Sales reps have it tough today - not only are their clients and prospects harder to sell, but even their companies have pulled back a lot of the incentives they used to reward and motivate their performance.
It started back in December 2008 when many companies cancelled their holiday parties and annual bonuses. Then it continued as companies announced they were not contributing to their 401K plans and that any raises or increases in commissions would be postponed as well.
As the downturn continued, it threatened to squelch employee morale throughout organizations - from the sales reps, to customer service, all the way to accounting. With little money for standard raises and cost of living increases, many companies are rediscovering the benefits and impact that little perks can have.
Sue Shellenbarger in The Wall Street Journal reports that corporations as diverse as Discovery Communications, Intel, and USAA have rolled out such new benefits as onsite child care, concierge services, and free massages. Such perks may seem extravagant during lean times, but employers say it's a way to keep top talent happy. "While such benefits cost relatively little, they pack a big emotional wallop."
In fact, the most effective perks aren't always the priciest, said Carlos Bergfeld and Princess Calabrese in BNET.com.
Instead, L.A.-based public relations firm JS Communications gives employees two free "I Don't Want to Get Out of Bed" days. Colorado's New Belgium Brewery, best known for its flag ship Fat Tire ale, celebrates employees' one-year anniversaries by giving them custom bicycles. "It's a couple hundred dollars for the bike," says the company's media director Bryan Simpson. "But it means so much more."
"Studies show that cash incentives don't stick in an employee's mind: Most folks use the money to pay bills and later forget where it went."
This is sound advice, and it shows the growing trend of how perks are becoming the new raise.In my previous roles as sales manager and V.P. of Sales, I understand how recognition can mean much more to a sales rep's morale than simply a cash bonus. Here are a few inexpensive ideas you can begin implementing immediately that will have a big impact on morale and performance:
- Get a couple of trophies such as "Most new leads generated in a week," or "Revenue Leader of the week." Each Monday present the award to the sales rep who led your team in these or other areas during the previous week. Believe me this weekly recognition goes a long way in keeping moral up.
- Buy a Blu-Ray Hi Def DVD player for the closer or employee of the month award. You can get them from Costco for $199. Buy it in advance and show it off during the month - you'll get great mileage for just a few dollars.
- Ask your employees to make suggestions as to the bonuses they would most like to receive. Then pick one or two and offer them for the next few months.
I'm sure you can think of other bonuses that would have an impact on your sales team and other company employees. You don't have to spend a lot of money to keep your employees motivated, but you do have to be a little more creative. Just remember - just because you may not be able to hand out the bonuses your team is used to, it doesn't mean you can't still motivate them in other ways.
Put your thinking cap on and find ways that fit within your budget and let your team know how important they are. The loyalty, security, and production you'll create will be well worth the effort.