The Secret of Motivating
and Keeping Sales Producers    

by Mark Holmes          


WITH UNEMPLOYMENT AT A 30 YEAR LOW, some employers are scrambling for employees. When help wanted pleas decorate outdoor signage from one end of a busy street to the other, it’s a telling gesture of the current war over talent.

Hold on to Top Producers

   To start with, become an employee-centered employer. Why? According to a 1999 Lou Harris Associates & Spherion Survey, if you like your boss you’re four times more likely to stay than if you work for a crummy boss.
   Managing top performers today like you did five or ten years ago is shortsighted and outmoded. The coming competition for talent is unparalleled to anything our economy has ever seen. Even with a stumbling economy, there will be 10 million more jobs than people to fill them nationwide by 2006, according to the US Department of Labor.
   If you don’t try now to improve your employee retention and motivation, you’ll end up retaining the lower 50 percent of your sales staff and lose the better 50 percent to others in your industry. Take care of your better employees or someone else will!
   The myth that money is the answer to motivational and productivity problems is pervasive throughout business. A recent Gallup study of 2 million employees reports that the number one reason employees quit their jobs is dissatisfaction with their manager.
   Pouring money into more “carrots” isn’t the answer either. Gallup claims that 74 percent of workers have no enthusiasm for their jobs, despite the fact that incentives for salespeople and non-sales jobs are increasing rapidly.

What should an ISO do to motivate and retain their best sales performers?

   Create new excitement and challenge in the job. Examples: Assign new projects, cross-train the employee in new skills, involve the employee in more decision-making and expand their responsibilities. Involve the employee in discussing new areas of interest they’d like to try and implement what you can.
   Ask employees for ideas and opinions on ways to improve your company. Many employees see personal involvement as important to their job satisfaction. Try this: Give an employee job satisfaction survey a couple of times a year. This will give you a heads-up on potential problems and help you avoid losing talent before it’s too late.
   Share stories of how employee ideas were used to make improvements, produce new products, enhance jobs, etc. This will encourage employees and increase the ownership they take in their work.
   Know your employee’s goals. Listen and learn all you can about their interests and help them acquire the skills they’ll need to move into those responsibilities.

Make it Fun

   Loosen up and make the job more fun. Having a little fun at work is essential to making the job more pleasing and attractive. Employees are more relaxed and more productive when fun is part of the mix.



   Set a positive tone every day. Bringing a cheerful attitude to work helps employees derive more pleasure from their job — and makes working for you something to look forward to not dread. Examples: Focus on what has gone well, notice or celebrate all accomplishments, communicate positive messages about the future and opportunities ahead.
   Minimize negativity in your work climate. Negativity reduces job satisfaction and can increase turnover. It spreads to others and can infect a whole company quickly, making it almost impossible to enjoy work. Try this: Stop holding negative sales meetings that discourage producers. Instead, try upbeat meetings that celebrate achievements and praise producers. Studies have shown that employees will significantly increase performance with praise.
   Have fun traditions. Establish fun traditions in your business with employees. Examples: Have a company picnic, catch a ball game together, take off a day and help a needy charity.
   Take an interest in the employees’ success. Spend time coaching and teaching them how to improve their successfulness. Such mentoring is proven to improve your chances at keeping talent longer.
   Treat the salesperson like an equal. Their ideas and concerns should be important to you. Avoid Saying This: “That won’t work here,” and “We’ve never done it that way before.”

Care

   Caring is an action not just a word. Example: A business owner got press recently for giving employees cash before they went on vacation. He remembers how hard it was for him to juggle bills with going on vacation when he was younger and didn’t want his valued employees to feel the same way. Caring like that gets rewarded many times over.

Praise

   Be quick to praise. Don’t wait until your salespeople get a really big deal before your praise them. Try this: Make a list of things that you appreciate about each producer and periodically review it to see if it has been awhile since you told them. Why? Numerous studies reinforce that being appreciated by the boss is a stronger reason for staying than pay.
   Companies that invest now in the job satisfaction and motivation of sales producers will be more profitable, see higher productivity and have less turnover costs. The old-fashioned principle of caring is relevant more than ever with employees. Leadership makes employees act but caring makes them stay. Creating sustaining relationships with salespeople starts by creating a nice place that they can enjoy working, with a boss for whom they enjoy working.


Mark Holmes coaches business owners and managers in employee motivation and retention. Contact Mark at , 888-281-5170, or Consultant Board, Inc., P.O. Box 3175, Springfield, MO 65808.