Motivate the Middle: Getting a High Yield from Sales Reps
BY Bob Marsh
The highest return comes from the B players. Don't believe me? Check the 20-60-20 theory: 60 percent of reps are in the middle.
Believe it or not, every sales person isn't driven to be the number one rep for the company. Any sales manager who thinks reps are motivated by this one, single thing is terribly mistaken. Like any group of employees, a sales team is a set of individuals with varied skills, and therefore varied levels of potential and motivation. Motivating only the top performers on a sales team is a flawed idea. It sounds obvious, but it's a fact that sales managers all too often forget.
What should you do to yield the highest return?
It turns out that an organization’s average performing sales reps, or its "B players," are actually a company’s most valuable asset. Don’t believe me? Better get familiar with the 20-60-20 theory. This concept of categorizing staff, notes that 20 percent of a sales force are top performers and 20 percent are struggling, but that 60 percent are somewhere in the middle.
In fact according to research from Maritz, since the 60 percent core group is so large, by increasing performance by 5 percent from the middle, an organization can yield more than 70 percent more revenue than they can through a 5 percent performance boost among top performers.
When it comes to motivating sales reps, running contests around desired behaviors and results (an old idea that today is often categorized as "gamification") can enhance company sales by getting people focused and energized around a goal. Taking that one step further and tailoring those competitions to fit each performance level within an organization, especially those middle-of-the-road performers, is a strategy that can take a business to the next level.
Here are three ways to motivate the middle with gamification.
1: One size doesn’t fit all.
The beauty of gamification software is that managers can run multiple competitions simultaneously. Take advantage of that flexibility and create three separate contests, customized for each peer group (low performers, average performers, etc).
This way sales reps are matched up against others with similar skill sets, which ends up raising everyone’s performance. No more contests where people at the bottom of the leaderboard just feel frustrated.
2: Incentivize thoughtfully.
Managers can’t just throw a few competitions together, slap on badges here and there, and expect to incentivize general sales performance.
To run a gamification program that works, identify problem areas for each tier of the sales team. If a manager can measure it, they can motivate it. This is one of the grand visions of using CRM software; managers can measure their sales team's actions throughout the entire sales process.
Take advantage of that insight, and focus competitions on the activities that lead to sales. For example, trigger contest points for converting leads, or making calls, having face-to-face meetings, or advancing to key sales stages. Managers should be particular about which areas they chose to motivate and careful to reward too many things at once--the simpler the better.
3: Don’t get stuck on the end result.
The prize is not what motivates. Of course incentives and perks help spark interest in employee participation. But the experience of the competition, and sales reps being able to see their rankings, by group, on a leaderboard via either a mobile app, computer screen, or big screen monitors up around the office, creates an immediate call to action. Competition and the buzz in the office is what truly energizes the team.
There aren’t any specific sales activities that average performing sales reps typically need to focus on. It’s more about running competitions within groups of individuals with similar skill sets and performance histories.
The types of sales actions that managers should motivate by performance group are as unique as each sales rep. Don’t forget about the average sales rep. They’re likely an organization’s most important asset.
BOB MARSH is the CEO and founder of LevelEleven, which gamifies CRM with high-impact competitions. The company's flagship product, an app named Compete that creates contests within Salesforce.com, has been widely adopted. Marsh is an established thought leader in the sales management and enterprise gamification space. A native Michigander, he is passionate about revitalizing and nurturing the startup ecosystem in Detroit. @bobmarsh5