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Sales Superstars: How to Recognize, Reward & Retain Them

27 Jan, 2016 By: Tom Callinan, Strategy Development

You’d think it would be easy to recognize the Sales Superstar: They’re the guys and gals that sell the most, right?  Not necessarily is my response to that question.  OK, well then they’re the guys and gals that exceed quota by the most, correct?  Ah, not necessarily.  So the first challenge to recognizing your superstar sales professional is to ensure that you have a fair measurement system in place. 

When I work with a new client, his or her response to this suggestion (of a system) might be “We are fair; everybody has the same quota.”  On the surface his may sound fair but let’s examine some situational variances:

Account Base:  If “Rep A” has a territory with 400 devices under contract with your company and “Rep B” has a territory with 60 devices under contact with your company then Rep A’s results should far exceed Rep B’s.  Account base drives sales results in our industry

Prospect Focus:  Prospect focus could be driven by territory or by the rep’s focus on spending his time on the accounts with the highest payback.  Territory can either be list-based or geo-based, say, by zip code. 

It’s possible that one rep is in a very rural area where there are only “Mom and Pop” companies and he (she) has no opportunity to sell multi-unit accounts.  If that were the verifiable case then the rep in the rural area should have a lower quota then the rep in the metro area, taking into consideration account base mentioned prior.

Now let’s compare two reps in the same metro area with similar account bases.  Rep A randomly calls on accounts with no research into the vertical market or company size.  Rep B does research and only calls on companies that, based on their size in their vertical market, would have three to ten copiers.  Rep B would logically sell more because once they “land” an account they will have the opportunity to sell more equipment as well as MNS, MPS and software solutions.  Rep B is clearly a better rep than Rep A in that they use their time more logically.  In this case it is possible that Rep B is a Superstar Rep.

Ability to Sell New Products/ Services:  Superstar Reps can sell new products and service.  If your company has a traditional copier background but now sells MPS, MNS, and software, your superstars will be selling these products and services into their base of accounts as well as using these offerings to open new accounts.  You can’t be considered a superstar if all you sell is a traditional product.

Team-based Selling:  Superstar Reps know that they don’t know everything and they are good at using other resources within the company to gain share of wallet inside of their accounts.  This ties into the ability to sell new products and services.  The Superstar Rep gladly accepts help from other competent team members.

Quota: If you have logically set quotas, using Account Base as a foundation so that you know that the rep has to both retain the current base as well as sell new business to achieve quota, then the Superstar Rep will meet or exceed that annual quota.

Now how do you reward and retain these superstars after they are identified?  One aspect is easy: You pay them a lot of money.  I am a big believer that you should over pay your superstars.  The critical factor here is that you only over pay the superstars.  A compensation plan that overpays everybody in sales is not a good program from an expense or recognition perspective.  This also comes back to having logical quotas based on analytics of the value of the base accounts and a level of expectation for new business.  If you know a rep’s base accounts should produce $500,000 and you expect the superstar to sell 30% net new business, then you pay the superstar above average compensation when they hit $650,000 in business for the year. That year, qualification is critical. 

A rep that has a blowout month isn’t a superstar; anybody can have a great month, or a bad month for that matter.  What truly matters is that over a year—or the shortest period a quarter—the rep achieves their quota.  When they do overachieve, bonuses should kick in that pays that rep above the norm.

The rep should also be paid very well for selling new products or services, but again only if they also achieve their quota; meaning they retain their base accounts and sell net new business. 

It doesn’t excite me if a rep sells $20,000 per month in MNS business if their base accounts should have produced $400,000 in equipment and they only sold $300,000 in equipment for the year.  They lost base at the expense of selling MNS.  I certainly compensate them for the MNS they sold but not at the same level if they had not also achieved their equipment quota. As an aside, I’d have a real issue with this rep losing base!

I do want this rep to feel great about working at my company so I recognize them in other ways as well.  Clearly, rep of the month/quarter/year recognition is important but that is the most basic recognition there is.  I might provide my Sales Superstars with an annual—and meaningful—increase in car allowance for the year.  If you give every sales rep $400 per month, I might give a one year quota achiever $600 / $800 if they’ve achieved quota for two years in a row, and $1000 for three or more.  But I want to ensure that they “celebrate” with the correct car so I don’t just give them the cash. I make their car payment up to that amount.

Trips are another great recognition approach and every company should have a “president’s club” trip for their superstars and a guest.  There’s nothing better than getting the spouse or significant other involved in the superstar’s success and spending five days at some nice resort, often with the principals of the company and their significant others, which builds loyalty to the company.

I’ve also seen awards such as a Rolex watch for anybody that achieves 125% of quota and often with a Rolex to the significant other if it’s for two consecutive years at 125%. Award those watches at a dinner at the president’s club / trip and make those Superstar Reps and their significant others feel like gold!

Finally, have short trips during the year.  Maybe a quarterly contest for a long weekend at a lake or Napa Valley, again with the spouse /significant other so that you build loyalty to the company.

The compensation makes the Superstar Rep feel valued.  The trips make the superstar and their significant other feel tied to the company.  If that superstar ever gets to a point where they think the grass is greener elsewhere, their significant other might be rooting in your corner as they look down at their Rolex and the pictures on their iPhone of the latest trip to Cabo!

Tom Callinan will present on the topic of “Sales Superstars” with David Ramos, Director, InfoTrends, and Thomas Bruguiere, VP of National Accounts, Crawford Thomas, at the upcoming ITEX Expo in Ft. Lauderdale, FL on March 8, 2016, 11:30 AM. Full event details at www.itexshow.com


Tom Callinan is the Managing Principal of Strategy Development.  From 1998-2005, Tom was an executive with IKON Office Solutions, culminating as VP and GM of their largest business unit with revenue of $1.4 billion.  Prior, Tom was founder & CEO of Copifax, Inc., an award-winning copier dealership that included INC 500 recognition, which later was acquired by IKON. Tom graduated with high honors from The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania. For more information visit www.strategydevelopment.com

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