How to Appreciate High Performing Sales Reps
Now that you are a sales leader, think back to your days as an individual contributor on the sales team. What types of rewards and recognition were you hoping for if you achieved your sales objectives? What kept you reaching for higher targets? Which incentives were the most powerful drivers?
These are key questions for any sales manager who wants to keep their high sales performers motivated, engaged and retained. Sales compensation strategies need to be designed so that the entire team works to earn the rewards in alignment with your sales strategy and sales culture. But it is critically important to have strategies in place that appeal to your top sales talent. Why? Because, according to results of studies done by Ernest O’Boyle, Jr. and Herman Aguinis that were cited in the Harvard Business Review, “a high performer can deliver 400% more productivity than the average performer.”
What do high performing sales reps need to feel appreciated? They need
- A generous level of base pay plus bonuses as deserved. Typically, top sales professionals care more about monetary rewards than average performers because they have the direct ability to earn more according to their contribution. They need to know the earning potential is there. Some solution selling training experts recommend that there be no cap on bonus pay. Be careful…though you need to find a way to reward top performance and differentiate among sales performers, you don’t want to alienate average performers and cause dissension on the team. But “no cap on bonus pay” seems to be a consistent characteristic of high performing sales cultures.
- Frequent positive feedback. Though they are to some degree self-motivated, top sales performers tend to have healthy egos that feed on being regularly, fairly and accurately recognized and appreciated.
- Development opportunities. Top performers want to get better and better. They like to learn from each opportunity and assignment. Make sure there are opportunities for diverse, challenging experiences and lots of possibilities for sales training and development and career advancement.
- A rewards and recognition program that is timely and aligned with what the reps would value most. Many companies have a President’s Club program that singles out the top sales reps for special recognition. This recognition can come in many forms – from public thanks to an all-expenses paid trip to some exotic location. Do you know what your top salespeople would most appreciate? You could certainly ask them and have them be part of the process to design a rewards and recognition approach that is meaningful.
If you want your rewards and recognition program to increase discretionary effort, decrease attrition and improve employee advocacy, also make sure that you make the desired performance goals and behaviors abundantly clear. Then decide how to recognize and reward individual vs. team and company performance in a way that aligns with what people can influence and with your go-to-market sales strategy.
All too often, companies choose to reward the “wrong” behaviors. For example, if a major business goal is to work cooperatively on a team, the company that rewards individual productivity alone or at the expense of others sabotages the very behaviors they desire to encourage.
Be thoughtful about the rewards and recognition program you design. Encourage the “right” behaviors and make sure that your top performers are excited about striving for the carrot.