Human Resources mentor Rudy Karsan responds to the following question from an inc.com user:
We can't seem to get anyone to sell enough of our products to pay their way. My son and I can each sell $20,000 to $30,000 per month of our items, but the people we hire get stuck in the $4,000 to $6,000 monthly range. We used to think the people we hired were incapable; now we're thinking it must be us because no one has stayed for more than two years. Our business potential is great, but we don't seem to get anywhere with the salespeople.
Rudy Karsan's response:
Your question is very broad. Numerous elements go into the hiring and retaining of employees in general and of salespeople in particular. For those in sales, the two most important components in job satisfaction are rewards and recognition.
In the rewards area, I suggest that you focus on providing enough incentive compensation to motivate the individual to excel. Make sure that both you and the sales employee have a clear understanding of whether your aim is to expand existing accounts or bring in new ones. This is a major determinant of commissions. The rewards you offer should be commensurate with the standards for the position. If you expect the individual to spend a lot of time calling up new leads, I recommend that you consider a bonus based on activity as well as results.
In my experience, one of the biggest challenges that organizations face in the area of employee recognition is the lack of a "sales culture" within the company. Businesses that do not revere their salespeople will have a hard time retaining them. Strong salespeople need an environment that recognizes their achievements on a significant and companywide scale. Contests, trophies, gifts, and other elements of recognition help to create a powerful climate for these employees. Salespeople in such an environment usually feel that they have found their niche and are much less susceptible to being recruited out of the organization.
Finally, the ability to train your sales staff in skills that are valued in your organization may be another key to their success as well as yours. I encourage you to engage and motivate your sales teams -- and your entire staff -- by passing on information about products and keeping them posted on what your competitors are doing.
Numerous books and articles (too many to list) cover this general area. I urge you to seek out a few that are relevant to your needs. You might start with the following articles from Inc. magazine: "What's Hot: Sales Compensation," "The First Salesperson," and "Darkest Hour."
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