Once you have acquired a sales channel/force/staff, and trained them, the question is on how to retain the high performing and high potential talent. Different companies have different views on sales staff retention. Some companies promote the idea of 'Natural and self-selection', where a sales person stays with the company as long as he is performing. Some other companies have a longer term view where they invest more in training, development, rotate sales staff to other role etc. There is no specific formula of success, as we have seen companies with different models succeeding as well as failing.
Retention of your own sales staff
To retain employed sales staff, one uses the universal practices, which you will apply on any employee of the company, irrespective of their functional area.
Retention of 3rd party sales channels
Your relationship with your 3rd party distributors is critical as it has a high entry and high exit cost. Contractuals, legalities and sales channel compensation are important parts. Here are additional methods which can support your retention efforts. These methods work around the principle of 'high value on staying' and 'high cost for exiting' for your channel partner:
Business Sales Partner Integration linkage
BPI is direct Connectivity with the distributor and having an electronic data exchange with its system. This provides a kind of lock which will be difficult for supplier to walk away. It is generally not easy to have a BPI (Business Partner integration) gate-ways.
Providing Universal IT platform
This is different from the business partner integration linkage. As an organization you can provide systems and business applications, which can be used by your channel partner to manage his business with you OR/as well as with others. For example, if you give the brokerage management system to your 3rd party broker, on which he can manage his brokerage system (including his linkage with other companies..), it will be a good lock-in. Another example is to give system to your tied and exclusive corporate agent, for managing his agency business.
Provide Business and Information management support:
All your MIS on the sales related reports, sales compensation related reports etc. available online OR delivered on certain frequency with back-up help-desk can provide great value.
Brand and Sales Promotion support
A good advertising and promotion budget to help your channel partner is a plus. Examples are
- Good quality of promotion material including point of sales, hoardings, brochures etc
- Consistent and effective advertisement.
- Sharing the brand-awareness survey report and engaging your partners in brand enhancement initiatives.
- Organizing events and including your channel partners in the same.
Infrastructure and facilities support
If your facilities structure allow, you can allow your channel partner to:
- Share your facilities
- Share your IT back-bone
- Share your 3rd party service providers
Process and fulfillment support
This is covered in detail in enhancing sales channel productivity. You can provide operational and field support to your channel partner in activities involved in closing the sale. For example, collection of documents, collection of cheques etc..
Engaging your Sales distributor in recognition and events
Be active on recognizing your partners in your events and rewards program. This is mainly to add to the emotional quotient in the whole partnership. If it is allows (as different channel partners have different views to it)
This goes beyond transaction and volume based sales compensation. Retention bonuses can be based upon factors over and above the sales performance (refer non-sales behaviors in sales compensation management).