Sales teams in the fmcg sector may be working in an increasingly tough environment, but are they getting the reward they deserve? Many won't be surprised to see that their pay has risen only in line with compound inflation of 4%-5%. But according to Pursuit NHA, regional sales managers at least have something to smile about ­ their pay has leapt 9%, to an average of £34,800, since 1999. This is due to the shortage of good field sales staff and companies placing a higher value on their jobs. And while more fmcg firms offer salespeople a bonus, fewer are supplying company cars, but those that do are paying more for them. Since the last survey two years ago, the retail sales sector has seen a number of key developments which have influenced pay and perks. Pursuit NHA consultant Ben Ballard says: "In the past, store merchandising was largely influenced by head office policy. Now field sales staff can go into individual stores and influence merchandising, selling direct to the store manager ­ so people managing sales staff have become more important." National account executives have had the next highest level of pay increase. Ballard says: "The role has evolved into one with far greater responsibilities which require a greater skills set and so command a superior compensation package. In order to produce good national account managers and senior national account managers, companies need to harness and reward staff in junior positions." Perks are also on the increase. Roughly 90% of companies offer bonuses, paying an average of 20% of salary. More firms offer performance-related rewards and the number offering them to territory managers in particular has increased from 50% to 85% since 1999. "Giving more autonomy and flexibility to store managers has led to an increase in the opportunity for territory managers to influence business at local level," says Ballard. "Extending bonus schemes is an effective way of motivating people in this important role." Historically, the one perk sales people could rely on ­ the company car ­ is less reliable. Since 1999, fewer companies have provided company cars but award car allowances instead. But those companies that do offer cars are spending more on better quality models. Mobile phones are now offered by almost all companies to every job category. Few changes have been made to pension, life assurance or permanent disability insurance packages, while free family healthcare packages have increased. Two-thirds of all managers and the majority of sales directors and national account controllers receive private health cover. Holiday packages have remained virtually unchanged for the last two years, and 10% of sales directors receive more than 30 days holiday a year. Companies are providing add-on rewards, including subsidies for studying for professional qualifications, free health checks for senior managers and free products. But despite these creative incentives, sales people are becoming more fickle and the industry is finding it tougher to retain staff. Research by Pursuit NHA suggests that one in five salespeople change jobs every year. And this trend is increasing for 40% of companies surveyed. Consequently, the cost of filling vacancies averages £80,000 per company, per year. Reasons staff give for their departure include dissatisfaction with job prospects, potential conflict with management ­ especially over unfulfilled promises about career development and training ­ and dissatisfaction with pay. Pursuit NHA says these problems are compounded by the fact that sales team members are increasingly well-educated and therefore more demanding. The problem of high staff turnover is self-perpetuating. Because sales teams are always short-staffed, sales are lost, pressure on the team increases, creating more job dissatisfaction. Reactive, rather than proactive, recruitment strategies add to the difficulties caused by high staff turnover. Few companies plan far enough ahead to replace non-performing personnel and therefore have to react quickly to meet short-term demands. Recruitment and retention problems are also caused by the greater diversification of sales roles which demands more skills from job candidates. Many companies are finding it difficult to find staff with the right skills and there is often confusion over the skills required for a job. The varied role of sales staff makes fulfilling their training needs difficult and their talents make them a target for headhunters. For example, sales directors who are willing to change industry are offered substantial increases. Ballard adds: "There is still a trend for good national account managers from the fmcg sector to be lured away to more exciting jobs within media, communications and pharmaceutical industries." The lessons to be learned are that better staff retention can be achieved by combining long-term planning for staff turnover, proactive recruitment and increased investment in training and career development. "Keeping promises with a clear and honest approach to career and bonus opportunities would also help," says Ballard, as would a more structured and creative approach to benefits. And he suggests that employee satisfaction surveys would be a good way to become aware of dissatisfaction. Employers seem to be meeting the challenges. For example, almost two thirds of companies surveyed report they are increasing their training and development budgets for the coming year. But, as ever, more is needed. n {{FEATURES }}