I began my career at IBM with the Office Products Division. The division was known as one of IBM's top units, and its sales professionals were known as some of the best of the best in the industry.
IBM sales professionals could not maximize their earnings and achieve the highest recognition as a member of the 100 Percent Club or Golden Circle unless they sold products and services that were defined as strategic in achieving their overall business objectives.
Prior to the PC evolution, selling IBM Selectric typewriters, copiers, dictation equipment, word processing, power typing, and more were all key to office automation. The IBM sales team members were known as the "peddlers" and were considered the best training sales force on the planet. No quantity discounting. They sold a bunch of extra typing balls at $ 18 each; they sold the annual supply agreements. The criteria focused on overachieving goals and producing positive results.
I learned many things at IBM. One of those lessons was the importance of performance planning for the individual sales professional. Management would always define the goals and objectives, set the quota, and mentor the individual on what was required to overachieve the goals. These were written plans, and defined as a collaboration to identify what was required from both sides to maximize chances for success.
At performance review time, there were never any surprises. Another lesson learned was the importance of recognition. Making the 100 Percent Club at IBM was a must. The work ethic of an IBMer was admirable, and the playbook is one all sales professionals should study today. My manager would always send the poster of the 100 Percent Club or Golden Circle location home my wife. It worked, because I can tell you every night I arrived home from my 10-hour day, my wife would say, "How did we do today, honey?" No way I was going to let her down.
I learned a great lesson at IBM that I've practiced my entire career. You drive behavior and achieve key strategic sales and growth objectives through very carefully defined compensation and recognition plans. Setting a quota is not compensation planning. The objective is to create a compensation plan strategy that aligns with your overall business objectives. Rewarding above-average performance is a very important motivator for any sales professional.
Today, more than ever, channel vendors, distributors and solution providers understand this fact and create partner initiatives that drive behavior of the sales professionals on the front end of programs, and the results and profits for the founders and owners of the solution provider community on the back end of programs.
Major manufacturers recognize the importance of compensation planning as they design and enhance their partner programs. Companies such as IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Cisco, EMC, VCE, VMware and a whole host of new manufacturers entering the market absolutely understand the need to design programs that encourage solution providers to invest in them.
I learned from my IBM experience. I learned from IBM about the importance of defining objectives framed in a carefully designed compensation and recognition strategy. I encourage manufacturers and distributors to support the solution provider in this area. A few ideas: Support a company July picnic for employees and their families. Support the quarterly and annual recognition of their top sales professionals. Support the solution provider recognition for the top sales professionals with 100 Percent Club trips for both the sales professional and ownership and their spouses.
Compensation planning, recognition planning and marketing planning are all a key part of the overall business strategy and contribute significantly to over-achieving business and sales goals and profit expectations. Compensation planning drives results. Every company needs to recognize their very best for what they are -- their most valuable asset.
John Convery is president and CEO of Seattle-based John Convery Consulting. In addition, he is a member of the HP Enterprise Server, Storage and Networking advisory council, and serves on The Channel Company's XChange and Best of Breed (BoB) advisory boards. He previously was executive vice president of vendor relations and marketing for Denali Advanced Integration.
PUBLISHED NOV. 20, 2013