By Malcolm Fleschner

Ask your top performers what you can do to motivate them to do their jobs even better and they might tell you, with typical superstar bluster: Just stay out of my way. Unfortunately, today that might not be as easy as it sounds. In fact, according to the sales consulting experts at the H.R. Chally Group, there are plenty of ways that sales organizations work to frustrate and undermine their best salespeople, frequently without even knowing it. The following are a few of the most common worst practices, as identified by Chally.

1. Missing incentive opportunities

Top sales professionals tend to be older and more experienced than their lower-performing counterparts, yet many sales organizations target the younger, greener reps with incentives. Always keep in mind who’s buttering your bread when you generate ideas for incentive rewards.

2. Changing the rules

Salespeople who have succeeded for a long time by developing strategies with certain product mixes in mind don’t appreciate rule changes that lower the payout on those products. Rule changes are supposed to motivate salespeople to win more by achieving more; they’re not supposed to undercut longstanding efforts that have worked for years with reliable customers.

3. Making information clear

Top performers who’ve been with the company for years find it particularly degrading to have to say: I don’t know. Even worse is passing on misinformation to a customer. Make sure your top reps are informed in a clear and timely manner about changes in customer relations, new product introductions and service follow-up.

4. Setting complex rules

In an effort to create incentive programs that are all things to all salespeople, managers sometimes develop rules structures so arcane and esoteric that they’d leave CPAs scratching their heads in bewilderment. Top performers don’t want to have to waste time plotting out how to maximize their efforts to qualify for prizes; they’d rather be selling. Keep the incentive program rules simple, and let your reps run free.

5. Lacking room to grow

Not all top sales performers harbor ambitions toward management. In many organizations, however, at a certain level there is no room for additional status or advancement without joining the management ranks. If you don’t find ways to offer career advancement to the salespeople who still want to sell, you might lose them to your competitors who do.