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Companies set their sales revenues by needs or wants and these numbers generally rise year over year. In most cases there’s no plan as to how to hit these numbers other than telling your salespeople to go make it happen! “Here are your goals and your compensation package. Have at it.” Some sales managers throw in a little threat hoping to add some pressure to the game by defining minimums that the salespeople have to meet to get their compensation.

There’s a lot of pressure on your salespeople even without threats. Their revenue development hinges on the economy, how competitive your products are, how well they’re priced, your customer’s sense of urgency, budgets and decision-making authority, how well you manage your R&D, your company’s finances, and your marketing.

As for your salespeople, it comes down to their people skills, their listening skills, their attention to their customer’s needs, their ability to address these needs, their contact lists, your customer management database (you don’t have one?), and your sales managers’ expertise. This is a pretty complicated soup of issues. And you’re asking them to take all of these issues and make the numbers you need. Wow!

I’ve seen companies change salespeople like they change their socks, hoping that a different sales person will provide better results. If you change people and nothing changes, the problem might not be your salespeople!

Sometimes companies don’t give new people the time needed to develop the relationships that allow them to close sales. This is especially so when you’re selling a solution to a problem, not a widget that opens a door. Trust is what closes a deal and trust is earned over time. Widgets are sold at low prices. Solutions add value at good price points. If your folks are making the calls but not getting the results, your sales manager needs to help them learn to close sales. If they aren’t making the calls — well, that’s an easy fix and it’s time to change your socks.

Know that changing salespeople slows your sales momentum — as sales is a numbers game. The more prospects you touch, the longer and more often you touch them, the better your people can communicate with their prospect, the better your sales results. Having a sales and prospecting data management system that you use to track your salespeople’s activity, their proposals, and customer follow-up is the only way to truly determine if they’re doing their job.

Salespeople hate to keep records. They’ll whine. But if it’s the rule, they’ll do it. Most companies are paying their people to prospect. If they don’t share their prospect lists with you, then these prospects are their customers, not yours. If they leave, you should have a list of all the prospects and customers they touched for your new people to call on! If you aren’t collecting this data, then you’re shortchanging yourself.

There are good sales closers and not, which is the same as good communicators or not. Good communicators close sales based on their customers’ needs, providing solutions that address their issues. Poor communicators have a tendency to close sales on price, not value, because they never determined the customer’s needs! They’re order takers more so than sales people. Today orders are placed online at minimal cost. Look online, you’ll see plenty of companies selling widgets this way. If you’re a solution provider, you need to communicate with your buyers, addressing their needs.

 Good salespeople are worth their weight in gold, as they manage your customers’ needs and expectations and close sales though solving a customer problem. Compensating your salespeople for work well done or being successful is what motivates them to stretch further. Good salespeople are naturally driven to be successful. There’s something in their DNA that allows them to push on through the rejections, to keep jumping over hurdles, and trying to make it right for their customers. Your compensation package is not what makes them do the work, it is what rewards them for the work they do. And they deserve to be well rewarded.