How do I set up a sales team?

Since starting up two years ago, my business partner and I have handled the majority of the client relationships and have been responsiblefor sales. However, we are now keen to build a sales team to do this while we handle other aspects of the business. However, we have no commission or incentive structure in place, as it has not been necessary thus far. Therefore, I would appreciate some advice on how to set this up, particularly bearing in mind that much of our work is repeat business and managing accounts.

A. Phil Jones writes:

When setting up your scheme, remember that pay and financial benefits, such as commissions and cars, while being good ways to motivate staff, are not the only performance incentives. Other things to consider are job security and satisfaction, personal development and extra training or improvements to working practices, such as flexible working or mobile devices to encourage communication on the move.

Here are some key steps to consider:

What’s in it for me? All good incentive schemes are built on objectives that benefit the long-term prosperity of the business. Will they be increasing order size, or expanding into new sectors? Make sure the scheme aligns itself with your business need.

Create a sounding board for staff Get your sales team involved in the creation and ongoing refinements of the incentives scheme. Your team will buy into the incentives if they feel they’ve had direct involvement. Ask them to rank in importance what they would want from a scheme, and what they would expect from you in order to achieve their targets. Of course, this has to be realistic, but do consider accelerators to encourage over-performance as salespeople love goals.

Check out the competition Make sure your planned scheme matches up with what your competitors are offering. Ask around the industry, look in trade magazines, speak to recruiters and see what’s on offer. Also, don’t forget to establish any tax implications for staff and consider related costs or funding.

A measure of success Ensure that the deliverables for each sales person are clear, precise and achievable. It may also be worth adding in critical success factors in terms of performance and work quality.

Test and evaluate Running a pilot version of the scheme will help the sales team provide valuable feedback for how commissions and rewards can actually play out in practice. It again will help staff buy into the process from the start to ensure the long-term success of the scheme. Test, revise and refine – a sure-fire way to successful reward and recognition.

Phil Jones is sales and marketing director at Brother UK, and responsible for £100m of sales annually. He is also an active member of Manchester’s Chamber of Commerce.



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