Recognition Doesn't have to be Humiliating

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Jan 26, 2024 by Sean Luce

I have received many e-mails from managers across the country to say that putting up the "leader board" in the sales bullpen is rather harsh and condescending.

My response? Don't forget that we are in sales, and as managers,we're not running a country club. I firmly believe that motivation comes from within each sales rep and that the strongest form of motivation is having reps see where they are, in respect to their peers. I did not suggest you put up actual numbers, but rather percentages, since there are many variables to actual billing numbers. No matter how close a sales manager gets to his or her people, sales reps always look for an internal leader on the team.They need someone they can look up to, which is why senior billers have much more responsibility than to be just the top biller. They must also provide leadership for the rookies  and lead by example. Most sales reps really do care about the team, especially if compensation is tied to overall performance. The top reps also know who's bringing up the bottom of the totem poll. Is it fair to call this to the attention of everyone on the staff? Some examples:

THE TROLL AWARD: This is one of my sales staff's distinguished awards that went to the person who brought up the bottom of the leader board that month. This person received a small troll, which was put atop the rep's cubicle, signifying to everyone that the rep was low biller for the month. A funny thing happened: You never saw that rep in the office during the month that the troll was on the cubicle.The rep was out busting tail, making sure to avoid "two in a row." Somehow, this provided the motivation to make sure the rep hit budget the following month. Nobody laughed. In fact, everyone encouraged that sales rep to get better to help the team achieve budget. Is this humiliating a sales rep? I think not. If you're going to reward and recognize the best, why not make note of the worst performance of the month?

THE HALF-ASSED AWARD: Whenever a rep puts in a poor performance, the rep is handed a roll of toilet paper in the sales meeting. I know what you're thinking: how humiliating! But the fact is, the manager had to give it out only once. Nobody wanted to be recognized for that award. By the way, before you use that one, you might want to make sure you have a mature staff that understands what you're doing. or you might get it thrown back in your face.

SILVER LINING Let's take a look at the flip side of bringing up the bottom. This e-mail comes from Shawn Katzbeck, director of sales for Badger Communications in Marinette, WI. Katzbeck started using the leader board several months ago. What has happened? In the eight short months since he took over a staff that had lost its top biller, its sales manager and all reps except one, the new staff is now setting billing records. Here's a recent e-mail from Katzbeck about the leader board:

"Here's the story about the "Rugrats Board." I had decided to put up a leader board, showing how much each sales rep was selling for the month, in percentages. I still had some of the reps come to me and tell me this bothered them. It was interesting because it was coming more from the top reps; we forget it can be very lonely at the top, as well as on the bottom. One of the reps suggested code names. I took it one step further by having fun with the names. I use the Rugrat names.This has accomplished several things. First, the reps feel as though they have some decision-making say on the sales floor. Second, they see that I am willing to accept their ideas and implement them; and third, it trivializes the board and makes it less intimidating. More important, all the reps strive to be on the top of the board, yet nobody except the rep knows his or her standings in the pecking order!?

Last time I checked, there was still a leader board on the PGA and LPGA circuit.And it's there for a reason: Everyone wants to see who's on top!

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