How to Keep a Sales Team Motivated

Sujan Patel is the founder of Mailshake, a sales engagement software used by 38,000 sales and marketing professionals. He has over 15 years of marketing experience and has led the digital marketing strategy for companies like Salesforce, Mint, Intuit and many other Fortune 500 caliber companies.
  • October 19, 2020

Sales has never been easy. And it’s arguably getting harder.

Three-fifths of salespeople say they believe selling is now harder or much harder than it was just five years ago.

It’s not surprising. A couple decades ago, your average sales rep might pick up the phone knowing very little about the prospect at the other end of the line.

Today, that approach just won’t cut it. When all your competitors have access to vast swathes of demographic and company data, you just can’t get away with not doing your research anymore.

In such a challenging environment, motivation can be the difference-maker. So I spoke to Scott Leese, CEO & Founder of Scott Leese Consulting, and Surf and Sales, to get his advice on how to keep a sales team motivated.

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What Motivating Factors Are Sales Managers Missing? [1:35]

When it comes to motivating a sales team, one of the biggest challenges is that a lot of sales managers don’t know what their reps actually want.

The stereotype of salespeople as money-obsessed is undoubtedly still true in some cases, but Scott says cash just isn’t the biggest motivator for a lot of reps. Or, as he puts it: “This whole coin-operated salesperson mentality is dying off.”

Instead, they’re motivated by four key things:

  • Opportunity
  • Growth
  • Learning
  • Autonomy

“There’s people that would take less money to go work for a particular boss or company, or at an earlier stage, or where they might have more opportunity to move up faster and take on more responsibility,” Scott explains.

So if your solution to attracting and retaining talent is strictly monetary, you’re going to miss out on a large swathe of potential candidates who are looking for a whole lot more than that.

What Are Some Non-Financial Things Sales Managers Can Do to Motivate Their Team? [3:47]

So we know that growth, learning, and development are all super important to salespeople today.

But what specifically should sales managers be doing to motivate their teams?

Well, that’ll naturally depend on your organization and the career goals of each individual salesperson. But as a general rule, Scott says it could involve things like:

  • Agreeing to give them a certain amount of attention from their boss
  • Offering the right amount of training
  • Granting opportunities to “stretch their wings a little bit” by taking on engaging new projects

So for instance, maybe you’re about to launch a new product. Or maybe you’re working on a bunch of new sales cadences.

Rather than doing all the legwork yourself, why not hand it over to your team? Let them create some of the copy for your new cadences, or give them the first crack at selling your new product.

“As a leader, you can delegate some of these things that are ultimately your responsibility…down to your team so they start to learn some of these skills,” says Scott.

Another useful technique is to task your more tenured salespeople with creating and running a training session for new team members. “Things like that really mean a lot to employees,” Scott explains.

How Can You Start to Implement These Things? [5:47]

Sure, you want to give your salespeople more opportunities.

You want to get them involved in more management-level activities.

And you’d love to delegate responsibility for key tasks.

But you’re so busy! You don’t have time to micromanage them throughout the process – and you’ll only have to do all the work yourself in the end anyway, right?

That attitude might seem valid, but it’s just an excuse, and it’s holding back your sales team.

The best thing you can do is just dive right in and start making intentional decisions to create those opportunities, says Scott: “It doesn’t have to be this huge manifestation, this company-wide directive. It can be something that you choose to do, right now, today to empower your people.”

Even if the end product isn’t exactly what you expect or need, that’s not a problem.

“I think people make a mistake when they delegate things out expecting it to come back as A-quality work,” he notes. “It’s not going to come back at A-quality – it might not even come back at B-quality.

“If it’s terrible, give them feedback on ways that they can improve it. Maybe there’s things they haven’t thought of that they should be thinking of – that’s a coaching opportunity.”

The biggest advantage to this approach? It gets your sales team thinking on a higher level.

Say you’ve asked one of your reps to create a new sales incentive for Q4. They go away and do the work, but their solution just isn’t practical – maybe it’s over-budget, or would require too much management, or just wouldn’t be appealing enough.

Explain to them exactly why their approach wouldn’t work. List the various things that they’ve maybe failed to consider.

“Now it exposes them to manager or VP-level thinking and considerations,” says Scott. “You’re training them to move into that role one day themselves.”

And there’s another advantage: it’ll help them understand the constraints and challenges that you and other leaders within the business face on a daily basis. “All of a sudden they become more understanding and empathetic to the sales managers and sales VPs.”

Scott’s also keen to recommend another way to give your reps great autonomy and responsibility – allowing them to work their own hours.

Now more than ever, the standard business day just doesn’t seem super relevant to a lot of people. Childcare needs and countless other factors mean that not everyone can be sat at their desk, ready and raring to go, at 8am.

“Allow people the flexibility to have a work environment that’s going to make them as productive as possible,” Scott advises. “Even if it’s a little different from what you would ideally do.”

What techniques have you used to motivate your sales team? How effective were your efforts? Let me know in the comments below!

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