February 1998


Learn the 3Rs for encouraging employees

by Christine Anzell & Jack Levenson

People often ask us what's new in the way of motivating salespeople. As we approach a new century, we must recognize much has changed in our industry in recent years. We've gone from downtown stores to malls to power centers; from bulbs to tubes to halogens; from index cards to software.

People, however, remain the same. Human nature isn't trendy. Just as your kids still learn the 3Rs in school - through new tools - so your sales associates are still motivated by the 3Rs at work: Rewards, Recognition and Responsibility.

Rewards come in many forms - not just monetary (though don't be fooled by those who say money isn't important; salespeople with whom we've dealt are as pleased as punch to accept your gratitude in the form of cash).

For example, want to move some old merchandise, some high-margin pieces, some items on which you're overstocked? Put a spiff (a small financial incentive) on those items. Make sure everyone knows of the opportunity, then sit back and watch the inventory move.

Other rewards can be more creative but equally pleasing: T-shirts, gift certificates for movies, meals, recreational activities, "store dollars" that can be used toward purchases, lunch out with the boss (or if it's a greater incentive - without the boss), special days off (maybe an unscheduled weekend or birthday).

An old management maxim states, "Things that get rewarded get repeated." If you want to set a standard for high achievement, reward when you see something you like.

Employees of all kinds, not just salespeople, list recognition as a top motivator. We're not talking about giving someone who's just completed a significant sale a testimonial black-tie dinner. Believe it or not, recognition begins with something as simple as smiling "good morning" each day followed by a positive comment about a great sale made the previous day or an attractive outfit or a new hairstyle. Morning training meetings or "pep rallies" should always include recognition of the most recent high achievers.

To go a step further, present certificates, pins or other awards on a monthly or quarterly basis. When someone has worked hard, he or she wants to know you know; a verbal pat on the back goes a long way. And always remember to praise publicly, criticize privately.

You may have read about one survey that compared employees' descriptions of what motivates them with their management's perceptions of what motivates them. Employees said they were more motivated by recognition, being made to feel a part of the company and being involved in decision-making than by money alone. If you want to motivate your folks consistently and inexpensively, involve them. Solicit their input on merchandise trends, customer service, decor and presentation. Not only will they appreciate your interest in their opinions, you'll gather some excellent information.

Encourage your sales associates to read the trade magazines. Clip or highlight specific articles that will help them with product knowledge or sales techniques. When you return from a trade show or new merchandise arrives in the store, take a moment to share information from the show or create enthusiasm about the new pieces among the staff. Treat your salespeople with the respect to which they are entitled.

Christine Anzell and Jack Levenson are sales trainers in the fine jewelry industry. They custom-design programs for your business and also offer a sales training manual. Contact them at P.O. Box 46801, Las Vegas, NV 89114; (800) 887-8902.

Copyright © 1998 by Bond Communications.


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