“Keep yourself positive, cheerful and goal-oriented. Sales success is 80% attitude and 20% aptitude.” – Brian Tracy
You’ll find numerous such quotes online, encouraging and motivating salespeople. Because ensuring your sales team’s motivation is that important for growth!
Your sales team is one of your strongest assets that directly impact your revenue – ensuring they’re fulfilled and motivated every day means ensuring that your company is putting its strongest foot forward every day.
Does Sales Motivation Really Help?
Does motivation really make that big a difference to performance? Is a regular level of workplace motivation not enough?
The sales team faces some of the highest levels of stress in a small business – you probably know this firsthand.
As a result, the level of support and encouragement that’s needed is also very high; a demotivated sales team leads to lower performance and lesser sales for your company.
With a team that’s left to its own devices, you’ll see:
- Lethargy and procrastination set in
- Indifference to lack of results or unmet goals
- Negativity in the workplace due to work pressure
- High attrition
- Unmet sales goals and impacted revenue
With regular sales team motivation, the kind that is taken up across the organization, you may or may not see an immediate impact on teams’ performance – for most departments, motivation is all about the long-term retention game.
For the sales team, it’s all about getting an added push every single day. They need a more well-planned and targeted approach to get them out of bed and hustling every day.
What Does It Take to Motivate a Sales Team?
You’ll find that different salespeople are motivated in different ways. This usually depends on their personality & career goal, but also to some extent on what they’re selling.
Salespersons in the product space tend to be driven more by numbers and are more hard-wired to chase material success.
Salespersons in the service industry, on the other hand, are driven by customer satisfaction and Customer Lifetime Value – there’s nothing they love more than a good retention number.
Now, most people think that incentives and reward systems are the best way to motivate sales teams. While it’s true that you’ll see a lot of sales people chasing commissions, incentives and bonuses, you’ll find that salespersons that are selling a service (for example in the hospitality or education industry), are more motivated by satisfaction.
We’d recommend a mixed bag of rewards & recognitions that address every type of employee and style of working, influenced by your industry.
Categorizing Motivation Types
Understanding Different External & Internal Motivators
Let’s take a deeper look at some of the different kinds of extrinsic or external motivators–
This is the most commonly used motivation tactic in sales and with good reason – sales people are competitive, and incentives are usually monetary. Let’s not forget, monetary rewards are some of the most effective motivators known in the world.
An incentive could also be non-monetary; it could be a valuable object personal to each salesperson (and hence more likely to motivate them).
When implementing an incentive program, remember to ensure that you take the preferences of every team member into account and give everyone a fair and equal chance.
Pros- Extremely high level of motivation, especially with personal incentives.
Cons- Minimal – incentives, when implemented correctly, can work well even long term (though not for intrinsically-motivated people, but more on that later).
A bonus falls under a type of compensation plan that takes into account a base salary, with a previously-agreed upon bonus amount for hitting certain levels of goals.
For example, you can offer X as the base salary, and Y as the bonus for hitting a certain goal, Z as a bonus for hitting the next level goal, etc.
However, it gives employees one particular number to aspire for, making it less likely that they’ll aim to overachieve.
Pros- Extremely high level of motivation.
Cons- The motivation is short-lived and has a ceiling to it.
A commission is as straightforward as it gets and one of the oldest tactics in sales motivation – the sales person gets a cut of each sale that he/she makes.
Does it work?
Perhaps yes to some extent, as the salesperson’s earnings depend on every sale…but it’s not a long-term motivator.
It also doesn’t take into account customer attrition, which some companies are now accommodating for by linking commissions to the customer sticking around for a pre-determined amount of time.
Pros- Commissions bring in complete accountability and transparency.
Cons- It’s doesn’t bring in any customer loyalty.
Fringe benefits are like value adds added to an employee’s salary structure, such as childcare or insurance, which can go right up to high-ticket items such as company-owned cars.
Pros- Fringe benefits can work well in small businesses with a fewer number of employees that are likely to be more loyal and growth-oriented than they are monetarily-inclined.
Cons- Fringe benefits work well as motivators for employees, but not necessarily as daily motivators for sales people as they are already accounted for and likely to be taken for granted.
Monthly and quarterly monetary awards work well when it comes to long term motivation.
Just as it applies to the rest of the company, awards that are aspirational have the power to motivate sales people over a longer duration.
Awards can be as high-ticket as you want them to be, and can have many different performance-linked levels to them just like prizes.
Caveat: Awards can’t be your only source of motivation.
Pros- Awards can be effective long-term motivators
Cons- People are natural procrastinators – they need something to motivate them every single day, and awards are usually a month or 3 apart.
Diving into internal/intrinsic motivators-
Intrinsically-motivated people are naturally hard working. Because they aren’t consistently motivated by the carrot of a monetary incentive, they tend to feel underappreciated if they don’t get enough recognition.
This recognition comes in the form of feedback, open dialogue and small gestures that show appreciation – such as giving them their pick of clients, for example.
Pros- Recognition is a leading motivator – one of the most important things to do for internally-motivated people.
Cons- You can’t look at recognizing only those who are internally-motivated: You need set up a proper recognition structure for the whole team, keeping in mind that some of them need external motivation too…balance and fairness is key!
Learning & Development
Intrinsically-motivated people look for long-term wins and growth. They aren’t motivated by immediate rewards or incentives because they’re always looking at the larger picture.
Paid courses, online resources and such work as great motivators for such sales persons.
Because they’re always looking to the future, they appreciate all the growth opportunities that you offer them, especially those that they would not be able to sponsor for themselves.
Pros- Learning & development means growth for your team, and growth for you too!
Cons- Learning & development requires an investment in time, and while this may sound inviting for some, but it sounds like hard work for others – you’ll have difficulty in applying this particular motivator to all, so it will require specialized effort for those few people on your part.
Intrinsically-motivated people are extremely competitive too, though they may not be as visibly competitive as the ones vying for the next bonus.
They’re motivated by the next big win – the next big sale, contract, revenue target…which means that while they may not be as motivated by an incentive/bonus, they will love the competition to get to that big win.
Organize a friendly competition among the team to keep spirits up and motivation running high.
Pros- Competitions work for everyone…with a prize at the end, you end up motivating both, the extrinsically as well as intrinsically-motivated team members.
Cons- This is a one-off method, so its motivation is short-lived – you can’t hold competitions too often because they need a certain amount of organization and planning.
As we mentioned earlier, intrinsically-motivated people are most driven by growth. They enjoy a chance to hone their skills and get better at what they already know.
Because of this natural inclination, they enjoy a good challenge – a high sales target, a tough-to-close sale, etc. that are daunting for others look like an exciting opportunity for the internally-motivated.
While you can’t go out of your way to create a challenge, the next time you have a difficult client or a high target, you know who to put on the team.
Pros- This is a no-preparation, zero maintenance approach to motivation – you don’t have to work to make it happen.
Cons- Challenges only work to motivate when your salesperson has the support and guidance that is needed to solve them. Insurmountable challenges act in the opposite way and demotivate intrinsically-motivated employees!
Job rotation is when an employee does a ‘rotation’ around different departments or teams to learn different areas of expertise.
This is for a limited time, but it vastly increases the learning, exposure and ultimately growth of the employee – which makes it ideal for intrinsically-motivated salespersons who want to widen their horizons and understand the bigger picture of the company.
If you have an intrinsically-motivated salesperson who you’re also considering for a promotion some ways down the line, consider putting him/her through a rotation.
Pros- A rotation maximizes learning, output and usually increases company loyalty long term.
Cons- Because sales is a generally high-performance area, you need to plan that employee’s time and responsibilities to accommodate a rotation, which often means someone else picks up the slack.
We know your next question.
How do you really plan for all these different types of motivations, especially when not all of them apply to everyone?
It’s easy – you don’t apply a blanket sales motivation plan at all.
First draw up a plan that outlines the different work approaches of your team, what they’re motivated by and what keeps them going on the daily.
Then, pull up a list of external and internal motivators that you can work with based on budget and execution feasibility.
Lastly, try to work together with your team wherever possible.
For example, when it comes to incentives, you can sit with your externally-motivated employees and plan together what their incentive will be. When they have a say in what they get, they’re all the more motivated.
At Kylas, we understand the importance of sales motivation and the crucial role it plays in driving small business growth. We have created an in-app motivational ecosystem to help your sales team stay focused, engaged and motivated.
We’ll close by reiterating that it’s not enough to apply a company-wide, sometimes-executed motivation strategy for your sales team – you need to put in that effort so they’re motivated to do an excellent job of driving your small business growth!
Unfortunately, this isn’t something that can be put off until the next quarter or until someone finds time – it’s as urgent to your small business growth as what’s on your agenda for today.
If you have any more motivation ideas or have a question you’d like to ask us, feel free to drop a comment below!