Placing Reps Frontline to the Company
Every year, Dan Jensen Consulting helps over 40 new startup companies launch their business. Each one faces the challenge to find leaders who know how to build a team and motivate them to get to work. A common question our clients ask is:
“How many people should we place frontline to our company?”
While there is no “one size fits all” answer, there are some principles and guidelines that I would call “best practices” to consider:
Never have just one leader at the top of the lineage tree
When one single individual has all of your sales force beneath them, you add considerably to your risk of future failure for several reasons. First, if you ever have a falling out with that leader and they join another direct selling company, many or all of your leaders could be influenced to follow them causing your business to fail. I have seen countless examples of this tragic end to what started as a great relationship with the business owners. Second, that one leader will quickly advance to the top rank of your compensation plan career path causing your plan payout to rise faster than you expected. That would be costly. Third, they might not end up being the leader you expect them to be. What if they don’t perform? What if they eventually stop working and just want to collect their mailbox check? There are few things in our industry more frustrating to business owners than paying egregious amounts of money to people who are not working the business.
The company makes a very poor upline
If you place people frontline to the company who do not already know how to succeed in this business, they will require huge amounts of your time and mentoring. Their failure rate will be high due to the lack of time and resources you have. You need, instead, low maintenance people – people who will not be calling your mobile phone at all hours. You need people who will not need lots of your attention and time. As a business owner of a new company, your plate will already be overflowing. The last thing you need is lots of people demanding your time who don’t know how to build their business. Those needy people should be placed under competent team managers and leaders in your organization.
Never compete with your sales force
As you seek out leaders who will help you build your sales organization it is imperative that you never compete with your existing people. If you do, they will no longer trust you. Applying this principle means that the only leaders you will place front line to the company will be leaders YOU find somehow – not leaders your sales force has found or referred. When a prospective leader contacts you directly you must carefully find out if they have spoken to another representative. If so, always respect that relationship and place them under the rep who has spoken to them. If not, they are a candidate for your frontline team.
What are the best practices to follow?
- Find at least six front line leaders who are placed directly under the company. The more the better as long as they are low maintenance people. Only two or three are not enough. Diversify!
- Make it clear to your field that you will continue to actively look for leaders for the first year of business. Or 2 years. Just set their expectations. After that, any new leaders that join will be placed under existing leaders who can coach and mentor them.
- Do NOT offer any special “joining fee” deals with prospective leaders no matter how tempting. Doing so creates a very slippery slope. You must always assume that anything you do with one sales rep will eventually be known by ALL sales reps. If you find a prospective leader willing to engage in the business on a full time basis, it is acceptable to offer to reimburse them for expenses with limits you are comfortable with. Get receipts.
- Do NOT appoint them to a leadership rank or title in your compensation plan. Do not “grandfather” them in to a high rank or exempt them from performance requirements. They must work their way up the career path like everybody else. If they know how to do it they will advance rapidly. Some will move up several ranks in one month! You will find their performance to be much higher if they don’t get a free ride and they will be better able to lead their teams by example.
- Do NOT allow them to sell their own training materials (if any). Instead, enlist their help to develop or improve your generic “best practices” training system for your sales force. Never lose control of your training system and tools.
- Listen to them but don’t let them control you. Leaders who are given too much influence with the business owners will often expect that to continue forever. They will eventually start making demands of you that will only benefit them and possibly weaken your business. YOU be the leader.
- NEVER let your leaders determine how your compensation plan and incentive programs are designed. In my entire career I have met only a handful of leaders (out of thousands) who really understand the vital principles and best practices of compensation plan design. They see the world through their own glasses as a field leader. They do not see it through the eyes of a business owner. They don’t sign the checks. You do. Never let them design your compensation plan.
I have seen too many tragic stories of companies (some of our clients included) who have violated these principles and best practices and later regretted it. By following these simple guidelines you can avoid the pitfalls and landmines that others do not see.