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Sales force & Sports teams

If you're a marketer, you know that all the hard work you do to understand the customers, configure the product to meet (and exceed) their expectations, invest in a creative (say, an ad) to promise the customer an experience that will make him eager to try your product, is all in vain if the person who interacts with the customer on behalf of the brand (like a salesman) shows total apathy towards the customer and his expectations. This is why a marketer is completely dependent on the front-line employees who interact with customers for her efforts to be successful.

Employees can make or break the brand.

This article about how a taxi driver could single-handedly mar the image of a wonderful service like Uber. When the front-line employees have such a high stake in living up to the expectations a brand creates, it is astounding how ineffective some brands can be in managing their sales force.

Sales force must be treated like a sports team.

If you look at a football team, there are 11 players who are on the pitch and 7 who are on the bench, always ready to replace one of the outfield players and do it convincingly in order to stake their claim for a spot in the starting eleven. In order to further incentivize the players to perform well, each player is paid an 'appearance bonus'. This allows him to earn some extra bucks if he manages to play on the field. In addition to that, there are performance bonuses for scoring goals, keeping a clean sheet (not conceding a goal), etc.

This is an ideal model to be followed for managing a sales force. Just like a player can be dropped for poor performance and replaced by someone on the bench, a salesman (or any other front-line employee) can be replaced due to poor performance. Many firms only include a performance bonus and the metric for performance is only sales majority of the times. Very few brands base the incentives on customer satisfaction.

An ideal sales force structure should include a good bench strength to incentivize performance (not just in terms of sales, but customer satisfaction as well). This might be a slightly more expensive structure, but the brand equity it builds will more than make up for the extra money spent.

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