Talent Management, Variable Compensation and Sales Productivity

As companies attempt to recruit, retain, and develop talent in a highly competitive market, a few important facts should be considered. The Baby Boomer’s continued exodus from the workforce, combined with a relatively robust economy in which unemployment is at a historic low since the great recession of 2008 are driving up compensation demands for employers. Exacerbating this challenge for employers is the demographic impact of Millennials who tend to change jobs (and careers) more rapidly than previous generations. So what should organizations do in light of these trends?

First, they should be creating compensation structures that reward exceptional performance, even as they should reduce the number of metrics on which those employees are measured. Simple, straightforward performance goals related to productivity, sales, efficiency, compliance, and turnover are a few to consider across a variety of roles. Additionally, businesses now eschew annual performance review in favor of performance check-ins. We recommend check-ins are brief, frequent, and ongoing interactions between management and staff during, many of which may include the use of a performance dashboard. In short, those dashboards are like vital signs such as blood pressure, respiration, heart rate which are consistently monitored when healthcare professionals are monitoring patient health. Yet unlike those healthcare monitoring needs, organizational check-ins, should be forward-looking. In such cases, past performance (say for a week, month, or quarter) discussions must include dialogue about what employees should do more of, less of, do better, or do differently in the future. Such check-ins, based on our experience and research should create a culture of both accountability and encouragement.

In their efforts to reward performance, employer’s efforts related to the oft-dreaded annual review and an average salary increase of 3% seem a poor investment of time and money. So while there remains a continued obligation for employers not to discriminate in their compensation programs, establishing measurable performance standards and tying exceptional performance to variable compensation is an important tool in the toolbox of employers. Yet it is important to note variable compensation is meant to be variable. As one company executive puts it:

“Variable rewards based on clearly defined target goals at the individual, departmental and organizational level can change employees’ mindsets from “this is what I need to do to please my boss so I can get a big raise or bonus” to “this is what I need to do to add value to the company,” Rubino said. For incentive metrics to work, “there must be a performance threshold beneath which no payments are made,” he added. “That’s why the program is called ‘variable.’ “

Second, to insure buy-in from their teams, employers should be allowing their team members to weigh-in on how their performance goals are established, allowing for flexibility with regard to the experience and expertise of their team members. Rarely does one size fit all when it comes to performance expectations. That isn’t to say minimum performance standards based on job roles should not be established. But, say in the case of a commercial bank a Relationship Manager I may have the same duties as in many was a more tenured Relationship Manager V. So the loan, deposit, and fee income production responsibilities of each class will vary. And those goals may vary, to some degree, based on the markets in which those team members serve.

To be clear, clear, the responsibility of a sales person is to grow the incremental revenue of an organization. That may mean they have some obligations to help retain clients (as in the case of bankers), but continually growing revenue and the number of clients of the organization should not plateau for any sales professional. Revenue growth is largely what matters when it comes to sales performance and variable compensation, commissions, bonuses, etc. And, in general, the more liberal the variable compensation plan is, the lower fixed salaries should be. In some cases, again, say relationship managers in banking, employees will have non-sales related responsibilities (client retention, portfolio documentation, compliance, supporting corporate values) so their sales may represent a higher portion of their relative compensation than in true sales roles.

Third, if employers want to retain top talent (especially younger talent) those team members must see a path for growth in their expertise and the potential for being rewarded. Yet such rewards need not always be financial. They can include additional responsibilities, inviting them into organizational leadership programs, providing them with a third-party coach or an internal mentor. Millennials, in particular, are concerned about how they can grow professionally and understand how their profession matters in terms of their purpose or intentions about life—and most don’t believe their talents are being adequately utilized. Smart employers identify their promotable talent and those into whom they will pour their energies in an effort to keep them on staff—especially those who are highly productive. Fortunately, such developmental strategies need not be costly. They can be as simple as engaging such team members in strategic projects, allowing them to observe and listen in to dialogue around decision-making, developing internal best-practices or case studies for the benefit of the entire organization.

Finally, we’ve founded wisdom in the adage sometimes you can do more with one big tractor than two little ones. This analogy, when it comes to talent means hiring two lower salaried employees may mean organizations accomplish less than if they hire one higher salaried team member. It’s possible pay two employees $50,000 a piece but get less return on that $100,000, than by hiring a single employee with a $75,000 salary if that individual has more expertise, motivation, leadership ability, and determination than the other two. We call that leverage. Looking for bargains in organizational hiring and talent acquisition strategies can result in a far lower ROI. Smart employers don’t always bargain-hunt.

If you’d like to know more about how Performance Strategies Group works with organizations and individuals to help build meaningful strategic plans, our executive coaching work, or how we collaborate to help them build better leadership and sales processes and skills, contact Principal Consultant, Jim Owens at jim@psghsv.com


Performance Matters: Must be present to win & sales plateaus

Leadership & TeamworkAn Evangelical Mission

I’ve been on an evangelical mission lately, preaching the gospel of self-care for leaders and sales people.  And my message has been pretty simple.  Take care of yourself so you can take care of other people.  So what the heck does that have to do with teamwork and leadership?  If you’ve ever bought a raffle ticket stamped with “must be present to win,” you will have some idea of what I mean.

Leaders have the responsibility to care for their teams.  And they’re confronted with a seemingly endless list of needs, expectations, and questions from their teams.  And they get fatigued.  And fatigue, as Patton (I think) said, “makes cowards of us all.” Stress, fatigue, anxiety, and impatience may be symptoms you aren’t taking care of yourself.  Leadership requires your presence.  It requires your engagement.  You have to “be present” to lead. So if you want to become a better leader, make sure you are taking care of yourself.  You’ll make better decisions, be a better-problem solver, be more patient, and probably, a lot more fun to be around if you do.

 SalesBreaking Through Performance Plateaus:

If you’ve ever hit a plateau in some athletic pursuit—a race time, maximum bench press weight, or such—you know you have to change something to break through it.  Sometimes identifying “why” you can’t break through it can be the biggest challenge you face in raising your performance to the next level.  So what do you do?

Chances are you’ve settled into a routine because you’re successful enough.  You’re doing the same things over and over again and getting the same results. During December, take a couple of hours to examine your sale process from top to bottom.  Examine how you find prospects and who they are.  Take a look at how you prepare for sales call, develop proposals and deliver them. Look at the deals you lost carefully. Then ask yourself these three questions:


  • Am I calling on the right people or wasting precious time on people who will never become my client?
  • Am I calling on enough of the right people to break through my performance plateau?
  • Am I doing the right things in front of my prospects and clients?


Over the next few weeks we’ll take a look at some strategies you can use to help you break through the plateaus all of face at one point another in a sales career.



If you’ve found this information useful, encouraging or might see a way we can improve it, please let us know.  And if you thought it was encouraging, forward it to a friend so they can subscribe. If you want to find out more about how Performance Strategies Group helps organizations sharpen their sales skills and processes, builds more self-aware and resilient leaders, or equip more productive teams, find us online at www.performancestrategiesgrouponline.com, or call Principal Consultant, Jim Owens @ 256-426-0305.


Performance Matters: Two Ears, One Mouth and the Importance of Kindness

Here’s this week’s Performance Matters post!

Leadership & TeamworkEncouragement vs. Accountability

An article we came across recently identifies kindnessas a powerful motivational tool for leaders.  Surprisingly, that trait is rarer than you’d expect based on the author’s research. In our busy world, it’s easy to become so task-focused, so concerned with the productivity of our teams, that it’s easy to forget to be kind.

Being kind doesn’t mean you can’t hold your staff or one another accountable.  But perhaps you should consider your role as a leader or team member to be one of an encourager, not just as someone who is constantly measuring key performance indicators.  The difference is in howwe lead.  It’s important to greet one another with a smile, to be approachable, and to laugh together.  But kindness and encouragement have their greatest impact when leaders invest in the lives of their teams.  That means taking the time to know what’s important in their team members’ lives, the trials they face, as well as the obstacles to their productivity and success.  In short, they build relationship equity with team members where vulnerable communication is possible.

Certainly, there will be times when a team member is not willing or able to meet his or her performance expectations, but the cost of turnover and disengagement is far to high not to give you and your team the benefit of this kindness, encouragement and the relationship equity that will build engagement and improve performance. 

SalesTwo Ears, One Mouth

Active listening is the key to understanding the unique needs of your prospects and client’s. And trust me, all their needs areunique. Why are they unique?  Because they are expressed by people of all ages, experiences, behavioral styles and organizational structures.  People are unique, which means all of their needs are unique in one way or another. It’s easy to overlook, but essential to understand if you want to maximize your ability to provide them with the proper solution and become a trusted-advisor and close more business.

All of us have two ears and one mouth, so it’s probably some law of the universe that we should listen twice as much as we talk.  Understanding how people will make a buying decision (and when it will be made) means asking great questions and paying careful attention to both what is said and how it is said.  As a sales advisor, you must understand what will be different for your prospects and clients after they’ve made the decision to buy a product or service.  Buying a product or service is about reducing uncertainty, increasing efficiency, lowering risk, or gaining efficiency.  So become a student of their concerns by asking great questions, actively listening, and continually confirming your understanding if you want to close more business.

If you’ve found this information useful, encouraging or might see a way we can improve it, please let us know.  And if you thought it was encouraging, forward it to a friend so they can subscribe. If you want to find out more about how Performance Strategies Group helps organizations sharpen their sales skills and processes, builds more self-aware and resilient leaders, or equip more productive teams, find us online at www.performancestrategiesgrouponline.com, or call Principal Consultant, Jim Owens @ 256-426-0305





Performance Matters: Behavioral Profiles, Social Networks, and Getting Buy-In

Performance Matters,so investing a few minutes every day or week in thinking strategically is essential to you and your organizations success.  Read on to stimulate that thought!

LeadershipThe Value of Behavioral Profiles and Leading Change

Almost 30 years ago I found myself in the position of leading people who didn’t seem who weren’t motivated by the same things that motivated me.  And while I don’t recall how, I was fortunate enough to land upon a behavioral profile I’ve been using ever since.  Using it has helped me continue to understand myself and other people.  But simply asking someone to complete one of these diagnostics isn’t enough to help your effectiveness as a leader.


Yes, you have to understand that some people are motivated by praise, others by being given increasing responsibilities, and still others by having the opportunity to analyze the details of a given problem or task.  But you have to talk about how those differences in task and people orientation, or the speed at which people operate, with everyone around you.  Such understanding can give you and others insights into their intrinsic motivations, why certain things give or diminish their energy, or even how to communicate with one another more effectively. And with that understanding you can build a culture that values people for their differences. 


If you are bottom-line, task oriented leader and you tend to overlook the interpersonal dimensions valued by others, you can inadvertently remove the natural motivations of those around you. So you have to learn to modify your pace, your questioning, and sometimes, even where you meet with someone. Many leaders are so busy trying to execute their tactics for success they can forget what other people value. So take a minute and give some thought to the two or three people you rely upon the most to get a job done. Ask yourself, “Am I helping or hindering their intrinsic motivation?”  For more on this topic, take a look at Daniel Pink’s work, Drive. 


SalesTalk to Everyone You Know

Generating prospects for your pipeline is difficult. And while most sales people understand the value of getting the endorsement of centers of influence like attorneys, accountants, and consultants, they overlook what can sometimes be the richest source of prospects in their world:  their social network.


If you sell something for a living, make sure everyone you know understands an ideal prospect for you.  Most of your friends, family, and professional associates want to see you succeed.  But they may not know how to do that.  So you have to be sure they know exactly what sort of product or service you offer. And you have to ask them to help you.  Not just once, but over and over again.


Now, I’m not suggesting you annoy the members of your network.  Obviously, you can’t invite them to help you every time you see them.  Neither can you approach this as a “one and done” sort of thing.  Your network has people who change jobs, learn new things, get married, have kids, get divorced, retire, and meet new people.  So while they may not have the ability to share a contact or make an introduction today, sometime in the future they certainly might.  So try this the next time you’re having coffee, getting a drink, or otherwise socializing with someone in your network.


First, ask for permission to tell them what you do. You can try “Hey, I’m not sure I’ve ever really told you about the work I do.  Do you mind if I share a couple of details?”  Once you have permission, share briefly about what you do and who you try to work with as a sales professional.   Second, tell them, “I can always use help finding new people whose lives or work I can improve by what I do.  Are there one or two people you think I should meet?”

We will talk more about this process in our next edition, so stay tuned.

TeamworkGetting Buy In

I’m not going to belabor this.  If you want buy-in, you have to let people weigh in. I know, right?  Duh? But once again, being busy means some leaders overlook this profound principle.  Here are three questions your team can answer to help you get their buy-in.

1.)  How effective do you think we are at achieving our team’s goals?

2.)  What are the three biggest obstacles to our achieving them?

3.)  What would you change to remove those obstacles if you could do so?

Team engagement isn’t complicated.  It’s actually pretty simple.  But it isn’t easy.  So be prepared to act upon their proposals for improvement or don’t ask.

If you’ve found this information useful, encouraging or might see a way we can improve it, please let us know.  And if you thought it was encouraging, forward it to a friend so they can subscribe. If you want to find out more about how Performance Strategies Group helps organizations sharpen their sales skills and processes, builds more self-aware and resilient leaders, or equip more productive teams, find us online at www.performancestrategiesgrouponline.com, or call Principle Consultant, Jim Owens @ 256-426-0305





Transformational Leadership,Social Networking, and Getting the Best from Your Team

Here’s the second edition of PSG’s blog…let us know if this content is useful to you! And if it is, share it with a friend or two and invite them to subscribe. Now, down to business!

Leadership—Transformational Leadership
I once worked with a man who asked me, “Why don’t people like me?” Despite the fact he’d been enormously successful in his career, he felt like he wasn’t getting the best from his team. This was a man for whom I had great respect. So I was surprised by the question. My response was simple. “It isn’t that people don’t like you,” I said. “They don’t know you.”

He had a penchant for leading with reports, always focusing on “the numbers.” He never really seemed interested in a relationship with the people on his team. He didn’t ask about their families, their weekend adventures, or even their professional hopes and dreams. His style was what has been termed, transactional leadership. Now, there’s a place for that kind of leadership. Leaders have the responsibility of making sure people are executing their duties effectively. In that, they are winning their team member’s minds. But what about winning hearts?

To win the heart of a team member, what might be called transformational leadership, requires us to invest in a relationship with him or her. We have to work to build what I call relationship equity, meaning we have to know our team members, not just know about them. Sometimes, we have to be willing to be vulnerable about a problem we are trying to solve at work. Sometimes it means we ask someone what obstacles are in the way of their performance. It means we know their their hobbies, travel, trials, and enough about their families for them to believe we are invested in the relationship beyond just getting them to do their job well. If that’s difficult for you, just try this approach with one team member with whom you have some semblances of a relationship. Try to improve that one and then move on to others.

Sales—Getting More Appointments
Chances are you run in to people you’d like to meet at coffee shops, parties, community events, and lots of other places. Many of us, however, fail to recognize the value of these happenstance meetings as an opportunity to actually make an appointment. At best, we’ll say, “We need to get together soon.” Then we’ll return to our office and hope we remember to follow up. But there’s a better way!

Why not ask, “You know, I’ve been meaning to call you for us to catch up. Can we put something on our calendar right now?” Since most people use a digital calendar or carry one with them, that’s the most efficient way for your social networking efforts to pay immediate dividends. With this strategy, you don’t have to hope to catch someone on the phone or get them to reply to an email. And if it’s someone you’ve just met, simply ask for a business card and for permission to follow up with them later that day or the next morning. The longer you wait to contact them the less likely you are to get the appointment. If you’re wise enough to leave sufficient time between appointments and meetings, make that call or send that email when you get back in your car—before you put the car in drive!

Teamwork—Getting the Best from Everyone in a Meeting
Much of the research regarding group communication indicates the willingness of group members to share their thoughts, offer important insights based on their experiences, or dissent from “groupthink” is affected by both the facilitator’s style, and each member’s own cognitive tendencies, gender, and race. If you want to get the best thinking from your group, there are a few things you should know.

First, and this is fairly obvious, more introverted group members will be more likely to remain quiet during your meetings. Second, gender plays a subtle but significant role. Women in male dominated groups will often hesitate to speak up. Finally, minorities will do the same when they participate in non-minority dominated groups. Of course, there are always clear exceptions to these tendencies. But facilitator/leaders in these groups need to be aware of them. So what can you do?

Be sure to invite the opinions of these team members. The simple act of asking, “Let’s see what Jane (or any other member of your group) thinks” validates their membership in the group and allows them the platform to offer their perspective. If one member of the group has dominated your meetings in the past, open your next meeting with “Today, I’d like to make sure we get everyone’s perspective on this matter, so I may redirect some of our conversation to make sure we get the benefit of everyone’s thoughts.” Doing so sets the expectation that you might interrupt someone who is prone to speak up and who, perhaps, doesn’t realize his or her impact on the meeting.

If you want to find out more about how Performance Strategies Group helps organizations sharpen their sales skills and processes, builds more self-aware and resilient leaders, or equip more productive teams, find us online at http://www.performancestrategiesgrouponline.com, or call Jim Owens @ 256-426-0305


Performance Matters: Herding Cats, Prospects,and Better Meetings

Welcome to our first PSG Blog Post!

…and since everybody’s busy we’ve been careful to curate information that you can put into action in your role as a leader, professional sales-advisor, and as a team member,rather than publish an ad disguised as something else.


LeadershipHerding Cats

We want the people we lead to all go in the same direction, but that’s difficult to achieve…like herding cats.  Every leaders wants people to buy-in, right?But they won’t buy in until they get to weigh-inAre you struggling to get your team to committo execute on a strategy you’ve developed?  Maybe it’s because they haven’t had the chance to weigh-in. The absence of that opportunity adversely impacts employee retention, performance, and attitude. If you’re having trouble getting your team committed, the good news is it’s usually simple to find out why.  You just have to ask them, “What is it that seems to be in the way of getting our team committed to this strategy?”  If that’s not something they’re accustomed to being asked approach the boldest, most confident member of your team.  If he or she is generally a high performer, you can bet they have been approached by your competitors in an attempt to hire them away.  So getting them more committed is essential.  Once you’ve asked the question, just keep your mouth shut. Don’t try to explain.  There’s time for that later, if necessary.  (At some, point if all you do is listen and never act on what people express as concerns, we have another challenge to discuss.)


SalesProspecting and Centers of Influence

Need more prospects?  Well, maybe.   But what if you could just improve your closing ratio(number of sales/number of proposals you make)?  Wouldn’t that be simpler?  Prior to your next proposal, ask your centers of influence what they know about the decision-making style of your prospect. Better yet, when they referyou to someone, ask them if they have any information on how they have made decisions about your product or service in the past.  Some buyers are highly analytical.  They want facts and figures and may take a long time to make a decision.  Others will want to focus on the bottom line and focus on results. And they will make decisions quickly and may not give you a chance to clarify or modify your proposal.  How you present your proposal to those different stylesis critical to your success.  So learn all you can from centers of influence who can help you close on a trust-based relationship that benefits you and the buyer.


TeamworkLeading Better Meetings

Meetings: we all love to hate them.  But if you’re participating in a group or leading one there are a few ways to make them better.  Of course, you should have an agenda,but what else?  First, arrange your discussions around topics, rather than around individuals.  Nothing is worse than having to sit through (and try to look engaged) meetings during which two people are having a conversation while everyone else waits there turn.  Which leads us to our second point.  Only include people in your meeting who must be present(or want to be for some reason).  Finally, rather than ask “does anyone have questions?” before ending your meeting, ask them “What do you need to do next based on what we’ve discussed today?  Go around the table and ask everyone to commit to taking action.  When people leave a meeting without knowing “what comes next” then you’ve accomplished very little with your meeting.


If you’ve found this information useful, encouraging or might see a way we can improve it, please let us know.  And if you thought it was encouraging, forward it to a friend so they can subscribe.  If you want to find out more about how Performance Strategies Group helps organizations sharpen their sales skills and processes, builds more self-aware and resilient leaders, or equip more productive teams, find us online at www.performancestrategiesgrouponline.com, or call Principle Consultant, Jim Owens @ 256-426-0305