Sales teams see a lot of ebb and flow. You’ve probably had high points where almost everyone on your team is motivated and hitting their numbers. And you’ve undoubtedly experienced your fair share of low periods when nothing seems to be working well.
As a manager, it’s your responsibility to keep your sales reps performing through the highs and the lows. And that could mean you need to get creative.
We asked sales and startup experts for their best tips for motivating sales teams, and here are some of the best responses:
1. Give your team more autonomy.
“Building relationships with my clients is vital to my sales performance, so I encourage my sales team members to take total autonomy over their sales leads. It gets them more invested, more comfortable and all-in-all, more successful with their sales.”
– Erin Westover, Strategic Partnerships and Business Development Manager, Spacebase.
2. Visualize real-time progress.
“As found in the Progress Principle, 95 percent of managers misidentify the top employee motivator. Sense of progress ranks ahead of pay and recognition as the #1 driver of employee motivation – across every profession. For sales professionals, you need to put their progress toward goal, progress over past performance, and progress towards reward (promotion, commission, bonus, etc) right in front of them every day. The more real-time the numbers, the better.”
– Brian Trautschold, COO, Ambition.
3. Invest in training and education.
“With the democratization of and increase access to information and technology, there are countless resources you can use to provide free training to your reps on a regular basis. When your reps can see that you truly care about their career growth, it goes a long way.”
– Brandon Redlinger, Director of Growth, Engagio.
4. Conduct regular personal development interviews.
“I hold regular Personal Development Interviews with my executives and managers where I review their personal, family, business, and financial goals with them. Someone with a goal doesn’t need to be motivated; someone without a goal can’t be motivated.”
– Tony O’Dierno, SVP Zone Manager, Combined Insurance.
5. Create a collaborative team environment.
“When a salesperson feels part of something larger (ie not just a lone wolf) there is additional motivation to succeed. If you are part of a team/company that you’re proud of, it makes you want to seek success for that team as well as yourself. Some great ways to do this are holding culture building events (game nights, happy hours, etc). Also, having regular team meetings where everyone is involved and has to speak about their successes and failures. It creates a kind of solidarity similar to the way a support group would. It enforces the idea that your efforts and success is part of a greater good, which tends to motivate and energize more than simply self interest would.”
– Brian McFadden, Rentals Manager, TripleMint.
6. Give your employees purpose.
“People want to believe their work is meaningful, that what they do is something constructive that will ultimately produce a positive outcome. Communicate the importance of what your employees do, and give them ownership of their responsibilities. By giving them control over their specific area of expertise, you nurture your employees’ commitment and believe in the company and motivate them to be successful.”
– Vladimir Gentleman, Founder & CEO, Company Folders.
7. Care about your salespeople.
“Understand that your salespeople are individuals and have different motivators. Understand why it is important to them to be successful and what they need, individually, to be successful. Then you can reference those goals and needs, and have a deeper conversation inspiring them to take action to be successful. Make sure that your salespeople feel that you want to be them successful, not just to meet the company’s goals, but to meet their own personal goals.”
– Joan Kagan, Sales Manager, TripleMint.
8. Offer non-financial perks.
“While money is a great motivator, sometimes mixing in a little fun during work hours is even better. When your sales team reaches their goals, try offering perks like leaving work early or going to a happy hour. For larger goals, try offering a trip to an exotic destination for team members who reach their goals or win a sales competition. You’ll be surprised at how hard your sales team will work for you when they have extracurricular incentives at stake.”
– Brandon Schroth, Digital Sales Analyst for seoWorks.
9. Create a culture of helping.
“What has worked well for our team is to first create a positive culture where the salespeople will help one another and there is a collaborative sharing of ideas. Secondly, teams seem to come together well when they are competing against outside groups of salespeople. Your top salespeople are inherently competitive and they don’t like to lose. When you can create a team-based atmosphere, what I find is that nobody wants to be the weak link, and everyone pushes harder toward a shared goal.”
– Travis Biggert, Chief Sales Officer, HUB International.
10. Offer more equity.
“We offer shares in return for meeting performance goals. First the company did a share split to divide the staff from the corporate ownership, and that is where the sales team shares are cut from. We found that with having the idea of “the sky’s the limit” for progress within the company, our sales team really knocked it out of the park.”
– Don Halbert, CEO, The Real Estate SEO.
11. Publish individual performance.
“I still see many sales teams that only show basic information for individuals within the group (IE, volume over time). We share close rate, # of leads, time to engage leads, average length of engagement, average value, etc, in addition to total volume. It flattens out excuses that often are used by under performers or those struggling to perform.”
– Jordan Brannon, Director of Digital Strategy, Coalition Technologies.
12. Reward rejection.
“My best sales tip for motivation is rewarding no’s. In my company, the salesperson with the most no’s at the end of the week gets a $500 gift card. Every no is a way to get closer to a yes. Every salesperson knows the reward for a yes – aka a commission – is much higher than the $500 a week so they still work to close deals. However, this competition lets them know they are rewarded for just doing their job. It’s a good way to keep motivation high and keep sales going.”
– Russab Ali, Founder, SMC Digital Marketing.
13. Treat your team as family.
“The best tip I have for sales managers is this: Treat your employees as family. Respect them and be flexible with them. They will do their best, and as long as you are understanding, you will get the best possible results.”
– AJ Saleem, Founder, Suprex Learning.
14. Offer extra bonuses.
“We offer regular reward incentives, particularly bonuses, to our sales team. If a regular client drops out of using us, we give a sizable bonus to the account manager who secures their business with us again. Much of it is based on gross profit; we set targets, and those who exceed their base target by a noticeable amount of sales will receive a reward at the end of the month.”
– Darren Green, Founder and CEO of Poles Direct.
15. Focus on small, individual goals.
“It’s important, especially during the early stages of the company, to set small, individual goals. Yes, you need be aware of the bigger picture but remember you’re still new to the market and those first few weeks/months can be tough for your team – these smaller wins can have a huge impact on keeping them motivated.”
– Victor Sanchez, Director of Inside Sales, ForceManager.
16. Be a career coach.
“A coach looks at every part of an athlete’s game and works with them to help improve that particular part, to get greater overall performance results. So many Sales leaders are willing to sign up to bring in an additional 10% revenue next quarter, but how many sales managers would be willing to ‘carry a quota’ on helping each individual rep on their team to do 10% better in the next quarter?”
– Steve Benson, Founder and CEO, Badger Maps.
17. Get your team personally invested.
“We often use money as the singular motivator, but nothing motivates people more than going to work at a place where they are passionate about the work they are doing as a team. Too often sales environments are adversarial, designed to be overly competitive and unless you are at the top performer you may hate going to work. When instead, we create an environment where people are invested in the success of the team, people will be eager to come early and stay late to make sure they achieve together.”
– Tim Evanchick, District Manager and Corporate Sales Trainer, Yogibo.
18. Promote transparency and vulnerability.
“Outside of the corporate world, the power of vulnerability is well known. It’s the basis for trust. The thinking goes: If he’s willing to open up and be vulnerable, then he must trust me, in which case it’s safe for me to open up and share something in return. When we allow ourselves to be seen—really seen—we create the potential for emotional connection. Research shows that self-disclosure is a common feature of healthy relationships.
Research also points to an instinctive response to vulnerability— the desire to reciprocate. In a business environment, vulnerability is taken for weakness. But in many cases, selling something to someone requires the buyer to more or less admit that change is necessary – to admit that everything isn’t good to show that vulnerability. This is particularly true when the sale involves something that is new to the buyer.”
– Michael Bosworth and Ben Zoldan are the cofounders of Story Leaders.
19. Give your reps creative freedom.
“My best tip for motivating a sales team is to hire entrepreneurial people and then let them be as weird and creative as they want. I have found that my team is most motivated when they feel autonomy. Autonomy to go off script, to innovate, and to have fun.”
– Kelli Lampkin, Social Selling Expert, NetSuite Oracle.
20. Focus your team on solving the customer’s problem.
“Too many sales teams are focused on the volume of touchpoints, not enhancing the value of each interaction. Most of the problems salespeople face can be traced to not adding value when they interface with the customer. By focusing your sales team on solving the customer’s problem not only results in a higher morale for your team, but also results in better customers and a more consistent pipeline.”
– Donald Pettit, Revenue and Partner Manager, SalesWarp.
21. Manage via behavioral KPIs.
“Rather than monetary KPIs (i.e.. reach $10,000 a month), create behavioral goals for your team (such as attend four networking events month, host 2 1-on-1s a week, ask for 10 referrals, etc). That way, you can determine whether they’re doing the work, even if they aren’t hitting the numbers, and where there’s room for improvement/who needs training in what areas.”
– Chris Lipper, CEO, The Alternative Board.
22. Make it OK to make a mistake.
“I did all I could to overcome their fear of failure, their fear of giving their best and proving to themselves, to me, and to those around them that they did not have the potential they all wanted to believe they had. I also realized that I could never help them overcome their fear of failure unless I could first overcome my own: if I were afraid of failure, they would be also afraid. They learned to review every call, every day, every week and every month, always asking themselves what they could have done better. But after absorbing the lesson, they learned to absolve themselves—leaving the mistakes behind—and move on to the next call.”
– Barry Maher, Barry Maher & Associates.
Have another sales team motivation tip you’d like to add? Let us know in the comments!