Sales & Sales Management Expertise

How Do You Turn “Old Farts” Into Sales Legends?  Not So Easy 1, 2, 3

I doubt that you, in public, have a group of producers that you call ‘old farts’ or some other term of endearment.  But what I really wonder is this; Do you have a group that you consider ‘Sales Legends’.  My guess is that the answer is no.  There are reasons for this.

producers, sales legends, sales strategy, top producers

Before I provide suggestions for a solution, let me explain the title:  I recently played in a member guest golf tournament at Triple Crown Country Club with my good friend Jerry Barron.  I’ve known for a long time that since his retirement Jerry plays a lot of golf with his buddies on a regular schedule throughout the golf season. What I didn’t know is that for many years this group was known as the “Old Farts’ gang.  Apparently some people thought that this was a bit insensitive so the pro decided that the group would become known as “The Legends”.

This got me thinking about many of the sales teams we work with and the problems associated with growing revenue when a segment of the sales population isn’t motivated to or can’t grow their book.

The problem associated with the ‘old fart’ team really isn’t about age but rather about three very distinct phases in a sales person’s career.  These phases include but are not limited to those that have been with you a long time and are survivors. Those that do manage a large book of revenue and spend a great deal of time ‘managing the book’ and either cannot or will not grow the book.  And finally you have some people that really are ready to retire but haven’t told anyone yet. Let me clarify these 3:

  • The Survivor: Those who have been with your organization for a long time and who have survived the ups and downs of economic swings and changes in your (re-engineered / right sized) company. These people have stayed just off the radar and when ever talent discussions come up they survive the discussion:  “What do we do with…?”
  • Large Account Managers: The next challenge is with those in the sales population who handle a couple of key accounts or control a large book of revenue that you really don’t want to lose. These people hold you “hostage”.  Your rationalization is that you are afraid that the business will go with them if they leave or you justify keeping them while saying ‘They cover their compensation so they really aren’t costing me anything.”
  • Retired On The Job: Finally you have people who are in fact in the later years of their careers and don’t have the same ‘fire in the belly’ that they did when they first started.  They are empty nesters, have a solid retirement plan, generate a comfortable income from the incentive comp plan and also conveniently may hold the opinion that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

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Case Study:  Why Retiring on the job is a problem for sales companies.  An insurance agency had a group of mature producers who controlled a revenue block of 5,000,000 dollars in revenue.  The holding company of this agency set a growth goal for this market as well as it’s other markets around the country at 20% gross growth per year  (The company made assumptions of 5% unknown losses in revenue and 10% known loses – non-recurring revenue streams.)  This group of mature producers had stopped producing new business and had no motivation to do so.  That meant that the 1,000,000 dollars of growth on the 5,000,000 dollars had to be produced by the rest of the group who struggled to grow their own book!).

Let’s look at some outside-the-box ideas to build a plan to have a team of legends who leaves a legacy of desire and commitment to excellence and a team of rookies who has the right stuff to grow your sales.

Do This 1 Thing: Eliminate sales goals for them and in exchange, change their comp model to one that is appropriate for managing accounts plus an incentive. 

Do These 2 Things:

  • Take the top 1/3 of their book and make it clear that in order to qualify for the maximize incentive comp as an account manager they will be responsible for maintaining their newly assigned book of business at 100%. (1/3 of their book, 33% will equal approximately 90% of their revenue.). 
  • To maintain the book at 100% they will have to engage organizational partners, look for opportunities to discuss other product offerings AND ask these BEST of the BEST for introductions.

This is something that institutions and agencies have attempted to do for years but have failed.  (See data and resources below.)

Do These 3 Things: 

  • Hire a ‘junior’ producer, officer, or advisor and assign the remaining two thirds of the original book to them. The balance of their compensation comes from an incentive formula associated with new sales and cross selling. This person has the responsibility for growing the remaining book and supporting the “Legend”.
  • Establish metrics and ‘high’ standards of performance that will be used to determine success for both parties (entire organization).
  • Implement a performance management culture where mediocrity is not accepted, excuses for lack of effort will not be tolerated and data will be used to gain business insights so your sales manager can conduct 1-on-1 intentional coaching sessions.

I recognize the potential fatal flaw in these steps:  Your high producer might be tempted to take an offer from a competitor that is poaching top talent by offering attractive financial packages to lure them.  The questions you have to ask are:

  • How well has that strategy worked for you in the past?
  • What problems do you inherit when you’ve hired a high priced producer?
  • Does the book of business and list of clients they promise ever show up?
  • How well have you treated your top people all along?
  • When people have left you for greener pastures have you ever heard stories that the promises made to them didn’t come true?

Extra Help – From HBRGiving Top Performers Feedback – A Key to Keeping That Talent With YOU!

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Tags: Effective Coaching, sales tips, getting better sales results, sales producers