Sales Team Motivation Strategies That Cost You Nothing

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.
  • June 7, 2019

It’s difficult and expensive to find good salespeople, especially when you consider the average company spends $10K to $15K hiring just one salesperson. So when you do finally manage to land a great performer, you also need to work hard to keep them.

It might seem like salary and bonuses are the answer, but money isn’t always the biggest factor in keeping top talent happy and focused at work. When morale and motivation drop, so does their sales performance, and it will take more than a bonus to right the ship.

Fortunately, there are plenty of other ways to keep salespeople enthusiastic and on track. Skip the raise and try these seven sales motivation strategies to boost morale without going broke.

1. Communicate and Get Buy-in for Your Vision

Every organization has a vision. But what sets great companies apart is how they include their sales team in that vision. Your salespeople drive the new business and revenue that enable your vision to become reality. Ideally, your vision will also become theirs so you can work toward the same objectives.

Nike is a great example of a company that does this well. Their vision statement, “To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world,” shows that they’re actually selling a lifestyle, not clothing and shoes.

Whether you’re shopping at a Nike store or on their website, see an ad on TV, or encounter people wearing their clothing, their vision is apparent. It guides everything from their branding strategy to the people and influencers they work with to turn everyone into the athlete they want to be.

You can put this same concept to work for your company. You can’t achieve your vision if you don’t share it. Make your company culture part of the sales process, and ensure it reflects your brand. Sales leaders should build the sales process around the company’s vision to help salespeople see that they’re working toward more than a quota.

2. Make Good Hiring Decisions

The quality of your employees will have an impact on company morale and sales team performance. When sales reps are surrounded by top performers, the standards remain high, the environment stays positive, and each person is invisibly pushed to do their best.

In addition, turnover can eventually force out your best performers. When you’re short on sales reps, others may feel pressured to make up the difference. Not only will your revenue suffer in the process, but visibly struggling to hire good people can send the wrong signal to your current salespeople.

In a case study from Braveheart Sales, one company found that adopting better hiring practices resulted in 122% higher average revenue per rep. And, by the new hires’ fifth month, they were generating 219% more average revenue than those hired in the prior two years.

Fixing turnover issues can be motivating on its own. It lets your seasoned sales reps know you take finding the best candidates seriously, which can also make your team feel more valued since you chose them to be a part of it.

3. Build Trust With Your Team

Trust is the strongest foundation of motivation. When your salespeople trust your guidance, they’re more likely to act on it. However, if they feel you don’t have their best interests at heart, it will be hard for them to feel motivated and inspired by their work. And trust is a lot harder to earn than it is to lose.

As a sales leader, you must be able to trust your team and vice versa. While trust is usually strengthened over time, there are a few things you can do immediately to start fostering mutual trust.

One way to build trust with employees is simply to let them know that you value a trust-based partnership and ask how you can make it happen. Most people respond to this level of transparency and will be happy to share their thoughts. It also shows that you’re interested in working with them, not just acting as their boss.

4. Know Your Team’s Personal and Professional Goals

It’s hard to motivate a team if you don’t know what drives them, and those underlying factors can vary between each person. Invest some time into getting to know each salesperson’s personal motivations and goals, as well as what they want to accomplish in their professional lives.

From there, you can help them set clear paths to those goals. If you’re struggling to open up the conversation, don’t be afraid to be more direct. Ask them outright what motivates them, how they keep themselves focused on their own goals, and how you can help them build confidence and momentum.

Even if you think you know how they’ll respond, don’t assume you know the answer. Your team members may end up surprising you, which helps you get to know them even better. Some reps will feel pressured to answer on the spot, so tell them to take some time to self-reflect and follow up with them about the answers. When you give them time to think, you’ll get more honest, thoughtful answers, rather than just the first thing that pops into their head.

5. Share Success Stories

It’s easy for sales teams to feel like they’re just turning the wheel. Reps usually know where they stand in terms of sales quotas and pipeline deals, but they should also see how their efforts are contributing to the company as a whole.

Put their work into perspective by sharing real client success stories. For example, if they closed a large deal a year ago, take a look back to see how much revenue that client has generated.

Or, you might follow up with some of your biggest clients and get their feedback about their experience so far. Work with marketing or customer service to investigate how your product or service has transformed the client’s business. Marketing can help collect information and compile it into a case study using real data.

As an added bonus, sales reps can use these case studies when selling to prospective clients. Using data from clients they sold in the past adds a layer of reality and personalization to the interaction.

Some companies will leave reviews on your Google My Business or social media accounts and mention employees by name. You can comb through these reviews and share some positive client experiences with your sales team to show that clients really do care about the quality of service they’re providing.

The salesperson’s main job is to sell, but what they’re selling is valuable to your clients. You might be helping clients grow their own bottom lines or solve a specific business problem. Whatever the case, the sales rep has played an important role in every client they’ve closed, so put this into perspective so they know they’re doing more than just driving revenue.

6. Let Team Members Choose Their Own Reward

Your team members have the best insight into what drives them, so it makes sense to let them choose their own reward for a job well done. Plus, it takes some of the pressure off you since you don’t have to come up with motivation strategies that will please everyone.

A fun way to do this is through gamification, which applies the typical elements of game play to organizational activities. For example, sales reps might score points for every opportunity they create or every deal they close.

Companies that have experimented with gamification say it’s highly effective in motivating team members. A case study from MotivAction details how one bank used gamification to improve their results when only a quarter of their financial advisors were meeting their sales goals. They used a sales reward platform to provide non-cash incentives based on performance, so each participant was in control of what they earned.

The program achieved 200% of its goal and 95% of the bank’s annual sales revenue in the first quarter alone.

This concept has both intrinsic and extrinsic qualities. On the extrinsic side, employees were working toward an arbitrary quota set by someone else with the promise of a reward or compensation at the end. But on the intrinsic side, employees were also empowered to choose their own reward. They could assume responsibility for setting their own goals beyond what the company required in order to get a specific prize.

Since everyone is motivated in different ways, it makes sense to give them control over their own payout.

7. Always Let Your Team Know Where They Stand

Most sales organizations use annual reviews to go through an employee’s performance, but that shouldn’t be their only touchpoint. Nearly 45% of HR professionals believe that annual reviews aren’t an accurate depiction of an employee’s performance.

Your sales team likely agrees. More than 96% of employees say they prefer to receive regular feedback and that annual reviews aren’t enough. Team members should always know where they stand and the progress they’re making so they can better direct their efforts.

Companies that go above and beyond the annual review see an 8.9% increase in profitability and a 14.9% reduction in employee turnover compared to companies that give no employee feedback. Employees want to know if they’re doing a good job, and expect management to provide ongoing feedback.

However, it’s not enough to focus on the positives. Everyone has something they can improve or work toward, and employees expect management to take the lead when providing feedback.

To start, you can help your team set daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly goals for their performance. If their sales are suffering, help them achieve small wins to keep them moving forward every day. This helps to take the pressure off them so they can feel positive and encouraged to do better, rather than feel like they’re spinning their wheels and will never be as great as the reps around them.

Also, you can share wins with the team and let them know how they’re making progress as a group. Ask each sales rep to write down everything positive that happens to them that day, then circle up later and have them share their experiences. For example, they might receive a compliment from a client, or maybe they finally got a response from someone they’ve been chasing for a month. This adds a tangible factor to the experience and proves that good things are happening, even when it feels like they’re getting nowhere.

Bottom Line: Money Isn’t Everything

Not everyone is motivated by money, and that’s a good thing. Companies can save money and still get great results when their salespeople are driven to succeed of their own accord. Intrinsic motivation is a powerful force because it encourages people to find the deeper meaning in their work.

Many external rewards can distract from the value of the work itself, which is why so many companies prioritize non-monetary rewards. Intrinsic rewards encourage employees to enjoy what they do and feel good about it in the process. And, naturally, the sales department gets a boost, too.

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