Why you shouldn’t fear losing credit for deals

Salespeople are not, traditionally, very open to sharing recognition for the deals they make. But that has to change, says Richard Hadler in this latest instalment of our Marketing Sells series.

Salespeople like to think of themselves as the firm’s superheroes. Whether they’re Wonder Woman or The Hulk, they’re the ones who rescue the company again and again with their superpower of getting the customer to give over hard cash.


…..Well, yes and no.

You don’t have to watch many Avengers or DC Comics movies to realise that when confronted by a real badass villain, superheroes need to team up. It’s almost a movie cliche that superheroes hate working with each other yet realise with 30 minutes to go that they need to overcome their ego and team up to win.

You see where I’m going with this… sales superheroes are the same. They need to team up.

It’s a bloody tough message for sales teams to take. Mainly because, traditionally, salespeople like to be the centre of attention. And if they have to get help, the one place they *don’t* want to get it from is marketing, as they feel they will lose credit for their deals, eroding the wizardry round the sales process.

Like many problems in sales/marketing co-operation, the solution lies in incentives. The traditional sales bonus structure was designed way back in the 1960s when deals were signed over Martinis with a single decision-maker. No longer.

Consultants McKinsey last year produced a long list of ways that purchasing has changed and how to make sales commission structures reflect this. Examples:

  • As decision-cycles becoming longer, salespeople need to be rewarded as potential customers pass milestones on the way to purchase.
  • If a company is operating in an omnichannel environment — where a customer may swap sales channels just before signing — most commission should accrue to the team that did all the work rather than the one who had a golden deal fall into their lap.
  • And team-ups across regions — vital in an era of global, matrixed organisations — can be encouraged by giving both country teams 100% credit for deals, at least in the short-term until co-operative working becomes part of the culture.

I’d add one additional change on top of this. Buyers, particularly in B2B, are presenting themselves to suppliers much later in the purchasing process, having already 50% made their mind up based on marketing material and influencers such as analysts. In this environment, credit needs to be additionally given to marketing for delivering good prospects (or they need to be given a kick if they don’t).

All of these ideas, note, involve the salespeople being given extra cash. The sales team remains critical to any company, and a new scheme that results in them being poorer is likely to lead to a mass walkout to a rival. Instead, a new-look incentive scheme should hold out the prospect of higher (and more consistent) payouts, being rewarded not only for closing deals but helping others close them too.

But changing incentives are only part of the story. Every academic study of salespeople has shown that the best of the breed have a deep urge for success. Some say (ahem) that salespeople even need their ego stroked from time to time.

So any new scheme needs to be underpinned by data but shouldn’t try and reduce sales to a spreadsheet process. Sales still has its euphoric highs and damning lows, and the highs need public celebration to help get the team over the low points (trust me, these are inevitable, no matter how good the sales person). If you run regular awards for sales staff then keep them going — maybe even make them more lucrative — but tweak the criteria for winning.

So where is the extra cash going to come from to fund all these new sales commissions?

Easy. From growth.

A smarter, more co-operative sales team can deliver revenue benefits bigger and faster than any other department.

So what are you waiting for? Get your superheroes to team up!

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