Really effective people skills are a key aspect in the running of any successful business, regardless of sector. And it’s true to say that we are all different. Interested in and inspired by a whole range of disparate things. Sometimes the differences between us can be quite subtle, and sometimes they can appear as great yawning gaps. So, it falls to reason that one of the skills behind managing people really well means understanding the key things that matter to each individual in the team. And then judging when to use a financial incentive such as a bonus or commission, and when a please and thank you will mean just as much to a person. It is easy to assume that all salespeople are driven by earning more, but don’t omit other considerations such as job satisfaction, relationships with colleagues and other less material benefits, when considering how to keep people happy and content within the business. Job security, for example, can be crucial to many – knowing the company is sound, cash rich and stable is very important to many employees, especially those with families and bonds to pay. Financial rewards Specifically for salespeople, bonus normally plays a large part in most salary packages, so time spent planning and implementing a good scheme that works for all parties is time well spent. First and foremost – ensure the targets you set are achievable. Basing part of an employee’s salary package on a target they cannot achieve is neither motivational nor practical, and will not engender trust between either party. Targets must be based on reality, unless they count for such a small proportion of the package that they are irrelevant from a motivational viewpoint, and even then, they need to be realistic for business reasons! Beware of paying commission purely on sales. If you don’t have strict controls in place to proactively manage estimating and discounting, plus rules regarding credit facilities for customers, you risk salespeople selling jobs for what they can get simply to earn their commission. I much prefer a bonus scheme based on margin, activity and new business won, than that of a commission scheme. Set up well, it can encourage proper commercial thinking by your sales team, encouraging them to put the business first, rather than their next pay cheque. Long term strategy versus short term thinking – I know which I prefer every time. Unlimited potential Also – never ever put a ceiling on any bonus scheme. Doing this removes any incentive for people to keep going and keep selling – once they have reached their maximum potential for that month or quarter, they will start sandbagging for the next period, keeping orders up their sleeves until the start of the new month. If they are selling work at the right price and bringing in the right margin for each job, bringing in work that can be done in your factory therefore, keeping outsourcing costs to a minimum, then writing the bonus cheque each month should be a pleasure, not a chore. It is also motivational to individuals if you not only reward achievement, but also outstanding achievement. This can be as simple as a thank you and a pat on the back, to more extravagant gestures such as additional bonuses, weekends away with their partner, theatre tickets etc. Little things can go a long way. Don’t underestimate the impact that even small gestures can have on peoples day-to-day contentment levels. Feeling appreciated In terms of practical activities, once the reward scheme is taken care of there are many additional things you can do to make your people feel appreciated and valued, many of which have the useful added benefit of building their skill set. Try some or all of the following: Support them on customer visits – it isn’t about checking up on them. If you have to do that all the time you need to think about whether you have employed the right people! It’s more about helping them achieve better results by learning and improving their performance Don’t let them go to big meetings without talking through their strategy first. It needs to be aligned with the company ethos – test their understanding of what they are saying before letting them loose on the customer Practice presentations with them so they are word perfect Run an eye over any slide decks being presented – making sure they are professional, factually correct and in keeping with the company style This kind of internal training and coaching is, in itself, motivational – people like to feel they are growing and developing in a role. Also ensure they have the tools they need to do a good job and look the part when in front of customers – a lightweight laptop or tablet, smartphone and some applications to support them when showing pricing for example, seem obvious, but are often lacking in reality. They need to come across as professional business people in all instances to reflect well on your company. Also make sure you support salespeople with a strong production and estimating team sitting at their shoulder and helping them. Don’t have them doing their own pricing or creating job bags and internal paperwork. They should be in front of customers as often as possible. If they aren’t, their figures will fluctuate month to month. Also, try not to tie them up in long sales meetings as this can often be counter-productive. Instead, spend time with them on a one-to-one basis regularly, then perhaps just a quarterly get together with the whole team will suffice. And finally, lock your really good people into the business and make sure they never want, or need, to look elsewhere. Share schemes and ownership of projects are both great motivators. After all, everyone needs to work for their future not just that of the company owner. Good luck!
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