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PINK Magazine: Raise The Sales

By Tiffany Meyers

When it comes to motivating talent, there's no one-size-fits-all strategy. But in sales – which teems with naturally driven, highly independent professionals – the value of a customized

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approach redoubles. "Everything you do in terms of recognition and reinforcement needs to be meaningful to the individual," says Jill Eichwald, sales effectiveness consultant at Maritz Inc., a sales and marketing services company.

When Maritz conducted a national study on employees' favorite rewards, results showed that each of six employee types – described and organized according to what they find inspirational, from praise to bonuses – split rather evenly across gender lines. "We were amazed to learn that from a gender standpoint, there's not a lot of difference," says Jane Herod, president of Maritz Motivation, a division of Maritz Inc. It's further proof, she adds, that recognition programs need to be individually customized.

While motivation incentives appear to be gender-neutral, many of the qualities of effective sales managers – who have to light a fire under each seller and cultivate collaboration among competitive types – seem to come more naturally to women. Experts point to the attributes of empathy, consensus-building and intuition more often exhibited by women managers – which are precisely the qualities that result in several best practices in sales motivation.

Jennifer Povlitz, eastern managing director of Merrill Lynch's Private Banking and Investment Group, oversees teams managing $83 billion in client assets. "Everyone in this group has a high level of success," she says. "But beyond success, I try to get to the line of significance. What do they want from life? When I connect their passions to the goals of the organization, that's when we have success." To foster cooperation among her private wealth advisers, Povlitz implemented "senior partner round table" meetings, where advisers present to the group within their areas of expertise. "Even though it's work, the chance to show peers what you're good at is it self a form of recognition," Povlitz says.

The resulting association "has made all of us more successful," adds Alyssa Moeder, a private wealth adviser in Povlitz's group. "And when you're surrounded by successful people, you feel motivated." After the first year of round table meetings, the 20 teams involved added $1.3 billion in partnered assets.

At IBM, numerous recognition programs honor individual achievements. But Paula Summa, general manager of IBM.com, whose 4,000 global salespeople connect clients to IBM products and services, recently spiced up the incentives by offering a trip to Sonoma County, Calif. – but with a twist. Summa announced that, beyond quotas, she would reward "people who were identified by their colleagues as having made important team contributions." The trip cost about $100,000. But well before the wine began to flow, IBM.com saw an up tick in teamwork.

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