay the groundwork for sales when the economy improves. Establish smaller incentives for salespeople who build up their prospect lists or schedule a certain number of customer appointments, even if it’s just to update them on changes in the industry or new product availability.