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Our Sales Incentives are Upside Down

Let’s remove some of the insanity from the sales process. We have a very different customer these days thanks to changes in online resources. It’s time to rethink how you approach the market with incentives for your frontline sales force. Are your commission structures actually promoting behaviors that keep your revenue growth stagnant?


First, double-check your sales model. Commissions need to promote behaviors you want your salespeople to execute. What percent of sales growth is tied to new products or services versus reorder of existing ones? It’s human nature to sell what you are comfortable with, but the point of having a professional sales team is to push the bounds of your customers' comfort zone and move them into higher efficiencies and/or quality with your new technology. If the commission is the same on new and existing products, it’s much easier for a salesperson to have a customer reorder product instead of stretching him/her to purchase the new technology. There are issues with new technology that justify the increased commission… education, cost justification, challenges of new installation, and more. External sales teams should focus on new product sales, experiencing high commission incentives for selling new technology and low commission incentives for reselling existing products, which can be handled by more of an order-taker skill set.


Consider how you leverage your customer-facing internal resources. Customer service should be encouraged to ping customers and work an up-sell based on the past activity of a customer. Your marketing team should get prospects attention with online keywords, newsletters, social networks, chat, direct mail, etc., and then engage them by pulling them in as leads and keeping the company’s brand messages and product/service offerings top-of-mind.


Stop motivating your expensive field sales team with incentives to be “order takers.” Spread incentives wider than field sales, but keep that frontline team lathered in income potential. Top salespeople should make more money than their managers if your incentive structure is properly set up. If done correctly, you will slow down the craziness of trying to grow sales by doing the same things you’ve always done and increase organic, sustainable long-term growth with properly motivated sales and marketing team members.

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