Up From The Bottom

By Malcolm Fleschner

The time and effort dedicated to dealing with chronically underperforming salespeople is a constant source of stress for sales managers. There is a solution, says Janet Herder, president of Hobbs Herder Advertising (www.hobbsherder.com), a marketing firm serving the real estate industry, and it involves revamping your recognition program.

A frequent problem, Herder says, is that recognition programs tend to focus on rewarding top performers – the individuals least in need of the additional motivational boost. As a result, middle- and-lower-level performers become even more discouraged and alienated about their prospects of ever delivering big numbers.

To avoid this scenario, Herder recommends adding a couple new twists to your incentive program.

1. Change your focus. Instead of rewarding total dollar sales or the number of deals, offer an incentive to the reps who produce the greatest increase in percentage of sales relative to a prior time period.

2. Ramp up the prestige factor. Don’t offer just financial rewards. While no doubt appreciated by the recipient, cash does little to help the winner bask in the glow of success in front of peers. Many sales organizations now offer prizes such as leather briefcases, engraved clocks or inscribed plaques because these professional tools carry a certain prestige.

3. Give them something they won’t give themselves. Another popular tactic is to offer prizes that give recipients internal gratification. The best prizes are rewards winners would likely not buy for themselves. Ideas include an all-expenses-paid night on the town, a weekend travel getaway or tickets to a sold-out show.

4. Make it snappy. Poor performers tend to be procrastinators. Rather than let this tendency set in over a long contest, cut the length of your program to a month or so.

One final note Herder adds: Closely monitor your salespeople during the contest to make sure they’re not ignoring ongoing responsibilities such as prospecting or servicing existing customers. You don’t want to sacrifice the gains from the contest for poor production after it ends.