Clues for sales are everywhere, and many times they fall in the lap of someone who is not part of your company’s sales team. While most of these leads are passed along to a sales professional, it’s not a bad idea to provide incentives to the support team to continue to look for clues.
This proactive approach will get more employees involved in the search for sales leads and keep them from sitting idly by when new business opportunities come their way. It’s important that all members of your company’s team understand they can contribute greatly to improving the company’s bottom line by becoming proponents. Once they realize this responsibility, and understand that they’re only helping themselves and their own job security, the results come quickly.
To help achieve this understanding, many companies are choosing to establish bonuses or even commissions for their tech team when they contribute to a sale. This added incentive may be all it takes to drive sales, and there are a number of ways to implement a successful plan.
Here are some things you can do:
The challenge with many professionals who are not part of the sales team is that they are “risk adverse” (a good reason for not choosing to work as a salesperson on commission). With bonuses you can incent people to focus on your current priorities. No pre-planning. No thinking a year in advance to identify what you think the market will want you to sell.
With the support team you might pay bonuses for every qualified lead or even changes in project scope that they close. When you feel a need to quickly focus on a specific product or the need for leads in general, establish and announce a bonus to be earned with in a defined time period – then watch people’s behaviors change.
Management by Objectives
Management by Objective (MBO) operates similarly to a bonus, except it requires a bit more planning. MBOs are established as a part of a person’s commission plan with a defined quarterly dollar amount set aside for accomplishment of pre-defined objectives. At the start of each quarter, the manager identifies 3-5 objectives for the individual that can be accomplished within the quarter. The objectives must be measurable, so success or failure is clear at the end of the quarter.
The best objectives are ones a person can accomplish without outside resources that can hinder success. MBOs can be earned in part of whole depending on the individual’s results. Examples of support staff MBOs might be to revise the current company sales demo or meet with three new manager-level contacts at the customer site.
Adopt a leveraged plan
A leveraged plan merely says the compensation plan includes components beyond salary. If the compensation plan includes MBOs or commissions, it is leveraged. Support staff typically prefers compensation plans with less risk, or leverage, than a sales person. MBOs are the least risky. A company may choose to add a commissions component to encourage support staff to consistently find, develop and close specific types of opportunities. Typically these are up-sell or renewal opportunities associated with a project, maintenance renewal, or additional product.
One organization is training its phone technical support staff to close the sales on recommendations they make during support calls. The technicians already have the customer’s trust and understand the customer’s needs. Even with the commissions being paid to the technicians, their cost of sales are decreasing while customer satisfaction and revenue are increasing.
Once a compensation plan has been established, it’s critical to provide training to help people feel they are being given the skills and tools to meet the new expectations. Goals are fine, but unless people have a clear understanding of how they can reach those goals the effort won’t follow.
If you are expecting your support people to uncover leads on current projects or during customer service calls, train them in listening and questioning for needs. If your expectation is they will close opportunities, train them to handle objections and close the sale. If your expectation is to expand the company’s base of contacts in an account, train them to ask for referrals and listen for openings.
Once you’ve trained the support staff, remember to support them through management coaching. Coaching sessions will help your management team reinforce and model the behavior you are expecting from the support team.
Compensation planning is tricky. You want to motivate your people while focusing on the company’s strategic initiatives. It’s a delicate balance that isn’t always the same for every employee, yet done right, can reap rewards far beyond the expectations of a person’s role.
With the right compensation plan in place, your entire team will get more involved in looking for sales leads and take satisfaction in the fact that they are benefiting from the sales generated by their efforts.