Build a “Commissions Community” to Achieve Revenue Growth

This was originally a guest blog post for Selling Power Magazine. I received some really positive feedback about the post, so thought we’d share it with the Social Centered Selling community also.


Here’s a question for all the sales leaders out there: Why it is so darn difficult to capture, leverage, and pass on the success methodology of your sales superstars?

For the past decade, I’ve worked as a consultant with hundreds of sales leaders from top enterprise companies like Georgia Pacific, GE Healthcare, Blue Cross Blue Shield, UPS Capital Insurance Agency, Earthlink Business, Microsoft, and PepsiCo. They all say the same thing: there just doesn’t seem to be an easy way to get their top producers to share what they know with the rest of the sales team. 

Over the course of my 20-year sales career in the tech industry (during which I sold $1 billion total in products and services) I’ve personally felt this frustration many times. As the landscape of sales has changed, I think I’ve finally figured out why this frustration exists. Simply put, companies and sales leaders are not going out of their way to use technology to build what I call a “commissions community.” 

When I began my sales career as an individual contributor, the freedom of not being chained to a 9-to-5 schedule was heaven. I loved being responsible only for me. I knew that the extra effort that I put into my sales activities meant higher commissions in my pocket, and that’s exactly what I wanted. I’m betting that many members of your sales team feel exactly as I did. After all, top producers respond to three main motivating factors:

  1. The potential to earn more money
  2. High-level recognition
  3. Awards

Sales management can talk all day long about the importance of team collaboration, but let’s face it: that isn’t how sales reps are typically compensated. And why should top performers be asked to carry the bottom twenty percent of the team? Before I got started in sales, I’d worked with peers who dragged their feet on the job, and I hated knowing we were paid roughly the same amount of money even though I busted my butt day in and day out. Rewarding sales performance simply on the basis of individual contributions runs counter to a collaborative culture. 

Another major stumbling block that I see — particularly among dispersed enterprise sales teams — is communication. Conference calls and email exchanges can only take a sales team so far. There’s just no excuse for this in an era where information travels in real time. Part of the reason I decided to co-write a book specifically about sales and social media is because I realized that many sales teams are failing to adapt to today’s selling environment. Your salespeople are selling amid constant digital disruption, and B2B buyers are relying almost exclusively on the social web to search for solutions before they make purchasing decisions. In other words, buyers are deciding what they need and why, without any interaction with a salesperson. “Customer 2.0” expects salespeople to have a global view of their organization and be well versed on their specific issues and challenges. This amplifies the need for team collaboration and support. Lacking a formalized process, platform, or location for internal knowledge sharing and retention, the sales rep is left to sink or swim. And the “I can do it on my own” sales performers who try to manage the customer relationship and sales cycle without internal support or guidance and mentorship from managers and peers may find they are losing more deals than they close.

Now imagine if you could help your top performers see actual, measurable benefits from their investment in a culture of collaboration. Imagine their reaction if they knew that sharing their knowledge with the rest of the team could open the door to earning higher commissions and winning more top awards.The problem is that many sales leaders are not taking advantage of the new kinds of social learning tools that would make these things possible for top performers. A social learning platform facilitates companywide communication in real time and also serves as a repository for valuable information that reps can tap at any time. For example, reps who are stuck in a code red, “I need an answer right now or I’ll lose the attention of this prospect” situation can quickly log on and conduct a search among information that’s been logged in by top performers or experts within the company, start a real-time chat with a peer (or even someone in marketing or customer service), or tap into a wealth of recorded training sessions to find a great answer without having to wait for their sales manager to get a free moment for a phone call or answer an email.

Aside from the intrinsic value of feeling good about coaching and mentoring their peers,how does the sales superstar benefit from taking time out to share experience and knowledge with others on a social learning platform? Some examples of what they might gain include:

  • an increased potential to close their own deals more quickly (they can actually use the benefits of a social learning platform to enhance what they’re already doing well),
  • larger commissions in their pocket,
  • greater visibility with senior management,
  • a handy way to retain their top spot in the sales organization.

Sales teams win more when they work together as a community. When sales leaders start embracing social learning, their teams will be able to share ideas and brainstorm approaches to winning sales opportunities. This is the key to unlocking the power of a “commissions community,” where everyone is motivated to put in their best effort to win on an individual as well as a team basis. But sales superstars need to have a clear understanding of the WIIFM (what’s in it for me?) factor.

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