Motivating the Sales Force

Regardless of how good one’s advertising, public relations, and other IMC programs are, for many companies, it is the sales force that is called on to close the deal—particularly those in the businessto- business market. As you might imagine, there is always a need for good salespeople, and companies do whatever they can to attract and retain them and to motivate them to continue to do good work—regardless of the industry. As the business environment changes, so too do the needs and wants of the sales force. In the past, when the salesman was the breadwinner, money worked well. By providing the sales force with the opportunity to earn more money by working harder, motivation was easily achieved. But now, times have changed. Dual-worker families, more emphasis on lifestyles, and more opportunities are just some of the factors that are resulting in more diversified salespeople and that explain why money in and of itself doesn’t cut it like it used to. So companies have explored a number of options, as seen in the following examples:
• Jupiter Media Metrix. As the competition between Jupiter and its number-one rival Forrester Research (both provide Internet research services) intensified, Forrester hung a sign in its headquarters’ office inspiring employees to “Beat Jupiter.” In response, Jupiter initiated a motivation of its own: leather boxing gloves in the lobby showcase of its New York offices. Each quarter, the sales rep who “scores the biggest knockout” against rival Forrester gets to autograph the gloves.
• Hobart. The Ohio-based commercial food manufacturer—whose equipment is in the White House—outfitted the White House cafeteria on the TV show West Wing with its equipment. The product placement was well received by the sales force, but to add even more to the punch, the national sales force meeting was held in Hollywood and topperforming salespeople got to tour the set and meet actor Martin Sheen. As noted by Dean Landeche, vice president of marketing for Hobart, “It became the buzz around our campus for quite some time.”
• Guardian Life Insurance. Among the hardest groups to motivate are the sales forces of insurance companies. As noted by one ex-agent, “The industry is unique in a sense in that we are working with unmotivated buyers—people who have a need for what an agent sells, but do not believe they need to buy it yet. We all deny we are going to die.” Keeping salespeople motivated is critical, and companies have taken various approaches. Guardian Life Insurance has created an online “university,” available 24 hours a day, to provide its sales force with desired training. The company also holds regional motivational sales meetings and provides access to outside motivation sources. Sales reps demand, and receive, constantly updated information on “hot topics” to keep them as aware of trends as their increasingly sophisticated clients are. Other companies have come up with their own incentives, ranging from money to trips to trophies. Mark McMaster, writing in Sales & Marketing Management magazine, suggests 51 possibilities, including:
• Have each salesperson bring a joke to the sales meeting.
• Hold a meeting where the only agenda item is popcorn.
• Rent a Porsche Boxster for use by the top performer for the weekend.
• Adopt an animal at the zoo and name it after the top achiever.
• Bring in a comedian for a 7 A.M. sales meeting.
McMaster provides another 46 possibilities, including playing games of tag, providing hotel upgrades, and encouraging practical jokes in the office. Interestingly, none of these include paying more money. Maybe money just doesn’t motivate people anymore!

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