The Top 7 Ways to Motivate Your Sales People by Jae-ann Rock

Posted on Nov 27, 2012 in Archive

There are endless articles, books, videos and CDs filled with ideas on the topic of sales and motivation.  In the end, selling is a tough job and not everyone is cut out for it.  But, for those who choose sales as a career, there are several key factors that are likely to motivate them to achieve great success. 

Show me the money?  Although money may seem like the obvious motivator for sales people, this is certainly not always true.  While receiving a handsome compensation package can be motivating for many, it is by no means the sole motivational factor to consider when trying to inspire your sales people to succeed.  And, it is not usually cited as the most important employee retention factor either…  Top sales performers will expect a high rate of return for their efforts, but this is often considered a “given”.  A high paying sales career without other key aspects of a motivating environment can result in top earners looking for work elsewhere, at a firm that more completely satisfies their other motivational needs.  So, how else can you motivate and retain your sales people?  Read on…

  1. Reward with Incentives. And so, we begin with commission incentives – the seemingly obvious motivation factor for sales people.  Using commissions to reward sales people is a common approach to motivate a sales staff.  But, before you think you’re all set and decide to skip this section, take note: Be certain your commission structure is designed to actually incent desired outcomes.  Do you want to increase profit margins?  Push a new product line?  Develop a new market?  Be sure you are properly incentivizing those specific goals.  Be careful not to inadvertently create DIS-incentive programs, which can reduce people’s desire to meet or exceed sales goals.  Sales management would be well-advised to ask their sales team for candid feedback about the commission structure.  Have you inadvertently created a diminishing commission structure that actually discourages people from blowing away their goals?  Find out what’s working and what’s not and make adjustments accordingly.  If needed, it could be well worth the investment to hire a compensation expert to help you develop a sales compensation structure that properly incents people.  A compensation system that motivates employees to improve performance and reach or exceed desired corporate outcomes can have a huge positive impact on your bottom line. 
  2. Peer pressure. Most sales people respond well to some degree of positive peer pressure. If done correctly, a friendly wager sponsored by the manager can often lift and motivate people.  However, you never want to use peer pressure to make one person feel less than another.  Saying the following can be very disruptive and un-motivating to the team: “Bob did a great job hitting his goal this month. But Sean, what happened to you?”  That kind of comment only serves to make Sean feel terrible, while making Bob feel uncomfortable at best.  A better way is to simply publicly post goals, dials, conversion rates and other sales stats.  A friendly wager of a soda or a candy bar for the person who can “make X number of calls before lunch”, or “close X new customers by 3:00 PM”, or “talk to the most new prospects by the close of business”…can all lead to increased sales activity and productivity.  Using the reward of a simple candy bar or can of soda may not sound like much, but it can be all it takes to spur people on, creating a fun, enthusiastic environment in which everyone can participate and benefit from a little dose of positive peer pressure. 
  3. Align, Engage, Inform. Company alignment and employee engagement are also significant motivating factors for most professional sales people.  Inform employees of corporate plans and goals.  Knowing that the company is goal-driven and focused on improvement helps motivate and lift up all employees.  Working toward common, well-established corporate goals can mean all the difference in the happiness and motivation of your employees, including your sales team.    Align, align, align…  Be sure your company’s 1-year, 5-year and 10-year goals are publicly known and that each corporate division knows its role in reaching the overall company goals.  Involve employees in goal-setting dialogue to help everyone understand their individual role(s) in supporting and achieving those goals.  Engage and involve your employees whenever possible.  Develop employee-led, goal-driven teams.  This can be a highly effective way to not only engage employees, but also to achieve corporate goals.  And when employees are given a say in the company, they feel heard, thereby increasing employee motivation.  Keep them informed and involved.  Give them a say in a company steering committee or other important project or team that influences the direction of the company.  Ask for and incorporate employee feedback in your business plans and ongoing projects.  Make use of a suggestion box to consider people’s ideas.  Publicly reward people for helpful ideas. (Remember, it is often the employee closest to the “work” who really knows how to improve and streamline a process or improve working conditions for the betterment of all.)
  4. Public Recognition. Publicly acknowledging a job well done is another factor that can motivate your sales staff.  Some managers believe that if a sales person is doing well and receiving proper monetary compensation for their efforts, this should be enough.  However, it has been proven that public recognition and praise is highly rewarding for most people, especially when provided by top management.  So, take the time to publicly recognize people’s contributions and efforts – it means more than you might think.
  5. Give Thanks. Similarly, a sincere and simple “thanks” for a job well done can also provide fuel for the motivational fire that burns within each of your sales reps.  Be sure to give sincere thanks for a job well done.  Encourage and compliment individual efforts and contributions.  Who doesn’t like to be given positive encouragement or a heartfelt compliment now and then?  When provided by key management personnel, these small gestures can have a big impact on employee motivation.  Sometimes, it’s the simple things that count the most.  So, don’t forget to dish out a well-deserved compliment now and again. 
  6. Provide Growth Opportunities. Demonstrate interest in your employees’ long term development.  Show that you care.  Discuss their goals and interests.  This kind of attention can boost morale and employee commitment to your organization.  Knowing that the management team understands and acknowledges the sales person’s need for challenge, achievement and professional growth, helps create a sense of trust that draws out an employee’s commitment and best efforts.  Provide opportunities for professional development, through classes or workshops.  Offer leadership opportunities when possible, to help foster leadership growth and succession opportunities, helping both the individual and the company as well.  Identify key employee skills or talents. Determine if there is a project team or committee that could use those skills.  Seeking out and utilizing an employee’s natural strengths helps build morale, commitment, job satisfaction and overall employee motivation.
  7. Give Meaningful Work.  Providing employees with meaningful work can be one of the greatest motivators for both individuals and teams alike.  Work that is truly rewarding, produces real results, and impacts the company’s bottom line can be highly motivating.  It is imperative that management review and streamline sales processes to reduce re-work or administrative work that is often required of top sales performers.  Let’s remove the waste in sales processes so that the sales people in your organization can do the important work they were hired to do – SELL.   Example:  Requiring your sales staff to dig for their own leads, sort through online resources or directories to locate decision makers in their target market, is robbing them of valuable selling time.  This can be highly demoralizing for sales people.  After all, they are incentivized for selling, not for “digging”.  Having your sales staff search for contact names, phone numbers, email addresses is tantamount to burning corporate money.  You hired your sales staff to sell.  You now need to provide them with the resources required to do their job properly. Give them a high quality list with the decision makers they’re looking for, and get out of their way! This alone will motivate them greatly.  Knowing that you think highly enough of them to invest in a proper list to catapult their sales efforts will be a huge boost to their morale and productivity.  Plus, they will now have the ability to perform meaningful work.  Calling on a list of decision makers in your target industry will lead to increased job satisfaction, improved motivation and rapid forward sales progress…  Not only will your sales staff reap the financial rewards as a result, but your corporate bottom line will benefit as well!   So, give your sales people the meaningful work they want, and motivation and employee retention will follow. 

Just remember, despite the famous movie line, “Show me the money!” it’s really not ONLY about the money for most sales people.  Incorporating other important motivational factors can go a long way toward creating a positive, motivated and high-energy sales team… 

And when you decide you’re ready to give your sales team the corporate training & HR decision maker contacts they’re looking for, give us a call.  We can help.  Call: (651) 457-8600 Ext. 3.

Do you have a favorite motivational technique that works?  Share it with us by posting a blog response…  We’d love to hear from you!

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