motivate your sales teamAs the owner of a sales business, payroll is probably your biggest cost. Hiring sales people is expensive, but when they’re managed well, they’ll help your business to thrive. Money isn’t the only thing that matters to your commission sales reps, and learning to how to motivate your sales reps with non-financial incentives is paramount.

Fortunately, there are several practical steps you can take right now to enhance the success of your sales employees and your business. These non-financial incentives will help your sales staff feel more engaged, emphasize what matters to your business, and give your employees the tools they need to increase your turnover and profits.

Above all, remember that most commission only salespeople want to do a good job, be recognized for their abilities, and feel they’re contributing to yours, and their success. Deciding how to motivate your sales reps starts by understanding and describing what you want your business to achieve.


Time To Hire says: Don’t underestimate how important it is to properly motivate your sales reps. Building trust and non-financial incentives into your business is the difference between having a reasonable sales staff and a great one.


Sharing your vision and making it matter to your people

Think about your vision for your sales business. Where do you want it to be in a year, five years, or ten years? What are the values that matter most to you, your sales staff and your customers? Is your business built around quality, speed, efficiency, affordability, or something else?

Define your vision clearly and share it with your commission sales staff. When they know where you’re trying to move to, it makes it easier to push your sales staff in the same direction. For example, if the goal of your business is to become the leader in selling high-quality apartments in your city, create all of your business processes, training, and sales staff relations with that as the foundation. You don’t need to mention it in every meeting, but focusing on quality ahead of speed or price will help to emphasize your priorities.

Once your sales reps understand this, they’ll feel more motivated and start to subtly change their behaviors, helping to drive your business forward.


Time To Hire says: Find a way to make your vision real to people, and use it to motivate your sales reps.


Creating sensible objectives that support your staff

It’s vital that your sales employees know what you expect of them. One of the best ways to motivate sales reps is to create clear objectives to push them towards. An objective is simply a way of measuring an employee’s progress towards their immediate job goals.  These should be based on:

  • Their job description – What you hired them to do in the first place (e.g. tasks expected of a commission sales rep).
  • Your business outcomes – What your business needs them to do. (e.g. sell x widgets over a certain period of time)
  • Their personal abilities – You can tailor objectives to the abilities of your people. (e.g. some salespeople might be better at pitching to businesses, others to individuals)
  • Challenging them – It’s always good to have “stretch” objectives that will challenge your employees and motivate your sales staff to work harder. (e.g. asking them to mentor another salesperson)


Ideally, objectives should be written in clear, precise language that accurately defines what your sales staff need to do, any targets they need to meet, and how they will know if they have been successful. A great way to do this is to use the SMART method of creating objectives:

  • S – Specific – Each objective should cover one specific area. (e.g. add-on sales)
  • M – Measurable – You and your staff member are able to measure progress against the objective. (e.g. amount of revenue generated)
  • A – Actionable – The staff member should be able to influence the outcome of the objective. (e.g. selling x number of apartments or converting x number of leads)
  • R – Relevant – The objective should be relevant to the job area and staff member that you’re writing it for. (e.g. salespeople and managers will have different objectives)
  • T – Timely – The objective should be achievable in a reasonable length of time. (e.g. per quarter or annually)


Time To Hire says: We’ve covered the process for setting sales objectives in detail.


Having regular one-on-one meetings with your employees

Once you’ve got your vision and objectives in place, it’s important to have regular one-on-one meetings with your sales staff. You can make these meetings quick chats where they highlight any successes, questions or concerns, or more in-depth discussions, where you track progress against their objectives. A good routine is a  30 minute chat every month, and a more formal meeting every quarter.

These meetings are a great time to give feedback, raise any concerns, and check that your sales staff is making progress.


Time To Hire says: Making time for your sales employees demonstrates that you care about them, which will help motivate your sales reps.


Sharing positive and constructive feedback

If you want to build strong trusting relationships with your commission sales representatives, it’s very important to establish good ways of providing feedback. Constructive, specific feedback that your staff and sales teams can act on is a great way of coaching them and motivating your sales reps. Avoid giving general feedback like “You need to sell more widgets.” Instead, give specific coaching and guidance on the particular methods and techniques they can use to sell those widgets.

Sharing feedback, appreciation, and respect is an important non-financial incentive for having happy employees. People react better when they receive positive and constructive feedback that directly addresses any concerns you or they may have. When you combine these non-financial incentives with respect and appreciation, it motivates your sales staff, creating better working relationships, a more pleasant environment, and brings any concerns into the open


Building accountability and trust

If you’ve hired the right commission sales reps, you can trust them to do a good job.

Demonstrate this by giving them the accountability to complete tasks in their own way, to the best of their abilities. Many salespeople work best when they have control over what they need to do, when they need to do it, and can choose how to approach their actions.

If you’ve got good sales targets and objectives in place, you know your sales reps will be motivated to achieve them. They will find a way to move forward that works for them, and you can largely let them decide on the specifics. Trust is a very powerful non-financial incentive. When people feel they can trust their leaders, they will often go above and beyond what’s expected of them to deliver excellent work.


Time To Hire says: Sometimes it can be hard to step back enough to give trust and accountability to others. The more you’re able to do that, the more motivated your sales reps will feel.


Managing people in the proper way

Sales reps need to be motivated differently, depending on their skills, experience, expertise and self-confidence. Adapting your management style to the needs of each salesperson will give them the support they need to do a good job. There are four main types of management style you can use to motivate sales reps, depending on how experienced an employee is. They are:

  • Directing.
  • Supporting.
  • Coaching.
  • Delegating.


Directive management style

This management style is best for inexperienced sales reps. It involves you or another senior person working closely with an employee to give them continual direction, support, and training as they learn new sales skills and techniques. It’s very “hands-on” and is essential for helping new employees adapt to their role. Combine this management style with regular feedback, non-financial incentives, and support to get your staff trained quickly.


Supporting management style

A step above directing, this is the best method to use when sales staff already have some idea of what they need to achieve. They’ve got a basic understanding and can do most of what you expect, but there are still gaps in their knowledge. They should have continual access to other sales team members or a superior so they can ask questions and learn more about their role when they need to.


Coaching management style

This is probably the most common management style, and is suitable for most staff members who understand almost everything about their job role but may occasionally run into issues with your systems or processes. It means you rely on them to ask questions and provide high-level coaching and guidance when necessary. You’re available, but you largely expect your sales staff to manage their own time.


Delegating management style

This is the technique you use with your most competent and experienced sales representatives. It means just asking your employee to do something and then leaving it to them to decide how to approach it. People you can delegate to will normally be very self-confident and will find ways to solve problems they face, often without involving you. Showing this level of trust in your sales team often acts as a non-financial incentive, motivating them to work even harder.


Time To Hire says: Managing styles for individual employees will change as they get more experience and confidence. The aim is to get them from “directive” to “delegating.”

Tying their success to yours

We know that to motivate your sales staff, money is still a powerful driver. Because your employees are working to make your business succeed, tying some of their financial incentives into your business performance is a good idea. You can do this through extra sales commission, profit sharing, providing a bonus (either regularly or one-off), giving them stock options or rewarding them based on how they do against their objectives.

Understanding your employee’s concerns

Everyone has concerns and problems at work and at home. Taking some time to empathize with your staff and supporting them with any issues shows that you’re a good boss. If you notice the performance of a good staff member is slipping, raise it with them gently. Find out if there’s any coaching or support you can give them to make things easier.

This is an especially important non-financial incentive when it comes to work / life balance. When people aren’t able to get clear boundaries in place between their work and their personal time, it can make them very stressed. If you notice salespeople working long hours, or their personal life is impacting their work performance, talk to them and see how you can solve the problem together.

One of the best ways to build trust and create a good working environment is to let employees share their ideas and concerns with you. This means having an “open door” policy, a way that staff members and sales teams can tell you what’s going on without fear of repercussions. Once your staff members realize they can trust your leadership and that you’ll support them, you’ll see more motivated sales reps.

Time To Hire says: Learning to listen properly and react appropriately is one of the best skills a good leader can learn.

Celebrating success

Business is about more than just meeting targets, managing objectives, and selling widgets. Part of helping people feel valued is celebrating successes, on both a job level and a business level. This is a simple, but effective non-financial incentive. The next time someone closes a big sales deal, take the time to congratulate them and show your appreciation. If the business exceeds all of its sales targets, take your employees out to dinner.

Many small businesses have pizza and beer Fridays after work, or provide other facilities to their employees. This non-financial incentive creates a better work environment, helps people avoid burnout, and lets everyone understand how they’re making your sales business thrive.

Time To Hire says: Take time to motivate your sales reps by celebrating success and you’ll have fewer failures.


To motivate your sales staff, don’t think about money first. When people feel valued, they will work harder. Feeling appreciated doesn’t just come from one area, it’s a combination of many non-financial incentives.  Remember:

  • Salespeople want to do a good job.
  • Sharing your vision gets everyone aimed at the same goal.
  • Setting clear, SMART objectives tells your sales reps what they need to achieve.
  • Having regular one-on-one meetings means you can give feedback, build trust, and find out about any concerns.
  • Adapting to the right management style will give your people the right level of support.
  • Tying the success of your business to your salespeople’s success will help them feel invested.
  • Celebrating successes with both financial and non-financial incentives creates a better working environment.

When you can bring these areas together, you’ll enhance people’s pride in their work, build better relationships, and ultimately create a more successful, sustained sales business.

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