So... Do we have deal?
August 2, 2007 8:10 AM   Subscribe

Sales Filter - What are some creative ways to communicate with and motivate an extremely mobile sales force?

I'm working on a communications proposal that needs to motivate an independent-minded group of sales employees.

This sales force is extremely mobile and may or may not have 24/7 access to email or the web. The sales force does however, typically have reliable access to voice mail and snail mail.

Among this group of employees, some (most?) are disillusioned with the head office. Due to a long-term lack of regular communication, the sales force now tends to view communications from HQ with a mild skepticism.

So my Hive-like friends... (especially, anybody with any background in sales) in addition to the obvious (more $), what are some fun and creative ways to communicate with, and motivate to this group of employees?

Note: Not that it matters, but this sales force sells a common thing that everybody eventually needs. So it is less about convincing the customer they need it - more about convincing them this is the best deal.
posted by LakesideOrion to Human Relations (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If there's one thing sales guys like, it's MORE MONEY.
posted by delmoi at 8:27 AM on August 2, 2007 [2 favorites]

Why not get them BlackBerries or their equivalent? Then they would have instant access to their email. I think you can get a data-only BlackBerry plan from T-Mobile starting at only $30 a month.
posted by dcjd at 8:35 AM on August 2, 2007

My company's whole sales team has Blackberries... that keeps them all very informed, regardless of where they are. Don't know how well this will help with motivation, but it certainly improves communication.
posted by olinerd at 8:35 AM on August 2, 2007

I guess I should have clarified this is my question, most of the men and women have blackberries (or similar).

I'm looking for ideas like creative incentive programs, unexpected ways to communicate, etc...

posted by LakesideOrion at 8:48 AM on August 2, 2007

Incentive programs are one of the core competencies of my company. If you would like, my email is in my profile.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 9:10 AM on August 2, 2007

I'm not sure my counsel will be valuable, as many have said I am not your typical sales person. OTOH, I been reasonable successful selling ad space for a quarter century, so take this for what you will.

1) I could give a fuck about incentive programs like sales contests, President's clubs, etc.. I have an incentive program in place. It's called my commission: the better I do my job, the bigger it is. That's enough for me.

Further, most sales incentive programs are, IMO, demeaning. If you won't grant me professional status, at least allow that I'm a skilled craft worker, and I take pride in doing a good job. I don't need a special ginned-up award for doing it. (No, I haven't turned down the trips or bonuses when I've won them. I said I was weird, not crazy.)

2) What I want from the back office is competancy. I want a reliable IT infastructure with snappy response time that gives me quick, if not instant, access to every single bit of information I need to pitch the business I don't have, and give good service to my existing customers. That's it. Everything else is chrome, and honestly, who cares?
posted by mojohand at 10:33 AM on August 2, 2007 [1 favorite]

Well, that wasn't very helpful, was it? Yes, I am a little cranky today. Let's try again.

1) If your sales force is disillusioned, it's probably due to things above your pay grade: poor or non-exsistant leadership, unimaginative and unresponsive management, etc.

2) Or they may not be getting the tools they require to be successful: competetive products, presentations, research, competition analysys, etc. This is ususally related to (1) and also be beyond your ability to change.

What you can do is make sure that your team knows they can count on you to get them the sales tools you do have available in a timely fashion. The newsletters and other stuff, well you know what I think.
posted by mojohand at 10:52 AM on August 2, 2007

I'm looking for ideas like creative incentive programs,

I work in sales, I also hate structured, competitive incentive programs, and I am seconding pretty much everything mojohand has said.

Things I want: more pay, more comfort in my job, and as much information about the market, the customers, the lead sources and our rival company as you can give me. Give me a comfy seat and a big weapon, and I will make you money.

Things that go down well in our small office: dress down day every Friday, and a buffet/table of free food at the end of each month. We're also allowed to entertain ourselves between calls via reading and magazines and puzzle books. It can get a bit tedious listening to an hour of dial tones sometimes. The company has also organised nights out in the past - a trip on a local ship for drinks and snacks, bowling nights, that kind of thing.

If your company is a bit formal than mine (most are, to be honest, we're small offices over a factory) perhaps try asking around, seeing what nice things you could do for your sales team that would make them feel happier. A meal out, gym memberships, a book swap group, travel paid for, that kind of thing.

When it comes to communication, I'm not sure what else you can do if they've got email/Blackberries. If they're disillusioned with the management, that might have something to do with a lack of understanding about what happens "over there". Perhaps there should be some way of bridging the gap, people coming together outside of meetings to see each other as human beings, that their work is understood and appreciated by others. Informal monthly meals might help with that, but if your HQ is at a distance from your sales team, that might be difficult to accomplish.
posted by saturnine at 4:15 PM on August 2, 2007

I've been on both sides (on the 'inside' as a Product Manager, now in outside sales) and the two most important things when it comes to communications with the field force is accountability and consistency.

If you take responsibility for the problems you can solve, and solve them time after time, the sales team will be your (and your company's) greatest asset.

So when you launch this 'communications proposal' (whatever that is, is it a newsletter or a weekly conference call?) underpromise and overdeliver on it, and follow-through consistently.

Us sales folks hate undelivered promises as much as anyone of our customers do.
posted by scooterdog at 6:22 AM on August 3, 2007

Speaking from the sales management point of view, you just haven't given enough info. If they really are disillusioned there is no way "creative" communication is going to be a solution. It'll be seen as another "bright idea" from management and will likely encounter resistance.

So what are the issues? Do these folks need regular input on market trends or the competitive landscape? Do they need more money or perks? Basic though this is , if the company hasn't kept it's compensation package in line with your competitors the folks in the field likely know about it and aren't happy.

I know this isn't that helpful but with the other responses above mine I'm sure you're starting to realize that this is probably not really a communication issue.

My emails in my profile if you'd like any additional input.
posted by Umhlangan at 8:08 AM on August 3, 2007

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