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Top performers won’t be enough to regain market share and here’s why.

Written by: Andrew Clark
(View Author Bio)

With the largest decline in market demand in recent memory, how do you retake your place in the market and get back in the game?

Maximizing sales performance will be key as many businesses have survived with depleting cash reserves. There has been a fundamental shift in consumer behaviour, and in some cases, interrupted supply chains. The spectrum is vast, for sure there are some businesses that have thrived and at the other end, there are those who shuttered their businesses – the strategy and the tactics will vary accordingly.

Different segments of the market are going to rebound at different rates. There has been a material change in the way we have been doing business over the last few months. Some organizations go-to-market strategy has been a tactical shift to triage the business model that may return to the “next” normal. Its unlikely things will return as they once were for some time. We’re hearing about the emergence of a “low” touch economy and dramatic impacts on the “shared” economy.

Some business models will never go back to the way they were. In other cases, we’re seeing an advancement of sales and channel trends that were underway anyway in self-service technology, for example, online purchases, augmented reality (AR), and virtual reality (VR).

Will I want to and why do I have to physically interact with a product to buy it?

Your top-performing salespeople won’t be able to generate enough sales. You need to “move the middle” to engage the entire sales force and get more than your fair share of attention and the market.  

It sounds a bit elementary to say you need to set goals. The reality is, people who set goals are simply more likely to achieve them. Setting a goal is one thing. If you’re going to achieve your goal, you’ll need a workable plan. That means you will have had to think through potential problems that are likely to block your progress.

Our research in Behavioural Economics (BE) proves that setting a goal is a powerful driver of behaviour, so much so, that at the exact moment you set your goal, you have committed to it and the catalyst effect kicks in. The catalyst effect is the fuel that empowers you to overcome significant challenges and still achieve your goal. The three key parts of the catalyst effect are:

  1. The goal must be meaningful and rewarding
  2. The goal must be relevant
  3. The goal must be self-selected

Achieving the goal must be rewarding to you. At some level, salespeople are intrinsically motivated to succeed. Hedonic rewards are a powerful driver of performance and have the ability to take it to the next level. Of course, the further you go on The Rewards Efficacy Continuum, the more luxurious the reward, the greater the motivation.

Without a strong reward, your commitment to achieving the goal is likely to deteriorate over time. The most compelling rewards are luxury goods and experiences.

"Moving the middle" is critical. This refers to motivating the performance of the broader sales audience, not just top performers. There is a place for top performer rewards and recognition for sure. The challenge is that the lift from top performers can bring to your overall results simply isn’t large enough against the overall potential of the team. Furthermore, forget the 80/20 rule (sorry Vilfredo Pareto). It’s not 80/20; our research tells us that 46 percent of performance comes from 80 percent of your team. You need to provide different resources, and motivation depending on the performance of your team.

That being said, don’t assume that the team will be automatically engaged. Make sure you ask for a commitment. As we said previously, people who choose a goal or opt-in are much more likely to succeed. Speaking of succeeding—wherever possible—goals should vary by individual relative to their own performance. It’s called idiosyncratic fit. People need to have a reasonable chance of winning to embrace a goal. If you let people choose their own goal:

  1. Will the goal be high enough?
  2. Will the return on investment (ROI) be there?

Yes on both fronts. Our statistics show us that time and time again, the largest percentage of participants choose the highest goals. We need to plan out goals that are good for the participant and the company. It’s called choice architecture – helping people make the best choices by offering limited options.

You have to select it. If you are told, “You need to do this”, it’s highly likely it won’t happen unless you take ownership. This is less of a rational decision than you may think. Our emotions frame our commitment with the intensity we feel around the goal. The more emotion at the moment of selection, the higher the likelihood of achievement will be. When you select a goal that is relevant and meaningful, your brain will engage the planning function automatically and you’ll be on your way to figuring out how you’re going to achieve it.

You also really need to engage the entire audience. Remember, the comment in point two above about the same people always winning, they can! We simply want more winners overall. Incremental performance from the entire salesforce can dramatically increase overall results.

We’ve proven it makes sense to design incentive programs that are much more inclusive than the outdated “top performer” approach. It pays to engage performance levels from top to bottom and create lift from every sector of the performance curve. However, that can rarely be done with the same set of rules applying to both your top sales reps and your new hires. 

Now is the time to leverage behavioural science, experience, and expertise to compete.

Our patented GoalQuest® methodology relies precisely on these principles leveraging self-selection of goals, compelling reward options, and relevant goal levels based on participants’ past performance. We incorporate this with two powerful effects from the science of applied BE:

  1. Choice architecture which gives participants a choice of different goal levels
  2. Loss aversion when a reward is only earned if the selected goal is achieved

It works and we can prove it. GoalQuest® methodology has been used by hundreds of Fortune 1000 companies; over 1.1 million salespeople and channel partners have participated in a GoalQuest® program. Especially effective for short-term incentives, what is really compelling is that when selecting a goal more people select and achieve at the highest goal level. 

GoalQuest® relies on a robust database of activity and provides us with the ability to estimate results and ROI prior to starting the program. As a pay for performance incentive, there is no cost at all if participants don’t achieve their goals.

Speed to market is going to matter. Most programs run 30 or 60 days and it only takes us 10 business days to get up and running. It’s not too late to get back on track to reach your goals. Relevant, self-selected goals with a meaningful reward behind them will empower and inspire your salespeople to break through barriers, remain committed, and maintain the focus they need to achieve measurable results.

Now that we have a successful model to drive performance, how will you get your salespeople or channel partners up to speed with your latest offering, updates, and sales process? Through communications and learning.

Get more than your fair share of attention with communications.

A strong, sustained communications campaign is critical to the success of any incentive program. People remember things that are graphic or dramatic, known as vividness. Key considerations:

  • The communication plan should target the entire impacted audience sales representatives, front-line managers, leadership, and other key stakeholders.
  • Make some noise and grab attention when you announce the program.
  • Keep it simple and direct. Outline all incentive components, raise awareness, and inspire your team and partners to achieve the program goals.
  • Use multiple touchpoints to initiate an integrated approach. You can’t over-communicate.
  • As well as traditional tactics, capitalize on the latest rapidly developing technology to reinforce the message to launch, update, and celebrate success.

Enhanced learning for enhanced performance.

All learning aspires to disseminate knowledge, even basic and boring PowerPoint presentations. Good learning also attempts to train people how to do something new. However, great learning also affects people’s attitudes and emotions as well as presents the “Know” and trains how to “Do.” In fact, great learning starts with attitudes and emotions. It starts with the “Feel”.

So how are we going to accomplish this in a “low touch” economy?

Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman’s lifetime of work in behavioural psychology informs us that people make the decision to change their attitudes based on their emotions the majority of the time.

People are predictably irrational. BE studies show that we make decisions based on our emotions 77 percent of the time. While Simon Sinek’s great TED Talk and book, “Start with Why”, also informs us that if you get to the “Why” first – you’re dealing with the limbic part of the brain (the fast-brain) which is the seat of the emotions and decision-making. If you do that well, you actually increase the pathway to the neo-cortex (the slow-brain) where the complicated reasoning occurs.

Have you ever been to a live stand-up or “walk-around” competition? The energy is electric. Participants work to master the art of a persuasive pitch—perfecting their talk tracks and skills—while finding compelling ways to highlight key features and benefits.

The problem: With current physical distancing restrictions, logistics, time, and the expense of conducting live competitions may be prohibitive for a while. We are seeing companies pivot quickly and look at things differently. There are some excellent impactful virtual options available.

The solution: V3, a proprietary virtual sales training competition platform from BI WORLDWIDE Canada. V3 is an online portal that harnesses the key elements of a live sales competition: presentations, judging, and reporting. V3 is designed to maximize value and sustained engagement in skills competitions, while minimizing the cost and logistics associated with live competitions.

The problem: You need to continue to inform your audience on new products and services, hone skills, and for now, in-person instructor lead training is not an option.

The solution: Chameleon Cloud. Give your sales team access to the information they need anytime, anywhere with a flexible learning solution like Chameleon Cloud. Whether they work on iPads, smartphones or tablets, your sales team and channel partners have access to critical information. That means your team and channel partners will always have the tools they require. Alternate learning platforms have separate courses for smartphones, tablets, and laptops; that’s not only cumbersome – it can be costly.

As restrictions are lifted and you phase in your plan, every competitor will be vying for your prospects’ attention. Focus your team with current information and get the attention of your channel partners. Your channel partners expect to be able to access information when they need it.

Concerned that your channel reps won’t be interested in what you’re saying? Don’t be. eLearning only works if it engages your audience – and Chameleon Cloud is the gold standard in engagement. Chameleon Cloud features games, simulations, advanced animations, and testing with enough interactivity and layout options to captivate everyone – even the skeptics.

Measure and analyze.

In addressing critical business issues, you should begin with the end in mind:

  • What are you really trying to do?
  • What is the business context (problem, opportunity or constraint)?
  • What decisions do you have to make?
  • What data is relevant?
  • And almost always it comes down to what data is available?

There are a variety of tools to make the most of your data. Whether it be reports easily accessed from within our participant platforms or executive-level dashboards created in market-leading data visualization tools like Tableau. At BI WORLDWIDE Canada, we’re passionate about making the most of data. What is analytics? The confidence in knowing, confidence for decision making, and taking action based on data-driven insights into critical business issues.

Maximize sales results with these 5 key steps:

  1. Communicate, build awareness, and drive action
  2. Educate, increase knowledge, and develop skills
  3. Motivate, engage emotionally, and drive focus
  4. Update, track behaviour, and report on progress
  5. Measure and analyze results to inform next steps

Contact us to begin developing a comprehensive sales incentive program to educate and motivate your sales team and help you regain market share.

Andrew Clark

President, BI WORLDWIDE Canada

As President of BI WORLDWIDE Canada, Andrew's primary focus is to develop employee engagement strategies and recognition solutions that change the behaviours of employees and achieve measurable results. Andrew is an evangelist for the principles of behavioural economics which are at the core of what BI WORLDWIDE Canada does.