Don’t JUST incentivise your sales people for the money they bring in.

In fact, don’t incentivise sales people for sale. Maybe you don’t realise, but they have something even more valuable to offer.

Working in an early stage SaaS start-up and trying my hands with bit of sales I learnt two very important things:

  1. What differentiates good sales people from sales rockstars is the product knowledge.
  2. Good documentation is key to good sales — not just today’s but tomorrow’s and day after’s as well.

Second point is what I would be talking of in this article.

Imagine you are a start-up founder (or maybe you really are :) ), I am assuming here are few things you are struggling with every day:

  • building a product road-map and product vision
  • prioritising which feature to take up next (in the early stages of your start-up, you can clearly see the 100 different things that you possibly can work on)
  • why are customers churning out of your product
  • why are those who are signing-up not converting
  • why are those who are visiting the website not signing-up
  • which features do your customers really care about
  • which features are okay-ish and don’t really impact the buying decisions
  • which features will make your prospects jump up and say, “Shut Up! And take my money.”

We’ll come back to this a bit later again.

Coming back to why you shouldn’t JUST incentivise your sales people for the sales they make — reason is super simple. They are the ONLY ones in your organisation who are really hearing your customers talk before a buying decision is made. They exactly know

  • your ideal customers’ needs and expectations
  • why NOT or why are they buying your product
  • why did they go ahead and chose your product in the first place (the reason can be as simple as they found you first on Google search in an ad. Isn’t that valuable knowledge now?)
  • what do they like about the product
  • what features they wish to see in the product in near future
  • absence of which critical feature is making them look for alternatives
  • and some answers you don’t even know exist

Your sales people are virtually sitting on information gold.

Imagine, on an average they’re closing a sale of xx dollars today. Did you do a rough mental calculation on how things would scale up, if you had that critical feature which is making many of their prospects go away? Or what would have happened if you didn’t have that one feature which is most sought-after in all their sales calls? You got my point.

But here’s an eye-opener — they are never going to tell you all this. I am not saying they are unethical, or don’t care about the company. This mundane task, it’s just not on their job role. They come to make sales, get you money, and go home. And guess what, they are doing it well.

They have absolutely no incentive in doing the boring work of documenting stuff, taking it to product team or writing long emails internally. What do they get — nothing. Why should they do it — no reason.

Hence, if you really want to understand your prospects and customers better, incentivise your sales people to do lot more documentation. Be involved. And make it into a process that they just shouldn’t miss. In the early days, everyone is going to hate it — as salespeople they wouldn’t want to do it, as the founder you might not have the time to go through each of this — but that’s how good habits are built. You hate things, you start doing them still and they become a part of your work-life. And this is something you really need. So take time and setup a process. And next time when you set monthly revenue goals, go ahead and set goals for X number of finished documentations as well.

This, so that if you’re closing x dollars today, you have all the answers to start closing y (where y is greater than x. :) Or y is a multiple of x. :) :) ). Of course after you have really executed upon all the data you got. Data without analysis, is just junk taking up space.

So when you’ve invested resources, time and money in getting all this wealth of knowledge, make intelligent use of it. And hey, quickly scroll up and look at all the struggles I talked of initially. You’ll see that all those answers are lying in the documents your sales people create.

Two other qualitative benefits, this activity will bring in are:

  • knowing that you, as a founder, is going to go through all the insights the sales people are bringing in, they will do a much better job at trying to really understand a customer’s pain point and how the product can help make their lives easier.
  • throughout the sales closing process, your sales people will have well-documented context to help win the sale.

To help ease the job of a sales girl, give her a ready template. Put in the questions you want answers for after EVERY sales call. Remember these insights are over and above the BANT that you already try to understand during a sales call. Here’s a rough template that I use for my own self. (If you like it, feel free to download.) Even if you don’t have time to read the responses on a day-to-day basis, just save them to get insights from them on a weekend. After reading just 5 to 10 of these, you’ll see patterns emerging and all your product related answers right there.

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P.S. I also wrote 5 lessons I learnt from my experience of first 3 months in sales. You might like it too. Here it is.