How to Motivate Your Employees to Sell More
If you think of a company like a high-performance sports car, the sales team is essentially the engine. However, statistics show that nearly two thirds of employees are either not engaged (bad) or actively disengaged (worse) from their jobs – costing employers $450 to $500 billion dollars a year. What do you do if your engine isn’t performing optimally – or worse yet, costing you money?
We reached out to bestselling author Lisa Earle McLeod (Selling With Noble Purpose), who helped us come up with 21 sales team motivation tips to get your employees engaged, excited, and back on track.
As she points out, “you don’t have to choose between making money and making a difference.” Implementing these tips and empowering your team to both make money and serve a greater purpose can be the difference between your sales team chugging along like a 1993 Toyota Camry or purring like a brand new Ferrari.
It seems obvious, and like something that every sales department is already doing, but setting goals isn’t just about the numbers.
Yes, everyone has key figures they need to hit to determine the sales department’s success rate. But managers need to create goals not only for the end result, but for all the steps along the way.
No one likes ambiguity – letting your team know what success looks like – and what the targets are – can motivate them by showing them how they get to the end zone.
Focus On the Purpose
While goal setting and hard key performance indicators are important, no one wants to think of their career in sales as just another rat race where everything revolves around hitting numbers.
As author Lisa Earle McLeod points out, “Salespeople with a purpose bigger than money, whose noble purpose is to improve life for customers, outsell salespeople focused on internal targets and quotas.”
She quantifies this by pointing out that…
“Organizations with a purpose bigger than money outperform the market by over 350%.”
If your team isn’t as motivated as they once were, consider taking time to show them what matters beyond the bottom line. Giving them a purpose is guaranteed to increase morale – and the numbers.
Create an Environment of Trust
Far too often, we make sales a competitive environment – and while there’s nothing wrong with a little healthy competition (in fact, we’ll be discussing that more in a bit), it’s never a good thing to lose sight of the fact that your sales team is just that – a team.
If your sales force feels like they’re in a constant, cutthroat competition for commissions, it’s hard to build trust and the team dynamic that helps truly great sales organizations reach unparalleled heights.
Empower and motivate your salespeople by creating a workplace where they understand they can trust not only each other, but upper management as well.
Consider Commission and Bonus-Based Pay Programs
Odds are, you’re already paying your sales team on commission, but are you also tying in bonuses for performance? If not, this could help push your sales force to unheard of levels of success.
Average commission and bonus rates can vary by industry and company (some paying as low as 5%, with others topping out at 40-50% for positions where salary is entirely based on performance), but a good sales incentive program with clearly defined benchmarks can be a key component of motivating your sales team when they’re in a rut.
Stop Thinking of Sales as Just Sales
Companies love organizational charts and hierarchies, because it creates order and prevents chaos, but it’s easy to become too organized – reaching a point where every division is its own autonomous thing with no awareness of the company as a whole. There’s a huge tendency for this to happen in sales, where an “us against the world” mentality is all too common.
Reminding your team they’re part of the bigger picture – that they’re not in this alone – can dramatically improve motivation. Break the organizational silo – have your team meet with marketing (both inside and outside of work), production, and management. This is good for all involved, reinforcing the idea that everyone is working toward the same purpose.
We’ve all been to the regular quarterly meeting where the bosses get up on stage and give out bonus pay and commissions and that fancy new Keurig (coffee is for closers!), and those are great – but if that’s the only time you’re recognizing the successes of your sales force, then you’re not doing everything you can to motivate them.
If you want your people to feel truly valued and inspired, it’s important to recognize all of their successes – not just the big ones. We tend to place too much onus on the end goal of everything without realizing that big wins often happen because a lot of little wins piled up along the way. Don’t lose sight of those and the effort that made them happen.
Take some time in the Friday sales meeting to highlight the week’s wins – no matter how small – and your sales people will appreciate it.
Think Outside the Box
Humans love routine – and its easy to let routine become ritual and ritual become rut. This is why it’s vital to occasionally shake things up and think outside the box.
You can apply this strategy to literally any aspect of your sales operation. From rewards to processes to bonus and commission pay structures.
When your team gets in a rut or routine, it can be hard to stay motivated – so be open to changing things. Thinking outside the box doesn’t have to mean seismic change – but shaking things up can make old processes feel new and exciting again.
Talk About How You Can Help Sales Achieve Their Goals
If you’re not asking how you can better help your team achieve their goals, you’re not being the best motivator you can be.
While the answers to this question can vary wildly from employee to employee, asking it and providing guidance can make your people feel valued. An employee who feels valued is often even more motivated to help the team succeed.
Asking about their work goals is great – but don’t stop there. What are their life goals? Do they want to buy a house? Do they want to start a family? How can their job help them achieve those things?
Remember – your team is made up of people that have lives and dreams outside the office.
Give Great Rewards
Recognition is great, but make sure you’re rewarding your team for a job well done too.
What determines a “great” reward will vary based on budgets, the size of your company, and what your sales team likes – but this is another place where thinking outside of the box can be beneficial.
Also, resist the urge to just give out big quarterly or yearly rewards for total numbers. Reward the little things and be sure to spread the rewards around too.
While many people are motivated by money, that’s not always the answer – when you talk with your team, ask them what motivates them and build rewards around that. They’ll reward you for your efforts.
Gamify the Sales Process
Gamification is all the rage these days in the corporate world, primarily because it makes work feel a little less like work and more like a videogame.
If you can figure out ways to gamify your sales objectives, then you’ve taken a significant step to making work feel a lot more like fun to your team. A team having fun is more likely to get results because the process is less of a chore.
That being said, gamifying everything isn’t a great long-term solution. The motivational impact of games and contests is generally short-lived. To combat this, consider only using these types of contests sporadically, building them around teams rather than individuals, and constantly changing them up to keep them fresh and exciting.
SEE ALSO: The Future of Sales Compensation
Spend More Time Finding What isn’t Working and Fix It
It’s human nature to want to focus and dwell on the positive, but sometimes you’re better served by looking at what isn’t working – particularly if your sales squad is struggling with motivation.
Taking the time to find what isn’t working with your team currently can not only show you the issues that need to be addressed immediately, it can also help you spot potential problems before they actually become issues.
Knowing what’s working is important – but knowing what’s not working and figuring out how to fix it before it sucks the joy out of your team can be a game changer.
Set Multi-Tiered Goals – Week, Month, Quarter, and Year
It’s not uncommon for the sales team to have goals, but are you setting the right goals with the right frequency?
Too often, companies set one major goal for the year, or a series of quarterly goals leading to the annual event.
However, those goals are often so far away that it’s easy to lose sight of them in the day-to-day operation of the sales department. Create more urgency and excitement by not only incorporating more frequent goals, but also making them multi-tiered with stages.
This guarantees your people are more engaged, because there’s always another target to hit. Just be sure to mix things up – goal fatigue can be a real thing, so it’s vital to keep things fresh – different goals, different metrics, different rewards. The improvements in the bottom line will be worth the effort.
Focus on the Mission and Vision When the Numbers Aren’t There
No matter how great your salespeople are, there are going to be times when you fall short of the numbers. Some companies will take this as a sign that it’s time to call in Alec Baldwin to provide a motivational speech for the sales team, but trust us – that’s the wrong approach.
Nothing can kill morale and employee motivation more than bad numbers.
Rather than focus on that, however, why not keep your team feeling good about themselves by reframing the narrative? When numbers aren’t where projections say they should be, focus instead on the mission the vision and use them to figure out how to get back on track.
No sales person wants to be thought of solely in terms of numbers. Your people are just that – people – and when things aren’t rosy and numbers aren’t growing month over month, sometimes getting back to the bigger picture can help. Focus on the why and not the what – and your team will likely work harder to get everything back on track.
Hitting Benchmarks is Important – Celebrate Them
Modern corporate America has a “go big or go home” mentality, and there’s nothing wrong with shooting for the stars and having outsized goals, but sometimes those goals are overwhelming.
On top of that, sometimes the big goal isn’t achieved – which can be demoralizing to a sales team who put weeks and months of effort into chasing the rabbit.
This is why it’s always good to not only break down goals into multiple tiers as we discussed earlier, but to also find – and celebrate – hitting benchmarks along the way.
As mentioned earlier, the road to the big win is paved with many small wins piled up. Just because they’re small doesn’t diminish them. Recognize your team’s victories and they’ll focus on winning even more.
Reward Sales Publicly
Psychology tells us that people love being recognized for their efforts – and they especially love being recognized publicly with their peers present.
This doesn’t mean that you need to plan a ceremony or gala for every reward your sales team racks up, but it’s a great morale booster to reward your team publicly whenever possible. A mention at the Monday sales meeting alone can inspire your sales force to reach ever-greater heights.
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Offsite Events and Team Building
As Jack Nicholson taught us in The Shining, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. The same is true for your sales team.
Team building has become a genuine buzzword in the past decade or so, and some people will invariably roll their eyes whenever it’s mentioned (and we get it – there have been some really terrible team building events over the years), but if done properly? Your sales squad can come out of the experience refreshed, re-energized, and legitimately motivated.
One of the keys of a good team building event is to remove the work focus. Situations where employees can be themselves in a more relaxed environment can be extremely beneficial. Getting out of the office, out of the formal business wear, and into a more casual setting can build trust, foster better relationships, and help improve the bottom line.
Be a Mentor, Not a Boss
One of the downsides of company hierarchies is that they’re focused on positions and titles – meaning you’re either a boss or an employee (or in many cases, both).
This is great for workflows and organization – everyone knows who they report to – but less great for fostering collaborative relationships because it often creates a power dynamic.
This structure isn’t likely going away any time soon, but one way you can help motivate your team is to think of yourself not so much as a boss, but a mentor.
We’ve discussed how important it is to talk to your team, to foster relationships, and build trust – but it’s equally important to share your expertise. Share the tricks you’ve picked up over the years, use your experiences to mold your team. You’re not just a manager – you’re a mentor.
Let Sales Teams Sell
This seems obvious, right? Your sales team should have one main focus: selling.
Unfortunately, as companies grow so does the amount of red tape we expect people to navigate as part of their daily workload. Too often, sales people are forced to deal with administrative tasks that aren’t directly related to their core goal – making sales.
This can be demoralizing for anyone who’s ready to work their leads and convert prospects.
If your team is underperforming, consider taking a look at what they’re doing on a daily and weekly basis. Are they spending time on administrative tasks? Are they doing things that aren’t directly related to helping clients complete purchases? Start eliminating those things.
You hired your sales people to sell – remove any obstacle that prevents them from doing that and watch them exceed your expectations.
Allow Sales to take ownership of how they achieve their goals
Earlier we discussed talking with your sales team and involving them in the decision process, and one of the best ways to do that is giving them the autonomy to determine how they achieve their goals.
As a manager, you want to clearly define target goals for the week, month, quarter, and year – but resist the urge to tell your team how they should get to those marks. Let them take ownership of that part of the process. Just make sure they realize you have an open door policy and are available to help them if something’s not working or they want to discuss ideas and strategy.
People in sales are creative problem solvers by nature – giving them the goal and letting them figure out how to achieve it will inspire them to use their best assets: their brains.
Remember to Show Gratitude Beyond Money and Perks
Everyone likes to get paid – that’s a big part of why we go to work in the first place.
Everyone likes a good perk for a job well done – recognition and some extra spiffs are always awesome.
At the end of the day, sometimes just expressing your gratitude is better than either of the other options.
There’s a tendency to think “obviously I’m pleased with your work – you’re still employed here and we pay you,” but this is the wrong approach. Reinforcing the idea that you’re pleased with an employee’s performance and grateful for their efforts is worth its weight in gold.
Employees who feel valued will go the extra mile. Make sure they know you appreciate their efforts.
Remember It’s About Making a Difference
We all obsess over the bottom line, but it’s not just about money – it’s about making a difference.
As Lisa Earle McLeod told us, “a sales team whose leaders tell them their only purpose is to close business has no compelling story for the market.
When the customers become nothing more than a number you to, they return the favor. They treat you like a commodity, and everything comes down to price.”
She goes on to add:
“If you want your sales team to be relevant and resilient, they need to ground themselves in a purpose bigger than money. A purpose binds the team to each other and to your firm. It gives you a North Star during times of challenge and uncertainty.”
Money only goes so far – if you don’t have a bigger purpose, you eventually wind up with disengaged employees.
While a disengaged and unmotivated sales team can have a dramatic impact on the bottom line, the good news is that there’s no shortage of ways to help them refocus and find their passion.
The above are just some of the things you can use to inspire and motivate your people – taking time to think about your sales team specifically will undoubtedly yield even more.
At the end of the day, the most important takeaways here involve remembering to appreciate your sales team and look beyond the numbers. Business is driven by metrics and performance markers, but there are human beings behind every figure. Appreciating your sales team for who they are as people, and finding and focusing on the purpose of sales beyond money, is vitally important when it comes to making them feel valued and not just like another cog in a machine.
You and your sales people want the same things – to sell product and reach your business goals. Working together and making sure everyone is properly motivated, has the tools they need to succeed, and feels like part of the mission can not only increase sales team engagement – it can also increase the bottom line.
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