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Archive for March, 2007

Small Company Incentive Programs

Good article here from Selling Power’s Incentives newsletter – Big Motivation at Small Companies.  The topic is how to run effective incentive campaigns when you aren’t a Fortune 500 company.

Still, as a recent article in Incentive Magazine points out, smaller companies do enjoy a few incentives-related benefits compared with their larger counterparts. For one, with most of the company€™s employees occupying the same workspace, communicating with the entire team at the same time poses few logistical problems. Also, this sort of intimacy means that whoever is planning the rewards will likely have a better idea what specific prizes will motivate the targeted participants. Plus, as the article points out, smaller organizations can afford to experiment and try new approaches to motivate the salespeople in ways Fortune 500 companies would automatically shy away from.

Quite true.  And this understanding of employee’s reward structure can be enhanced (or should I say defined) by assessing them.  Understanding an employee’s rewards along with their motivators provides managers with the insight to coach and motivate them in their own valuable terms.

The 4 points from the article:

1. Think long-term

2. Go easy on the administration

3. Fairness counts

4. Spending money isn€™t everything

Specifically from point 4:

What you may lack in program budget you can make up for with imagination. For example, in a small, tight-knit office, peer recognition is a powerful tool.

A very good point, but one that won’t work if you force it upon a salesperson who is not rewarded by status and recognition.  This fact is why we consistently recommend assessing existing salespeople before launching new incentive programs.

Why Gen Y Job Hops

Steve Rothberg over at provides one of the clearest posts I have read regarding Gen Y and their job-hopping ways.  This is Steve’s area of expertise and this post lays it out in simple terms.  An excerpt (emphasis mine):

Gen X’ers like me who attended college two decades ago received our education for far less money than Gen Y’ers are paying. I paid $3,500 for tuition my last year in school. If the cost of that tuition were to double every seven years, that means that today’s student in that same program would pay $28,000. That’s disgusting. I graduated with about $20,000 in student loan debt. A Gen Y’er following in my footsteps would graduate with $160,000 in student loan debt. Folks, this generation is being swallowed by the debt that we’re allowing out-of-control higher education institutions to inflict. Gen Y job hops not because they want to and not because they don’t realize the problems that it creates for their employers and for themselves, but because they have to.

Read the whole thing.

Wall Street Turnover

If you think you are experiencing hiring difficulties, be happy you are not on Wall Street:

Fresh off some of the richest bonuses ever handed out, investment bankers and traders, especially those who deal with leveraged debt, are in high demand. In some cases, bidding has driven newly hired employees into the arms of a rival in mere weeks.

That statement seemed like hyperbole until later in the article:

Securities-industry employment rose to 804,000 at the end of 2006 after a third consecutive year of increases. The employment figure is just 4% shy of the all-time high set in 2000, according to the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association.

The market is tight everywhere and especially in sales.  Old hiring strategies are being left in the dust.  If you are sticking to a newspaper ad, good luck.  If you are posting a job description as an employment ad, be prepared to wait.  The changing market requires a process for effective sourcing and selection.

The Biggest Hiring Challenge

No surprise here:

Finding qualified people to work as sales representatives is the biggest hiring challenge for global employers for the second year in a row, an annual talent shortage survey reported Thursday.

Sales reps top the list of hard-to-fill jobs in the United States, Japan, Hong Kong and in five other countries…

The CNN/Money article goes into detail about CEO’s focus on growth and the lack of salespeople available to power that initiative.  We are experiencing it first hand as our sourcing times have been extended.  In fact, we are making adjustments today to pour more resources into our sourcing channels.

Strong sales candidates require extra work to locate in the present economy.  I continue to see all-too-familiar ads running on the job boards that indicate these employers are not finding the right sales candidates (if any viable ones at all).  But there is a solution – a process that finds the right salesperson for your position.

If your struggle to find the salespeople you need to drive your company’s growth, why not try a new approach?

Fixing A Dis-incentive Plan

OK, the Rock Star really hit a nerve with his recent post – A Commission Plan Gone Bad. I’m having flashbacks to a comp plan that still makes the hair on the back of my neck bristle.

When a comp plan becomes counter-productive -and the sales team is talking – you’ve created a monster. I can only think of one thing worse – have the paychecks bounce!

The profile for the most productive sales people tells us that messing with compensation and the perception of deception is the beginning of the end for retention.

Sales people want and need to believe that they are being treated honestly, fairly and with respect for what they do. The compensation plan should be designed to direct and motivate the sales group specifically and clearly.

The sales team should be discussing ways to “manage” the comp plan for maximum rewards, rather than grumbling amongst themselves about the latest raw deal from management. The dis-incentive of a bad deal for sales will lead to distractions that will drop sales revenue like a brick – and take months, if not years, of recovery to stabilize.

Playing the games described in Rock Star’s post will most certainly lead to retention and job satisfaction issues. Guaranteed . . . resume time!

So what do you do? Communication (as usual) of very clear company, management and sales objectives needs to be understood by EVERY employee at every level of the organization. Everyone needs to be moving in the same direction. Specific details need to be spelled out to the sales group along with the corresponding rewards. A level of trust and security for the sales group needs to be assured from top to bottom in the organization. The assurance of a “fair and clear deal” for sales will lead to increased revenue, profit and retention for the company.

A Commission Plan Gone Bad – Update

The saga continues. My friend as gotten to be a great resource for me on what not to do for sales management and incentive plans. Just after the last post a new turn of events transpired in regards to this latest contest. As I mentioned, her team was challenged to sell 2 specific add-on services (both truly commodities). Extra spiff’s were added by the manager to “motivate” the sales team.

One of the team members actually went out and sold 10 of these services which should have entitled them to a half day off (and no small feat to accomplish these sales). Yet, the weekly report listed only 1 sale. Naturally the manager checked to see if the missing 9 sales fell through somehow.

He discovered that the product manager (who has been riding herd on the team regarding these 2 services) is the one who decided to claim the sales for his support team instead of the sales team. Further inquiries revealed that since these services are a team sale, it is the product manager’s decision as to whom receives the credit for the sale.

Well, as you can imagine the team has been talking and everyone now realizes the enormous obstacle in front of them. In case it isn’t clear, I am passing this on as an example of what not to do when motivating a team. Salespeople respond to their commission plan – both good and bad. Take a look at your commission plans and clear any obstacles that are in the way of your salespeople and success.

Sales Traits Series – Emotional Control

Sales can be an emotional roller coaster. Sales can be frustrating and anger-inducing.  Conversely, sales can be joyful and exciting. But what about salespeople who allow these emotions to rule their behavior? Successful selling requires poise in the midst of an emotionally-charged environment. This week we look at one of the top 10 traits for sales success.

Emotional Control
This is the ability of a salesperson to maintain rational and objective actions when experiencing strong internal emotions. This trait measures one€™s ability to control their own internal emotions and prevent them from affecting their actions, logic, objectivity, etc. Emotional Control deals with keeping internal emotions in instead of letting them get the better of the salesperson.

A salesperson with strength in this trait will be aware of their internal emotions, but compartmentalize them as such and make rational, objective decisions based on the facts at hand. They do not allow their internal stress, fear, excitement, etc. to influence their decisions.

A salesperson with weakness in this area may have difficulty keeping their feelings under check. Instead of recognizing their emotions and keeping them separate from their actions and maintaining composure, they may allow their own emotions to lead their actions. In doing so, they will no longer be managing a stressful situation. Instead, they will become emotionally caught up in the situation.

What Gen Y Wants

SHRM’s recent newsletter (membership required) contains an article discussing what Gen Y’ers are looking for in their lives. In a recent survey conducted by Pew Research Center here is a wish list of what the Gen Y’ers want.

Life goals are geared strongly toward getting rich (81 percent) and famous (51 percent). Their Generation X predecessors, by comparison, place less importance on these goals, with 62 percent seeking riches and just 29 percent seeking fame.

Thirty percent of respondents indicated that finances and debt were the most important personal problems they were facing. Education was a distant second at 18 percent, followed closely by career and job concerns at 16 percent.

An interesting finding also came to light regarding Generation Y women.

Starting their own businesses and being considered one of the top people in their field (30 percent and 29 percent, respectively) topped the list of ultimate career goals. Another 23 percent of those polled by Lifetime said that achieving flexibility with respect to where and when they work was the top goal.

Personal goals of getting married, having children and owning a home trump professional goals of becoming a manager, earning a certain salary and starting a business (63 percent vs. 23 percent), according to the Lifetime poll. But 85 percent of respondents still plan to be in the workforce after having children, and 69 percent said they are willing to make sacrifices to reach the top of their field. Women of this generation want to be ringmasters vs. jugglers.

Show Me The Time Compensation

In the 1996 movie Jerry Maguire, Tom Cruise made the phrase “Show me the money” famous. In fact, the phrase has become an American icon in several ways.

Eleven years later, it appears candidates are saying “Show me the time.” Time off for family, friends and fun.

According to a recent survey by the Association of Executive Search Consultants, 85% of recruiters have seen candidates reject a job offer because it wouldn’t include enough work-life balance. And 90% of recruiters say work-life balance considerations are more important now than they were five years ago.

Information from other levels of employment – not just the executive levels – suggest exactly the same trend.

Recent assessment information also suggests this trend is gaining momentum in a BIG way. In addition to time considerations, we also see non-monetary compensation and incentives becoming more and more important – and specifically sought after by the most talented candidates.

It appears to be a good time to dust off the old compensation and incentive plans. Just in “time” to ensure attention from the most highly-talented candidates.

Does Gloomy Weather Impact Productivity?

Yes, according to an article on CareerBuilder. There are more numbers and stats in the article than you can shake a stick at, but I thought I would share a couple with you (FYI, it is cold and rainy here in Minnesota today).

One-in-ten workers say that they tend to be less productive when there is gloomy weather outside.

Inclement weather can also result in higher absences. One-in-five workers (21 percent) have called in sick because of not wanting to travel to work in bad weather. Workers in the Northeast were the most likely to call in sick due to bad weather (32 percent) compared to the South (21 percent), Midwest (20 percent) and West (13 percent).

So what weather has the most negative impact on moods and productivity?

  1. Rain (21 percent)
  2. Cold (14 percent)
  3. Hot (13 percent)
  4. Dark (9 percent)
  5. Snow (9 percent)

I am happy to say it is not snowing up here today, but it appears productivity will suffer due to the rain.

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