Business writers often recite the old saying that there is opportunity in every threat. But, it’s important to remember that there are dangers in every opportunity.
Let me clarify, before you assume I am writing this article alongside a stack fortune cookies. The economy is heating up, which is something every sales manager and department has been hoping for. However, the good news doesn’t always look so bright. There is a possibility that some of your top talent could be drawn away by the economic recovery.
The “80/20” rule applies to salespeople. It states that your top five producers should account for at least three quarters of your revenue and sales. After visiting hundreds of sales departments across North America and abroad, I can confirm that this figure is not accurate. Salespeople who are the best sell more than their peers, not just five, ten, or twenty times as much.
No company, branch or department should lose even one of these people and women. Even though people were hesitant to make career changes in the past, they are now open to new opportunities. Your salespeople will be able to see opportunities and they may even come knocking, even if you aren’t. Competitors, startups, and even other departments within your firm might be looking for ways to take advantage of an improving economy. How can you increase sales faster than to hire your top talent?
The best salespeople tend to be settled where they are. However, it’s possible to offer a cash bonus, better commission structure, or better location. Here are some tips to help you keep your top salespeople.
You should be focusing less on sales and more on talent.
As the economy improves, so does the impulse to expect higher sales numbers. While I won’t tell you to raise your quotas, let training, incentives and other items that keep your top salespeople happy take priority. Instead of expecting them to be at the top of their game immediately, reward them for what you’ve done in slow times.
Do not be afraid to let go of low performers
Sometimes an economic recovery can set off a game for musical chairs in the sales department of an industry. Companies will sometimes “trade” low-performing salespeople unknowingly, much like professional sports teams who are trying to reach the playoffs. There are always little producers. Don’t be afraid to keep the ones you have or bring in more from the outside. Rarely will a sales manager regret not letting go of someone who is barely meeting their quota or feeling extra grateful for someone who brought a “returner” to the table who wasn’t lighting up things at another company.
Keep your ear to ground
It is important to keep your eyes wide open. Are your top salespeople happy? Or are they looking for work elsewhere? You can’t drive around your top producers at night and stalk them online. It is worse than losing one.
Incentives are a great way to motivate. Many sales managers don’t think much about contests because they are often won by the same people that would have outsold everybody else anyway. This is often true and contests are often a failure as motivators for average producers. You can still give your best another reason for staying put by offering extra rewards for top performers.
Keep your candidates’ information up to date
If your salespeople are fired, it is best to keep them in the loop by having someone to replace them. This is a good piece of advice regardless of the economy. You should keep your eyes open for young people who could be top-level producers, both inside and outside of the sales industry. It’s impossible to predict when you might need to hire someone else, so don’t be tempted to rush to make a decision.
You must be a sales manager and keep track of the new leads and accounts that are coming in. You should be able to monitor your employees closely as the economy returns to normal. The numbers will follow if you have the right sales team. But without them it will be difficult to build momentum no matter how the economy is doing.