Interview with Jay Leisner

Sylvina Consulting

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I have the great pleasure of interviewing Jay Leisner of Sylvina consulting. Jay is a top compensation plan and direct selling expert. He's helped hundreds of new and established network marketing and party plan companies succeed. He has more than 30 years experience in the industry and is currently the president of Silvina Consulting, 

Richard Sletcher

Hi, Jay, thank you very much for joining me really appreciate it. Before we get started, I was wondering if you could just give me a little bit of your background how you got to the point where you are in the MLM space? 

Jay Leisner
Yes, Richard, It would be my pleasure to do so. I've had the honour and privilege to have worked with network marketing, direct selling and party plan companies for the last 33 years. For the last 20 years, I've operated my consulting practice Silvina Consulting, which provides compensation plan and direct selling consulting services to companies of all sizes from startups through established multi-billion dollar a year companies in the United States and throughout the globe. Prior to that, for 13 years, I worked as a software developer, project leader and business analyst for a direct selling software provider. So I got my introduction to the industry through this channel. From the technology side, I call that my first life, the software side. But for the last 20 years, I've been doing primarily business and compensation plan consulting. So I've had the privilege to have worked with over 400 companies in 18 countries. 

Richard Sletcher
So, Let's start by discussing compensation plans for a minute. When you designing a compensation plan, what is your process? How do you go about helping a company get the compensation plan, right? 

Jay Leisner
That's a good question. And I'm going to, with your permission, start by answering a slightly different question, which is how do you design a really good compensation plan and what makes the compensation plan good because I think there are unfortunately many people in this industry as well as individuals who start companies who try to design their own compensation plans and they do it without sufficient knowledge. To understand what's most critical in designing a plan. Would it be okay if I started with that and then I can certainly answer your question about what's the process? 

Richard Sletcher
Absolutely. 

Jay Leisner
So compensation plans at their heart really are designed to motivate and reward some very specific field behaviours and in all their 12 of these behaviours. You may not know this, but compensation plan expense, what a company spends on-field compensation, is actually its largest expense. It's larger than all of the expenses of the business put together. So we need to make sure that companies spend this money wisely. It's their largest expense, they can't afford to waste any of it. 

There are 12 behaviours that we want to motivate and reward in the field. 

The first is personally purchasing the companies products or services, and all companies want people to be able to purchase their products and services. The reason they want to do that is they want their money. They want the money of the sales representatives in the pay plan. So if the representatives themselves are personally purchasing the products, there are more sales. If there are more sales, there's more Commission. 

The second behaviour is selling to customers or non-participants in the income opportunity. There are two reasons why we want to do that. The first is for legal reasons. We really want to have a lot of volume that is sold to people who are not representatives, and network marketing companies traditionally focused just on the consumption of the representatives. That used to be good enough but today, unfortunately, especially in the United States, this has proven to be a problem. The second reason we want you to sell to customers is a distributor can only purchase so much for personal use. If a distributor is able to sell to customers than the number of sales per distributor is higher. If the amount of sales per distributor is higher, commissions are higher, the company makes more money and the field makes more money. So those are the reasons for selling to customers. 

The third behaviour is introducing the income opportunity to others, which is sponsoring or recruiting. I like to say unless your company is sponsoring and recruiting new people, you're shrinking, you have to bring on new blood because people leave. People leave because it's easy to join and easy to quit. So because it's so easy to join and easy to quit, we always need new people. That's just the nature of the beast. 

The fourth behaviour is building a team. A team is a group of people that work together to accomplish a goal. I love team building because the behaviour of one person that rewards more than one person, that's the beautiful thing about teams. 

The fifth behaviour is training and supporting and nurturing others. We need to make sure that the compensation plan doesn't just pay a one time bonus based on enrolling someone. We are not looking for a Love them or leave them approach. We really want them to keep loving them and loving them and loving them. So in order to do that, the compensation plan needs to reward training supporting and nurturing others. 

The sixth behaviour is becoming a leader, leaders sell more, recruit more and stay in the business longer. The best predictor for the immediate future of your company is how many new leaders are you bringing into the business? So leaders count, they're so important to the success recipe of a direct selling company. 

The seventh behaviour is personally developing leaders. I like to say the purpose of a leader is to get more leaders. So leaders need to be taught how to duplicate themselves, how to help other people become leaders. 

The eighth behaviour is helping other leaders to develop leaders. So in addition to having leaders develop leaders, we want them to teach other leaders how to develop leaders. 

The ninth behaviour is meeting or exceeding minimum activity requirements, which is the minimum bar that we set in a plan for activity. We want people doing the minimum but not just the minimum, we want them doing more than the minimum. So the compensation plan needs to motivate and reward that behaviour. 

The 10th behaviour is being promoted to a higher title or rank, the business is all about money but it's also about recognition. And when you promote to a higher title or rank in the plan, one of the ways that we motivate and reward that is to provide you with increased compensation and additional ways of earning money. So being promoted is behaviour number 10. 

Behaviour number 11 is meeting or exceeding your title maintenance requirements to be paid at the level of your title, you need to meet specific requirements to get paid at the level of the next title you need to produce higher requirements or meet higher requirements. So, the 11th behaviour is meeting your requirements or exceeding your requirements 

Behaviour number 12 is staying active and engaged in the business as long as possible. That is known as retention. Okay, the opposite of retention is attrition. What we want is increased attention and reduced attrition. 

So those are the 12 behaviours we need to motivate and reward with a compensation plan. And if you said to yourself, my that's complicated. I bet you couldn't do that with a really simple compensation plan. You'd be right, in fact, a Simple compensation plan has only one value, and that is they are easy to explain. Other than that, everything else about them is bad because they don't motivate and reward these 12 essential behaviours. 

Richard Sletcher
But how many times don't you have clients coming to you saying that I want a really simple compensation plan? And fundamentally, it's because they don't understand how compensation plans work or the implications of the compensation plan at all. Right

Jay Leisner
The answer to your question, Richard, is 90%. I would say 90% of the companies I talk with, who I bring on as clients, one of the first things they say is, I don't want to have a complicated plan. Like everyone else, I want it to be simple and easy to explain. So one of the questions that I wondered about a while back was, why do people design simple compensation plans? I mean, if there's so bad, why do people design them? And I've actually come up with the answer and if it's okay with you, I'd like to share it with you. 

Reason number one is they believe in their heart, that the reason that people are

successful in the business is because they simply did not understand the compensation plan. So if we can make the compensation plan understandable and easy to explain, then people will be successful, but they're dead wrong. They're dead wrong about that assumption. I cite as evidence what I call the whales. Now you might think whales, what are you talking about? I'm talking about the largest direct-selling companies in the world, the ones that do a billion dollars or more of turnover per year. For those companies, and there are 30 of them in the world that do a billion dollars or more in sales, it's impressive. We got a nice flock of whales and nice, whatever you call it, I don't know what, a School of whales maybe would be the right term. All of those whales, all of those large companies, none have a simple compensation plan. So my thought is if you are smart enough to become a whale, you probably would do it with a simple plan if you could, but the whales understand that you can't. 

The other reason why people design simple compensation plans is they don't know about the 12 behaviours. They don't know about the purpose of a compensation plan? What are the 12 things we want the field to do? If they knew about the 12 behaviours, and they evaluated their simple plan in lieu of the 12 behaviours, they would realise it doesn't perform very well. It can't do all these things. My other analogy is like building a car out of rubber. You need rubber in your car, but it can't all be rubber. It has to have fluids and metals and parts and all sorts of things to make it work. Rubber isn't enough. So anyway, but yes, it's a challenge. And there's also this balance between simple compensation plans and the 12 behaviours. I like to say it's like a teeter-totter or a seesaw. When one is up the other is down. Most simple compensation plans very poorly motivate and reward the 12 behaviours and the plans that motivate and reward the 12 behaviours are not simple. 

Richard Sletcher
One of the things that I've noticed is that when you get a very simple compensation plan, it rewards the guys at the cutting edge, the guys doing the sales, but doesn't create any room for developing leadership or to build a leadership team because all of the money's been given away very quickly without any thinking about what happens to the team as you build. No company can look after 30,000 agents by themselves, they need team leaders. Right? 

Jay Leisner
Well, you've hit half of the issue with simple plans. And you're right, the folks tend to focus more on two behaviours. One is selling, and one is on building a very shallow team. For example, if we paid you 25% on what you sell personally, and then paid you 5% on three levels of downline sales, who would love that plan? And the answer is number one, people that don't have a downline because they don't care. And number two people that have an organisation that's only three levels deep. So here's the challenge. I like to use a picture of the shape of an independent representative's downline as a diamond. It shaped like two triangles on top of each other with the fat part of the triangle meeting in the middle. 

So if you look at the shape of that diamond, the fat part of the diamonds is where most of your people are. Now, to be fair, your organisation doesn't look like a pretty diamond, it looks like an ugly diamond but for example, sake, let's just assume it's a pretty diamond. As the organisation gets larger, the shape doesn't change. What changes is the size of the diamond? Where is the fat part? Where's the part of the diamond where most of my downline is, so if the downline is only three levels deep, most of the people are on level one. Level three is the tail, the bottom, but as I continue to build my organisation, the fat part of the diamond moves further and further away from me, kind of like as you get older and your body goes toward the floor. 

The challenge is that if we're looking to attract leaders, and leaders, by the way, who've had experience in other direct selling companies understand this concept of the diamond. They understand that in the beginning, the organisation will be shallow, but where the money is, is in-depth. So, how big of an organisation they can build is the challenges! A simple compensation plan only pays on the top part of the diamond. So as you build a larger and larger organisation, the compensation plan appears to be worse and worse for you. And what you don't want are your top leaders saying "I've seen the future and it's bleak, get out now or you can". You want your leaders saying "I love this company, I love this company's compensation plan, it takes care of me, it takes care of you, it will take care of me in the future". 

What I also would tell you is if experienced direct selling representatives are looking at your company, and you have a super simple shallow compensation plan, they will pass on you. They will look at you and say, "I'm not going to join your company" I'm going to tell you one other thing that's very important. The only reason that people shouldn't join your company is that they don't want to sell your products. They like jewellery, you're selling supplements. They like supplements, you're selling hair care products. Whatever it is, if they don't like your products, you don't want them? But the last reason you want people not joining your company, or leaving your company is because of your payment plan. You don't want that. 

There's a big problem out there, this myth that simple compensation plans are better. And the myth actually is growing. I've had several people approached me in the last six months, who said, "What do you think about the changing trend of compensation plans being simpler?" So that kind of hit at the heart of my passionate? What I would tell you is simple compensation plans are too hard. 

So let me explain something else that's really critically important to understand about direct selling. I asked my clients this question at the very beginning of the project. Do you want your representatives to be able to earn a full-time income through your opportunity? I know most of them won't. But do you want it to be possible? Do you want someone to be able to earn $1,000 $2,000 $3,000 $5,000 $10,000 $20,000 a month or more? ^The question is, do you want them to be able to earn a good full-time income? And 90% of the people say yes. And 10% say no. And for the ones that say no, when I say to them, so you want them to leave your company when they realise they can't do that, they changed their answer to Yes. Everyone wants people to be able to earn a full-time income. Well, here's the problem. Network Marketing and direct selling are based on earning a small percentage on a lot of people. Okay, not a large percentage on a small number of people, but a small percentage on a lot of people's volume. If you had a super simple compensation plan that was three levels deep, how many people would you need to personally recruit? How many people would they need to personally recruit? How many people would need to be on your third level? And the answer is way too many. It's too hard. You can't say to people with our super-simple shallow plan if you recruit 100 people, and they recruit 1000, you'll get paid a lot of money. Who's gonna recruit 100 who's gonna recruit 1000 It's too hard.

Richard Sletcher
I'm with you.

Jay Leisner
So the process of designing a compensation plan, getting back to your first question,  gets to the heart of, what we do and what I think is essential that the agent does. Don't make the mistake of saying, I'm going to take another company's compensation plan and use it. If they're a jewellery company, and I'm a jewellery company, I can just take their plan and use it. The reason you don't want to make that mistake is that you don't know what their budget is for field compensation. it's probably different from yours and the plan may pay out too much. Remember what I said in the beginning? The compensation plan is your top expense. Is your budgeted percentage the same as theirs? Well, the answer is it's probably not because of their cost structure. What does the product cost them as a percentage of the retail price versus yours? 

Your budget for compensation earnings is defined by behaviours that you want to motivate in the plan and, therefore, where you decide to put the money is different from other companies. So it's very dangerous to take another company's compensation plan and use it. It would be kind of like moving into someone's house and wearing someone else's clothing. 

Richard Sletcher
Let me just tell you a quick story. We had a client come to us and say they've got a real problem with their compensation plan - let me call them company A. They wanted to re-work it because it was paying out way too much. They had copied it from another company and it was a disaster. In the same week, another client (Company B) came to us and said they wanted to copy Company A's compensation plan. They where adamant it was the best compensation plan around. So it's exactly what you're saying. You have no idea of what's going on with another companies compensation plan and you don't know whether the company is even happy with their compensation plan. 

Jay Leisner
That's true. And you also don't know if it was designed with consideration of the 12 behaviours because all you did was take it. You can't see what the thoughts were behind it. Also, you know how companies say we pay people 10 ways, 12 ways, 15 ways? 

Richard Sletcher
Every company says something like that. 

Jay Leisner
Yeah, the reality is there might be 90 possible ways that you can pay people but can you actually pay people all 90 ways? No, you're going to have to choose how you're going to pay them. When you take another company's compensation plan, you didn't make the choices, they did! You know that in business there can be some good shortcuts, and then there are bad shortcuts. I would tell you using another company's compensation plan, in my opinion, is a very bad shortcut. It may produce all sorts of unwelcome surprises for you later on. 

The first thing that we do when designing a compensation plan is we look at your specific products, and what the relationship is between the retail price and the landed cost of the product. The landed cost of the product or services is, what does it cost for you to get that product or service ready to be able to be shipped out the door or provided to your representatives? That's your landed cost. The retail price is the price that a retail customer would pay for the product.

We divide the retail price by the landed costs to get to what we call the multiplier. So for example, if the landed cost was $10, and the retail price was $50, the multiplier would be 50 divided by 10 or 5. And the higher the multiplier, the more profitable the company will be. 

The higher the multiplier, the more we can put into field compensation. It really gets to the heart of buy low sell high, there is no Walmart or discounted compensation direct selling company. Your point of difference should never be price. We have the lowest price, well that means the lowest commissions, it means the lowest profit as a company. If anything, you should be trying to drive your costs down and your price up, and spread them apart as much as you can. Buy low and sell high. That's the song that we need to sing with regard to this. So once we establish what the multiplier is, then we can establish a budget for total field compensation. 

Remember, your compensation plan earnings are the largest expense but not the only expense. You don't want to forget contests, incentives, awards, other forms of recognition, possibly a customer loyalty programme, and possibly a hostess rewards programme if yours is a party plan company. So, compensation plan earnings are the biggest expense but it's not the only one. 

The next step is to decide what the budget is as a percentage of sales, for the compensation plan and the other pieces. We also have to establish the targeted pre-tax profit of your company. You know, what the most common answer to the question when I asked my clients, what is your targeted pre-tax profit is, what's the most common answer? 

Richard Sletcher
I don't know. You tell me.

Jay Leisner
Exactly. "I don't know. You tell me." That's the most common answer. And when I have conversations with people, sometimes companies will come to me and say they want to have 30% pre-tax profit. I asked them what their multiplier is, and they tell me it's four. And I basically say well, in order to produce a 30% pre-tax profit, you would have a highly uncompetitive compensation plan. With a multiplier of four, it ain't going to happen. To achieve this goal, your compensation plan would be so bad, nobody would join your company. Well, that's not an option, right? We can't have the compensation plan be an impediment to why people would join your company, we want to be an additional reason to join your company, not a reason not to join your company.

So anyway, once we establish the budget, which is how much we are going to spend, then we start the actual design of the plan. Okay, then we look at the different styles of plans. Did you know there are five types of compensation plans, there's unit level, generation, breakaway, uni-gen, binary and matrix? Those are the five types of compensation plans. So we need to decide what style of plan to adopt. Most plans are hybrid, which simply means a mixture. So the first decision is what is the primary basis of the plan, and then we can use elements of the other plans.

Then we look at the 12 behaviours. So I asked the question, which of these 12 behaviours do you want to motivate and reward? Do you know what the right answer is? All of them! I start with that because if someone says to me, well, why don't we just motivate and reward half of them, I say, okay, so you want to have half a plan? One that's really not that good? Right? So the right answer is 12. And then if I say, okay, what's more, important to you? That the plan is simple or that it motivate and reward the 12 behaviours? 

I am very clear. I have a high tolerance for complexity. I don't care about how simple it is. Every compensation plan can be explained well. There isn't a problem with explaining a complex plan. It just needs to be explained in pieces with the right examples and the right terms and the right sequence. So any plan can be explained? Does it mean you can't explain it on a half a piece of paper? Yes. I like to say, if you can explain your plan on half a piece of paper, you don't have a complete plan. Unless the writing is very, very, very small. 

Next, we look at what you're selling. What products are you selling? What do they sell them for? How much money per hour is someone going to make selling the products? So as an example, if I was selling high-end vacuum cleaners, and I knew that it took five presentations to sell a vacuum cleaner, and each presentation was an hour-long, that means the average effort to conclude a sale is five hours. What does someone need to make when they sell a vacuum cleaner? Well, the answer is a lot of money. They spent five hours of time, right. Okay. On the other hand, if you had a product that sold for $10, and I ask you, how many presentations do you need to sell it? If the answer was everybody buys it and you can make $2 every time you sold one if it's very fast it will be worth the effort. So we need to look at what you are selling, how much effort it takes and what the dollar per hour proposition on the sales activity is.

When it comes to the compensation plan, we're paying two groups of people, the person that does the selling and their upline, the less money we have to pay the person doing the selling, the more we can pay the upline. So our goal isn't to pay the person selling the product as much as possible. It's to pay them as little as possible. What's the minimum amount we can pay the salesperson and have it be okay? 

So I want the agents making at least $25 to $30 an hour for their time in the sales process. I want it high enough where their spouse, their significant other, or their friend, doesn't say, why don't you go to McDonald's, it's not worth doing that business. Right? So I want the money to be good enough where the person says, yep when I do this business I can earn $25 to $30 an hour or more. So we have to look at the company and the product to be able to answer that question. So at first, we focus on the selling behaviour. So this is one of the things I tell my clients. The most important thing that you should know, if you want to have a company that lasts, you must do this one thing. Do you want to know what it is?

Richard Sletcher
Have a product that people want. One that they will use.

Jay Leisner
Oh, you're so close, you get an A-. Can I give you the answer? The answer, have a product that people will buy even when they're not earning any money!

I am going to say that again. Have a product that people will buy, even when they're not earning any money. So if you look at all of the whales, all of the billion-dollar-plus companies, one of the things they have in common in addition to the fact that none of them has a simple compensation plan, it's the following fact. The number of people that join a business, fully intending to be a functioning, profitable, successful direct selling representative who builds a sales organisation is high but 75 to 80% of these people will never recruit anyone. I say that again, three-quarters of the people that join your company, on average will never recruit anyone. We could get into the why but "the why" doesn't matter at this point? It's just reality. 

The successful companies, the ones that have stayed in business and will continue to stay in business, meet what I call the "failed distributor save" proposition. They join as a distributor or representative or a consultant, fully intending to do the business. They don't do the business but by Gosh, they love the products. So they stay and they start acting like a customer. They hang around and they love the company even though they failed as a representative. They like what the company stands for. They liked the company's products, they will buy the company's products, even when they're not making any money.

That my friend is the secret to the survival of this in this business. If your product is one that people will buy only if they're earning money through the compensation plan, you are dying either fast or slow. You must have products that people will buy, even if they're not making any money. The interesting thing is if you did a survey, Richard, and you could do this among your clients or a group of any direct selling companies, and you grabbed 100 of them and you said, do they pass the test? Do they have products that people will buy, even if they're not making any money? Most of the companies would fail the test.

Richard Sletcher
Yeah, the product that they're selling is either undesirable or price too high. No one wants it or no one wants it at that price. You look at a company like Amway, their products are not cheap, but the products are excellent. And as a result, you can't meet the more vociferous bunch of people when it comes to the product. They just love it. You know, you get an Amway person in the corner and you ask him about his product, he's going to chew your ear off for an hour telling you how wonderful they are. Right? 

Jay Leisner
And that doesn't mean that the product is cheap. Like you just said, it's not the cheapest product. Is it the most expensive product? No. It's not the cheapest. It's not the most expensive. But the perception among the users is it has the value you're paying for it. Amway is more than just its products. It stands for something. 

So anyway, getting back to this process of designing a plan. We decided in pieces essentially, all designed to motivate and reward these specific behaviours and their decisions along the way. You know, guys, do you want it pink or do you want it purple? Do you want it green Or do you want it red? There are different ways of motivating and rewarding behaviour and the client is heavily involved all the way through, so that when we're done, it's very much like a custom-built house. You have an architect that's working with you that's designed many houses, but you're providing the answers and he says to you, do you want an octagonal bathroom or rectangular bathroom. You say I want one rectangular one and he says good choice. So in our situation, we don't provide poor choices to people. I like to say whatever choices I give you, they're good choices. You just get to choose. 

Richard Sletcher
I just wanted to touch on something that you said earlier about the product. One of the other things I find is that even the companies who've got great products, don't spend the necessary time to teach the people why their products are great. So they've got these fantastic products and then there's no training connected to it. So, as a result, their prospects walk away not realising that. Their products are absolutely amazing and if they only knew what they could do, they would be in love with them. So training, it seems to me, is a big part of that whole process.

Jay Leisner
Yeah, it also begs the question, What are you more focused on? The product or the income opportunity? And so companies sometimes will make a mistake and they'll think okay, it needs to be 90% income opportunity. 10% product. In the old days, going back 20 years, the advice was that it should be 50% product-focused and 50% opportunity focused. What I would tell you today is, I think it needs to be 60% product-focused, and 40% opportunity. I think we need to spend more time talking about the products. 

The reason for that is, remember, we are trying to appeal to two types of people, representatives and customers. Not everyone is interested in the income opportunity, and not every representative is even interested in the income opportunity. So, I think being product-focused is extremely important. And explaining what the differences are, like you said, you know, you can have good products but if the Salesforce doesn't know what to say, what makes them good? You should be able to answer the question, what are your most popular products? What makes these products different from others? Every representative should know those answers.

So if I am a representative for a company and they have 20 products, and I'm talking to a customer, and the customer is trying to decide what to buy. If I say that to the customer, our top three products are a, b, and c. For half the people I'm talking to, I've just helped them to make a decision. I've told them what the most popular products are. And for half the people out there, they're going to let others make the decision on what they're going to buy.

It's funny, you know. You think, don't you have a brain? Shouldn't you decide yourself what you want? The answer is no, half the people out there can't decide. So if they know, these are the top products, they will buy them.

The other thing is upselling. If you know that 80% of the people that buy product A also buy product B, tell your sales force that they can upsell them. Hey, you, you know that 80% of the people who buy this also buy Product B? Oh, maybe I'll take one.

Richard Sletcher
Exactly. And if you've got a product that people want, as you said, that people would buy even if there wasn't a compensation involved, then you've got a winning formula because the sales will happen regardless.

Jay Leisner
Right? And what it also means is, I could lead with the opportunity or lead with the product. So in talking with someone, I could say... What are you more interested in? A good product for haircare or a part-time or full-time income opportunity? Or are you interested in both? So if I say I'm fine money-wise, tell me about the product. Fine. I shift gears, I talk to you about the product. And I want to talk to you about the opportunity anymore because you've told me you don't want me to. But if the business is so opportunity focused you have a problem. 

You know that one of the mistakes that companies make is they say go out and make your list of 100 people you know, and then go prospect those hundred people. The reality is only about 5% of them are interested in your income opportunity. So if you want to get 95% rejections, go do that. But on the other hand, if you said okay, make your list of 100 people and now approach them and tell them I've just join this new company, they've got some great products. Are you willing to try one or two and let me know what you think? Depending upon your friends, you might get 20% to 50% of the people be willing to try a product as opposed to 5% just being interested in the income opportunity. You're wasting your list to be talking to them about the opportunity. You should be talking to your list of 100 about the products. 

And there are people we call "them jumpers". They jumped from one company to another. I mean, I've met people who've been in 20 companies, all at the same time. They jumped from one to another to another. I have a friend who's a direct selling attorney. Sometimes he refers to companies and he says that they have a payment plan in search of a product.

Their representatives are like that, too. They're focused on the income opportunity. They don't really care what the product is. And that's okay. By the way, it's not bad to have represent who don't care about what the product is. You just don't want most of your representatives being like that. Right? You want most of your representatives being product evangelists. But yeah, we'll take some of that don't care, that's fine. We can't weed them out. We just don't want an entire sales force full of those people, because those people are jumpers, which means when they're done with you, they're going to jump.

Richard Sletcher
And there are obviously other areas that drive the business. We've seen that a percentage of people absolutely fire on all cylinders when there's an incentive involved, you know, you do a travel incentive or some sort of competition, and those people just go completely ballistic. I presume that is a big part of how you plan your compensation plan and how you get your team fired up. 

Jay Leisner
Yeah, so there's a purpose for contests and incentives and there's a purpose of the compensation plan. And we need to be very clear that companies that have a very poor compensation plan tend to run more promotions, more contests, more incentives more frequently than companies that have a good compensation plan that motivates and rewards the 12 behaviours. The reason they do that is that the compensation plan itself doesn't motivate and reward the recruiting and selling behaviours strongly enough. So they have to spike the punch bowl, they have to add additional things to the mix to make it more attractive. They become really addicted to it. They make the Salesforce addicted to it because they're looking to see what are you going to do extra for me this month, to motivate me to you know, to do specific things. So when a compensation plan is designed properly, you have less of a need for such frequent contests and incentives. contests and incentives have very specific purposes, but they're not intended to be the meal. So, um, yeah, and by the way, let me explain the difference between a contest and an incentive. 

It's critical people talk about the words together like salt and pepper but they're not the same, not just both spices serve different purposes. So a contest is a competition, it means only the top people are going to win. Most contests are based on the top 10, the top five, the top 20, the top something. So the question is what do you have to do to win? The answer is that you don't know. You have to be the best. So in the end, the winners are determined, not at the beginning. You don't know what you need to do to win. So if you had a top 10 contest, how do numbers 11, 12, 13 and 14 feel? They're pretty good performers. They're no slouches. They're good. But you've slapped them. You basically said, Sorry, not good enough. So we want to make sure when we run contests, we run them very infrequently.

Most promotional programmes should not be contests but rather incentives. An incentive says that when you do this, you will get that. And how many winners can you have an incentive? The answer is unlimited. How many winners Can you have in the contest, we determine that at the very beginning. 

Incentives are much better than contests because they don't penalise the people that just missed. I mean, you want different people winning incentives, you want more winners, really, as a company, right? You want more winners. So if you had 10,000 representatives, and we said, well, how many of those 10,000 do you want to win or earn the rewards of a contest or an incentive? And the answer should be as many as possible. So two ways to make that happen is to change the rules. Sometimes the rules are really easy. Sometimes they're really hard. Sometimes they measure just recruiting, sometimes they measure recruiting and selling. Sometimes they measure personal development. Sometimes they measure team development. Sometimes they measure both.

So, interestingly, you know, these 12 behaviours I was talking about, you can't motivate 12 behaviours in an incentive or a contest. It would be too complicated. So I'm going to say might seem counterintuitive, the compensation plan should be complicated. It should be complex, it should motivate and reward all of these behaviours because we want all of these behaviours every month. But when it comes to designing a contest or an incentive, we can't have it be so complicated. We pick two or three behaviours and focus just on those. Why? That contest is only running for a short period of time.

In the contest, we don't need to focus on everything all at once. That's what the comp plan does. So companies sometimes get it wrong. They have a really simple comp compensation plan and a very complicated incentive programme. That's backwards. Right? We want these 12 behaviours being done by the field each and every month and paid for through the compensation plan. The contests and incentives are designed for very specific types of purposes outside of the plan.

You know, you're a company in trouble if the majority of people recruit during a recruiting incentive. Let's say that during the year you bring on 2000 new representatives but 1500 of them were brought on in months when you ran up a recruiting incentive. That's a problem that says your compensation plan isn't carrying the load. I

Richard Sletcher
I agree with you 100%. And what I find is that your team hangs back waiting for the next incentive for the next competition before they go and do anything. So they know the company is going to launch another competition. So they hold everything back to get a head start on the competition. And that, obviously, is also counterproductive, right? 

Jay Leisner
Yeah. And the same thing happens when companies put kits on sales. You've probably seen that before, where they'll say this month, the kit is half price. What does that do? What makes a lot easier to recruit people because the cost is half as much. But at the same time, the people that come into the business aren't as good performers because they don't have as much skin in the game because they joined simply because you told them what was a good deal. So what happens the next month after the kits go back to regular price?

So what we want is to be consistent. We don't want to have months where the number of new people coming in is 10 times what it was the previous month. That's really bad, really bad from a motivation perspective, and really bad for what happens afterwards. You know, when companies do these things, it's because the compensation plan isn't doing the job. So I like to say sometimes companies use contest and incentive as bad dates. Sometimes they get so addicted to it. It's like what are we going to do this month to motivate recruiting? 

Oh, I just shudder when I hear that because that tells me you've got a problem. Your compensation plan isn't doing the job. And by the way, the best way to determine whether or not a compensation plan is doing the job or not, is to do what I call a compensation plan evaluation, which is essentially a review of the results of your plan by looking statistical information and identifying where's your plan working, where is it not working, and then working to actually correct the problems. 

So I like to say data tells stories if you just look, know what data to look at, and how to analyse it. If you can do that, you can determine what's working and what's not. And fortunately, because I've been working with these types of companies and compensation plans for 33 years, first I programme them, then I tested them, then I designed them so I went through the entire life cycle. I have the ability to identify what's working and what's not and to present it to clients in Living Colour, so they can see and understand what's wrong. Because before you actually can fix something, you have to understand two things. Number one is, what's wrong. Number two is that you want to do something about it.

Richard Sletcher
Well Jay, thank you very much for spending this time with me. It was very informative.

Jay Leisner
It was a pleasure.


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