Sales Team Motivation

How To Motivate Your Sales Team

When it comes to sales management, few things are as important as knowing how to motivate your sales team. Having a highly motivated sales team will improve your company’s performance in almost every important area including: time management, sales closing ability, and company morale.

But you already knew that, the real question is “How do you accomplish this?” How do you take a poorly performing sales team and infuse serious motivation into them? The answer to this question just might surprise you.

Understanding The Psychology Behind Motivation

In order to learn how to significantly increase the motivation of your sales team, you’ll need to understand the psychology behind it all.

In the old days, when an executive or sales manager wanted to drum up additional results, the answer was always “more money.” It was accepted as fact that money was the main motivator for a salesperson. Bonuses, pay increases, short-term sales competitions and many other money-related incentives were used to motivate sales people. In some cases, this would indeed work. But in others, for some reason, it seemed to do the opposite.

Why would financial incentives boost performance for certain workers, and decrease performance for others? A recent study conducted by researchers at MIT, among other universities, shed some light on this apparent paradox. The study examined motivation on a broad scale in regards to employee productivity.

It concluded that financial incentives help boost productivity under very specific circumstances: when the work being completed was purely mechanical. On the other hand, the study found that financial incentives actually decreased motivation and productivity for workers in intellectually-demanding positions.

The reason for this lies in the two types of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic. The former refers to internal motivation (like how much an employee enjoys their job, or accomplishing their work) while the latter refers to external factors (like additional money, time off, or acknowledgements of achievement). Now, let’s not jump to conclusions. It’s not as simple as saying “money doesn’t motivate sales people.” In reality, the key to successful sales management lies in being able to create both types of motivation for your team.

Putting It Into Practice

Now let’s leave the theoretical world, and put this new information into practice in the real-world. Here are a few key skills that sales managers need to develop in order to effectively motivate their sales team:

Emotional Intelligence

This is the backbone of powerful sales team motivation. Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand, empathize, and communicate with others. A lack of emotional intelligence leads to many problems for sales managers. Primarily, it leads to over-management, which is when a team is so closely “managed” that the individual members never get the ability to personalize their sales process. Your sales staff need to feel comfortable optimizing the sales approach to fit their personal strengths and weaknesses. Similarly, strong emotional intelligence is required to develop the following three skills.

Understand Your Team’s Various Personalities

If your company treats salespeople like a number on a spreadsheet (as opposed to individual people with varying desires), that is a serious problem. The key to producing the highest productivity and motivation will be different for each of your team members. Certain sales people are primarily motivated by financial incentives, while others will be motivated by completely different rewards.

Don’t try to force every team member into a “cookie-cutter” sales compensation planunless that is the only option. Over time, as a sales manager, it’s your job to assess and understand the various personalities of your team. Accomplishing this will greatly improve your ability to motivate sales reps, because you will better understand where they are coming from and what drives them to succeed.

Solid Company Culture And Work Relationships

Another key piece of motivating your sales staff is the quality of work relationships. In order to facilitate intrinsic motivation for your sales reps — which is not an easy feat — you should attempt to create the most inviting and attractive company culture. Your team members should feel as though they are, you guessed it, on a team.

But what about competitions and having sales reps compete against each other for rewards? The two aren’t mutually exclusive. If you are going to employ sales competitions to motivate and incentivize sales staff, make sure the contest is structured in a way that promotes unity among the team. Sales reps should feel as though they are fairly competing with their fellow team members, and not that they are being pitted against each other. The most powerful sales teams become a cohesive unit overtime, acting as a team, rather than a group of competing enemies. Notice the difference in these two approaches to sales management.

Personalized Motivators

Remember how it’s important to understand the different personalities of your sales team? This is similar: When it comes to incentivizing your sales team, think about what they really want. Take the time to find out what individually motivates each rep. You’ll quickly learn that only certain reps prefer financial incentives over alternative options.

Here are a few others: additional time off, company-sponsored certifications or training, random gifts, and internal career development programs. Ideally, each rep should be able to choose their own rewards (where you set the quota or deadline to meet). This provides for maximum motivation, because it guarantees that each rep has a strong reason to work their hardest.

Forward-Thinking Management

The next time you are looking for ways to improve your sales team’s motivation, look inward. Use the “what’s in it for me?” principle and examine the system used to motivate and drive your sales reps. As we’ve demonstrated today, the most powerful motivators vary from person to person.

The best you can do is attempt to personalize rewards, and design sales compensation plans (along with your management strategies), around facilitating this intrinsic motivation. Do everything in your power to coach and lead your sales team to their own personal success… and the motivation, along with massive growth for your company, will follow in due time.