Sales and HR are not exactly two peas in a pod. HR professionals are often mystified by the behavior of salespeople, who may be considered a special breed. Among other things, most of them are compensation-oriented and highly competitive, and sometimes it may seem tough to keep them satisfied. Even if you may feel tempted to avoid some of the challenges that sales reps throw at you, my advice is not to give them the cold shoulder.
Here are ten steps to ensure a successful collaboration with Sales:
- Make sure the sales compensation plan is aligned with the business strategy (and evolving with it); otherwise it will not drive the expected behaviors.
- On the other hand, don’t forget sales reps need a sense of predictability. Don’t change their quotas too often.
- Always communicate with your reps. Keep them updated on their compensation. Using the right tools and processes, you will be able to give sales reps real-time information about their earnings. If they know exactly where they stand, sales reps will feel more motivated. You can empower them further with tools to forecast their performance and progress.
- Make targets challenging, but achievable. Make sales reps go that extra mile to get the desired results, but don’t make it too hard. It’s one thing to hold them accountable, but if they don’t think the target is within their power, then that goal won’t motivate them! Also, look at the track record of your team. If the target was too difficult to reach historically, then it might need to be reviewed.
- Reward your sales reps proportionally with the difficulty of their tasks. A visit to the client should weigh more than a phone call in determining their compensation. You can use gamification to award them different scores, according to their efforts.
- Keep the top sales performers in the inner circle of the company. Include them in decision-making processes. It speaks to their importance and can go a long way in keeping them on the payroll.
- But don’t overlook the strength of the majority! Improving the results of average sales performers can prove very profitable. A Chally Group study states that top performers (around 20% of the sales force) account for 52% of the revenue, while dependable performers (60% of the sales force) produce 45% of that income. A common mistake is to promote a culture revolving exclusively around top performers. When team leaders always give the biggest prospects to their best sales people, the rest are demotivated. As an HR counterpart, promote a culture of equity and fairness. Otherwise, you might get stuck with a handful of top sales people you are very dependent upon (that could prove risky) and a very demotivated majority in your sales team.
- Yes, feedback is important! Online internal surveys can play a part in getting the information you need, but most often employees dismiss them as another checkbox to tick. Don’t underestimate the value of face-to-face discussions. Conversations with sales reps remain relevant regardless of the size of your company.
- Be honest! Sales reps, like most employees, want to have a truthful picture of their performance. Don’t delay answers that you know matter to them.
- Don’t just measure sales numbers, measure engagement! It is more important to keep sales reps active and passionate about their job than to secure a certain revenue at all costs. Besides, sales numbers will grow as long as engagement stays good.
A genuine partnership between Sales and HR is worth the effort and can represent one of the most valuable relationships in a company. As an HR partner, you play a critical part in driving engagement and performance inside the sales organization. In exchange, the collaboration with Sales can help you better understand products, clients, overall business strategy, and goals.