No Sales People, No Sales!

September 4, 2009 by Shirleen Von Hoffmann Leave a reply »

Salespeople are the center of your business. Not much can happen without them. Too often, especially during tough market conditions, business owners fail to see the value of their sales force. I know from personal experience owning my own business, you may have the phone and the internet but unless you have my passion behind those things, selling my goods, the sale just doesn’t come through to the prospect. Your sales force drives your passion and the direction of your company. Company leadership must realize how the sales force impacts their business in a positive way and make sure to nurture that sales force.42-15660112
As I work with salespeople and business owners around the country, I hear the same messages. The owners are saying “I’m paying my salespeople too much.” And the salespeople are saying “I am not getting any support, respect, or resources to help me succeed.”
Most business owners have never tried to sell and if they have, they know that, Sales is hard work especially for someone who is not a “hunter”. Hunters thrive on pursuing new business, talking to absolutely anyone, knowing their product in detail and using their sales skills to acquaint and capture the sale. They also have an innate sense of telling the difference between good prey and better prey and what all the competition is doing around them. And Yes, Hunters enjoy the close, reap in the rewards and want to get acknowledged for it.
Now how many people do you know enjoy doing the traits listed above for a living, especially when their pay is commissioned and hard to count on each month? That’s why you should pay them well and always provide them with support, respect, training and praise when the job is done well. Great Sales People deserve this. And by the way, if you have less than great Sales People working for you who don’t have these skills, you might want to reevaluate your hiring skills, hiring Managers and recast your sales team.
Here are five things all business owners should make sure they have in place for their Sales People.
1. Compensation: Establish a reasonable, fair, attainable, dependable pay structure with a small base salary and commissions. The commissions should be significant enough that your great salespeople can earn a great living when they work hard to achieve their goals. If you are in an industry that has peaks and valleys it makes sense to have a higher base at times to retain great salespeople during the valleys.

2. Reward Systems: Create a fair, achievable system for gauging quotas and benchmarks. This system should be clear and easy to follow. The consequences for below average and great performance should be spelled out. The end result should be a program that your salespeople can easily follow so they can monitor their own performance and are aware of the consequences of their actions. Measurability, acknowledgement and reward are keys to the success of any sales program.

3. Training: Owners should constantly be looking for opportunity to train and hone the skills of the sales force. It’s not only a cost of doing business but is the best expense you could be spending your dollars towards. If they make one extra sale from what they learn, it’s worth it! Many Sales People do better learning in short session’s verses lengthy seminars. Just be consistent with the training, keep it on point, short, valuable, challenging and interesting.

4. Respect: Sales People should always be treated with respect and with the highest regard. They are the MVP’s of the company! Owners should make sure that office staff, support staff and all Managers treat the Sales People with the utmost respect and support, because their jobs depends on it. Especially if the Sales People are in the field and separate from headquarters.

5. Mentors and Leadership: Many Sales People feel like they are on an island at times, sales can be lonely. Having mentors who are Managers that will come into the trenches with them from time to time to provide support is very important. Also having strong, reliable Owners/Corporate Leadership who honor their word and value their importance in the firm, is key for Sales People to be successful and thrive. Sales people want to be able to do what they do; but also pick up the phone when needed for support, mentoring and leadership. With great Sales People it won’t be very often but no one will work harder for you when you provide them with this support.

Business Owners and Corporations owe it to the Company and the Sales People to make sure they have a sales program and honor the Sales People by working it effectively. They should have no doubt that when they have a solid team of happy Sales People with a program in place that is reasonable, achievable, effective and that everyone has opted into, the business will grow at a great pace and everyone will feel that they are winning by working for a successful growing company.

Be Sociable, Share!

29 Responses

  1. Alfredo Tor Paz says:

    Excellent article, and worthwhile for many GM’s and Company owners to grasp the importance of a good sales force and how to motivate them to be, “good sales hunters”, good basic pay, and fair commissions, the best base for a thriving business.

  2. Walter Wise says:

    Just another thought, do you really know what it costs you and the company if you hire the wrong person for the job? Think about it for a bit. The number could really amaze you.

    And remember, hire slow, terminate fast.
    Walter Wise
    CEO, BPI Strategy Group and Business Performance Improvement Specialist

  3. Tom Mangini says:

    Shirleen, I couldn’t agree more!

    I am continually amazed in my consulting business working with small business owners in companies ranging from start-up to 50 employees with respect to how little they invest in their sales organization. Recently, one of my clients who has me on annual retainer to act as their “sales sounding board” was frustrated at the lack of sales being generated from his salespeople. He owns a small printing firm in Los Angeles with less than 50 employees.

    I did an analysis of his accounts receivable and explained to him that part of the problem was that he was spending more money on office supplies on an annual basis than he was spending on developing his salespeople.

    When I asked him how much money he was making as a result of his annual office supply expenditure, his answer was… “nothing!” I then asked hm why he was spending more money on office supplies than investing in the success of his salespeople, and he gave me the dreaded “dear in the headlights look” because he had never looked at the problem in such a logical way before. But then again, like many small business owners, his background was in operations not sales. Often times, small business owners don’t know any better when it comes to issues pertaining to sales or sales management because they don’t have the experience or knowledge which contributes to the problem

    Tom Mangini
    Founder at The Sales Advisory Board

  4. Walter Wise says:

    Tom, you make an excellent point. Not only do business owners, CEOs, Presidents, etc. not invest in their sales teams, we find that most sales people do not invest in themselves either. Most tend to think the book they read 5 years ago is still the right stuff, when one really needs to have new thought and new directions to help them be more successful.

    Walter Wise
    CEO, BPI Strategy Group and Business Performance Improvement Specialist

  5. tom Mangini says:

    I agree! In fact, one of my favorite interview questions for salespeople/sales management is asking them either “What’s the business book you’ve ever read and why” as well as “What business book are you currently reading” because it speaks volumes about their own dedication and commitment to success. Some of the answers I’ve gotten over the years were hilarious (albeit sad) because the question can catch someone off guard, and I can always tell when they aren’t being truthful with me.

    Tom Mangini
    Founder at The Sales Advisory Board

  6. Alfredo,

    Glad you enjoyed the article.

  7. Tom and Walter,

    Thanks for all of your comments. You both bring up very valid points that I agree with.

  8. Carol Smith says:

    Amen. And training is ESSENTIAL to success, it should be on-going and site specific!
    Carol Smith
    Principal – Praxis Real Estate Advisors, LLC

  9. William Melchoir says:

    Singing to the choir!

    William Melchior
    Senior National Sales Trainer at Hyland Bay

  10. Anne Haeussler says:

    Some more thoughtful and accurate articles~ Thanks for getting the info out there! I really enjoy your comments!


  11. Thanks Anne, glad you enjoy my articles…

  12. I know, but sometimes the church doesn’t listen…

  13. Amen to you to Carol. I couldn’t agree more, training is essential and should be fun and interesting.

  14. Eric Freeman says:

    Amen Shirleen!!!!

    Eric Freeman
    Sales Consultant at Princeton Classic Homes

  15. Rob Morrison says:

    Great article. I still can’t understand why so many businesses have been laying off their sales people because of the bad economy. In my opinion sales people are the LAST people that you let go.

    My pet peeve is when I hear management say that their sales people are too busy responding to leads to do any prospecting. Thats fine if you are willing to just have the business that comes to you – but believe me there is always better business out there. This tells me right away that their sales team is too small.

  16. Joseph Lazar says:


    Great target article. Wish more management/owners realized the value of what “in the trenches” personnel bring to the table.

    Am seeking to enter the hotel sales venue, but as yet, am finding “experienced hotel sales only” ads. I have 32 years of professional sales/customer service/training experience and realize the benefit of doing things for the customer.

  17. David Vitarelli says:

    Shirleen, I face a different problem. I , like many others, have had to reduce overhead costs in order to maintain a profit margin that will sustain operating a business ! My course of action has been to mandate ,my entire sales team (7) people, to work “out of office” . Lets just say their overall efficiency has decreased immensly, what am I to do? I simply cannot bring them back into te office just yet, and I have tried hiring more out of office sales people, but the general consensus seems to be opposed to an out of office 100% commission job. Any thoughts? Everybody, feel free to offer opinions !

  18. David,

    You should give me a call privately, so we can discuss some consult work that might help you with your situation. I have ideas for you!

  19. Rob,

    I agree with you 110%. I think when times are tough is when you need to put your sales team into high gear. Most great Sales People take on the challenges of a tough market very well. This is the time for consistant, relevant training and support for your team, no cutting them back.

  20. Kimberly Mackey says:

    Amen sister! It continually amazes me how, we as builders who really need sales to solve our problems, have almost gone out of our way to prohibit sales. Talk about your proverbial, cutting your nose off to spite your face. Now is the time to be TOP grading your sales force. Good sales people do not cost you money–they make you money. And, I practice what I preach. As a small business owner, I felt I didn’t have the resources to hire and it hurt me. Now, I have hired a very dynamic sales associate and have seen my business blossom.

    Earlier this year, I wrote an article about this very subject called, “Are You a Ready, Willing, and Able Seller?” It is very gratifying to me when I walk into a client’s office and see that article hanging on the wall to remind them of the importance of putting first things first. If you would like to read it, the link to read this article is:

    So thanks Shirleen for everything you do to help our industry. Let’s just keep on keeping on and know that when our message doesn’t fall on deaf ears, it really does make a difference!

    All the best,
    Kimberly Mackey, MCSP, CMP, Realtor

  21. Linda Meneken says:

    You go, girl! Could not have said it better myself…

  22. Ken Gazella says:

    t all comes down to this. …what business are we in? If you said home building, Real Estate etc. you are wrong. We are in the people business. People Build our homes, people buy our homes and people (great people) sell our homes. As a manager you must: 1) Hire the best you can in the marketplace, 2) Train them for success, 3) Provide an environment in which they can succeed 4) Reward Success

  23. Thanks Kimberly for those nice comments, made me smile!

  24. Charles Smee says:

    Charles Smee
    Founder / CEO at Transaction Focus. Strategic brand-orientated B2B sales & marketing professional.


    Your comments are so refreshing !…..In harder times and because the web is an increasingly predominant medium and as internet sales are secured on a purely commission basis, fewer companies appreciate the value of highly professional sales people.

    This is a mistake..You can still reduce your sales acquisition costs by paying sales people well like other professionals , even though sales teams need to be smaller, leaner and more highly trained .

    In Europe, we traditionally do not respect sales people enough.

    Best Wishes


  25. Charles,

    Thanks for the nice compliment. Being a Sales Person most of my life, I realize what I say to be the truth.

  26. Melanie Bridges says:

    Melanie Bridges, MCSP, CAPS
    Sales Professional at Pioneer Homes

    As a New Home Sales Professional, I truly appreciate your words! I am definately a hunter and you have to be to take on this market! The good news is, I am appreciated and respected – it means so much to have the support needed. Keeps you motivated and excited to find new and interesting ways to generate more traffic.

  27. Thank you Melanie for responding. I wish more New Home Sales Professionals did. So glad you are appreciated by your company and supported. You are a lucky girl!

  28. Tamara Senibaldi says:

    Tamara Senibaldi
    Sales and Marketing Manager at Phillips Builders

    Very well said. I couldn’t agree with you more.

Leave a Reply

Footer Image