The 5 P’s of Sales Talent Motivation and Retention

Motivating personnel in 2021 will be the most difficult challenge corporate executives and sales leaders face in their careers. Do you know what the top motivators are for the front-line personnel?

The most difficult challenge leaders will face in 2021 is motivating personnel. Even with a new prospect or a new project, for most employees, the outlook is another year of virtual meetings that highly resembles 2020. In this environment, how do you motivate your organization to win every day?

Over the last 14 years, SBI has surveyed thousands of sales professionals annually to identify what motivates them. While the order has changed, the motivators that dictate job satisfaction for sales professionals have remained consistent: Pay, Patch, Pipeline, and Patron. In 2020, SBI witnessed a new P enter the top four, Product.

While 2020 was unlike any year from what most have seen or hope to see in their career, Product is here to stay as a motivating factor for sales personnel. In a time where the gig economy has flourished, A-Players want to associate themselves with a winner. Companies like Zoom (NASDAQ: ZM), Tesla (NASDAQ: TSLA), and Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) attract talent and motivate their organizations with the most important ingredient: winning.

Creating a culture of winning is challenging. That challenge is amplified as organizations or products mature. What was once the new killer app or shiny widget will become stale. How organizations enhance, market, and deliver products and services will be realized on the front line with sales personnel. Sales personnel are where the “rubber meets the road,” and corporate strategy meets the market. This discussion was a hot topic in SBI’s Fall 2020 Client Advisory Board. You can find the executive summary here.

What are the keys to motivating sales personnel so that your strategy is best positioned and you capture market share faster than the competition? Revised from last year, the following list is the 5 Ps to Motivate Sales Personnel:

  • Pay: Often the primary determinant of satisfaction for sales personnel, pay became less important in 2020. A-Players, the organization’s top talent, remain coin-operated and deliver consistent results. However, in 2020, even the A-Players were challenged by unprecedented headwinds and tailwinds. Organizations were challenged in how to administer compensation amidst a pandemic and when to invoke windfall clauses. It’s critical to remain focused on the long term to retain and motivate A-Players. How will organizations differ in compensation in 2021 to reward A-Players? 
  • Patch: Regardless of an organization’s coverage model, it’s highly likely significant changes will be necessary for 2021. Patch is one of the critical 5 factors to the satisfaction of sellers. If the pandemic has become the forcing function that eliminated a product or decimated a vertical, territories will need revision. Coverage is changing with the increase of virtual selling, and organizations need to prepare for the long-term coverage model now that clients have embraced virtual sales personnel. Do organizations have the proper analysis to maintain morale and keep the front-line engaged as brand ambassadors when revising territories? 
  • Product: The world is experiencing the greatest Go-to-Market test case for virtual vs. field sales. The pandemic was the forcing function to re-assess, re-imagine, and re-allocate personnel to the highest-demand products. In 2020, organizations learned that complex products and services could be sold and delivered virtually at a lower cost of sale. Does the organization have the right product segmentation to position the right product to the highest potential customers in a virtual Go-to-Market model?
  • Pipeline: A-Players want to work for companies that can generate demand for their products and services. This requires an integrated Go-to-Market that aligns the Product, Marketing, Sales, and Customer Success organizations to maximize share of wallet in existing clients and new logos. Is the organization’s demand generation strategy aligned to drive predictable pipeline growth that will keep sales personnel motivated and engaged?
  • Patron: For many organizations, the past year presented challenges never seen before by today’s leaders. New and tenured leaders faced unprecedented headwinds, and we called upon them to provide counsel, guidance, and support to their employees. The connection employees have with their direct manager is critical to job satisfaction. Are organizational leaders prepared to motivate front-line personnel through another year of uncertainty?

Market-leading companies, the top 16%, grow organically faster than the industry and their competition. The secret to success is an agile planning process that adapts to ever-changing business dynamics. Those companies can answer the tough questions and revise the Go-to-Market model while still motivating personnel by solving for the 5 Ps.

Winning is contagious. It creates momentum throughout the organization and can rally an organization to reach its full potential. To create a winning culture, start with the front line, the face to the client, specifically the A-Players. They will become brand ambassadors internally and externally to propel your organization to new heights.

To learn more, review the output of our recent Client Advisory Board. As you implement your organization’s 2021 Annual Plan, SBI can provide additional best practices to aid your plan.