The Talent



by Dick Garland

ATTRACTING TOP TALENT TO ANY ORGANIZATION is a quandary that all managers face. In the ISO business this is particularly a problem, due to previous alleged and actual abuses.
   As we move into what appears to be a down business cycle and with the continuing consolidation of the merchant business, a real-world opportunity now exists to add talented, experienced sales and sales management personnel.
   One key is the development and implementation of a viable compensation plan.
   Salespeople tend to be greedy by nature and, to quote Michael Douglas from his role in the movie Wall Street, "greed is good."
   The trend today for sales people as well as sales managers is to be paid a base salary, incentive compensation based on a combination of sales and profits and, where practical, a residuals program. In the case of sales managers they should receive an override on business generated by their sales organization. In all cases everyone should have a quota with no earnings cap. As a point-of-reference, if an individual brings in $120MM in new business, their gross income should be between $120K and $140K based on business profitability. These are ACTUAL NUMBERS OFFERED BY ONE OF THE MAJOR MERCHANT ACQUIRERS TO THEIR SALES REPS. It maybe hard to believe but some of the banks in the merchant business impose earnings caps on their reps.
   Talk about discouraging initiative! In addition, the company should pay all reasonable business expenses and at the very least provide health insurance.
   To retain key sales reps and sales managers, either a stock option or equity participation plan should be put into place after the individual is with the company for a predetermined period of time.
   Should sales reps be home grown or experienced, how should they be managed?
   If the determination is made to hire trainees, one resource that has proved successful for some of my clients is recruiting former stockbrokers. They tend to be very aggressive, quick studies and self-starters. By creating an internal mentoring program these trainees should be up and running in 30 to 90 days based on the intensity of training.
   If the decision is made to recruit sales reps from competitors then another dynamic comes into play. Sign-on bonuses are a good method, since they are only paid once and the actual pay-out can be structured.
   Management of sales reps is an issue that should be numbers driven by a quota system. Obviously "hand holding and stroking" by the sales manager is a talent and function of the manager's ability to deal with the rep. Make no mistake - this is a talent.
   Sales and sales management ability are mutually exclusive individual talents. If we think about it, the characteristics necessary for success in each endeavor are almost in opposition. One calls for a self-motivated, almost relentless individual. The other, a coach and team player. It is rare that the same person has both skill sets and is truly talented in both areas. That is not to say that a good sales person will not make a good sales manager (they usually become sales managers). How many are really GREAT? Can they effectively perform both functions, in some instances concurrently? Are you really doing yourself and your top sales rep a favor by making him the sales manager? Would both parties be better served by rewarding the rep in other ways?  Think about it.
   There is no right or wrong answer; it is really what will work for you.

For the past 17 years Dick Garland Consultants has specialized in retained executive search in the acquiring side of the credit card industry. Dick Garland Consultants, Inc., 31 East 32nd Street, Suite 300, New York, N.Y. 10016; Phone: 212.481.8484, Fax: 212.481.9582, E-mail: .