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Mastering Sales Motivation: The Secrets of a Motivated Sales Team

November 13, 2019

Sara Howshar

What motivates you? It’s a question we rarely ask ourselves. Our motivation often feels like something slightly vague, driving us toward a goal we’ve set. Are we sweating toward our sales target for the bonus? For kudos from our boss? For the joy of feeling like a crucial team player?

If you’re a sales leader, it’s a question you should be used to asking your sales team. A motivated sales team is a key component of any successful company, but mastering the secrets of motivation involves more than just boasting the most competitive bonus scheme or striking the ideal balance between the salary and the commission you’re offering. Why should you put so much effort into tailored motivational strategies when, you could argue, a well-planned one-size-fits-all commission model should do the trick?

It’s because motivation runs deeper than sales targets — and nailing your motivational strategies can get stronger results from your sales team than you’ll find by keeping to the carrot-and-stick approach. Read on to find out just how varied the means of motivation can be, and how you can motivate your sales team to hit the heights.

Types of Sales Motivation #

Being able to convince someone to do something might just be the most valuable skill in the world, and those people who know how to motivate someone are excellent at finding out just what motivates the person in front of them. Our clocks are all wound slightly differently.

Motivation, broadly speaking, breaks down into two types: intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.

  • Intrinsic motivation comes from the individual’s principles or beliefs and is extremely powerful.
    • Curiosity, the desire for status and power, and the need to feel accepted are all types of intrinsic motivation.
    • Practically, a sales rep’s intrinsic motivation might manifest itself in a desire to establish themselves as an elite seller, an enjoyment of the sales team group dynamic and the feeling of struggling toward a common goal, or an appreciation of the feeling of supplying a customer with something they need.
  • Extrinsic motivation is the kind of motivation that comes from external factors.
    • Money and other forms of reward are the most standard types of extrinsic motivators.
    • To some degree, pay will be a common extrinsic motivation for all of your sales reps, whether it stops at the base salary they need to keep the lights on, or whether the heights of that commission really drive them.
    • Otherwise, extrinsic motivation can come from more abstract targets on the horizon (the new house they have their eye on).

The science of motivation is the same for us all, but the different kinds of motivators will combine differently in different members of your sales team, and knowing how to motivate someone involves getting a sense of the different combinations (particularly what your sales reps’ intrinsic motivations are) and adjusting your extrinsic motivators to best bring the best out of those intrinsics.

Let’s take a look at a few different sales reps, all with very different personalities, and see how to bring the best out of them motivationally:

  • Sales Rep A has a highly extroverted, diligent, and aggressive personality profile. They love the feeling of the win and seeing a target be exceeded. In their case, the right motivation can be as easy as setting up sufficiently challenging targets and letting the rep chase that bonus.
  • Sales Rep B is different. They’re not motivated by having bonuses thrown at them. Dustin Crawford, sales leader at Intercom, encountered just this type of rep when managing his own sales team. Turns out that the rep was more motivated by being part of a team and not wanting to let the team down. With this knowledge in hand, Crawford could tailor incentives to match, rewarding the whole team with bonuses and social events for good performance.
  • Sales Rep C was different still. They loved having a tangible outcome at the end of the sales rainbow, as opposed to a bonus sum. C’s sales leader motivated by offering prizes for exceeding targets — a Cadillac El Dorado, for example, or a set of steak knives.

Why Bother with Motivational Strategies? #

The degree of communication and care involved in building up a motivational profile for each of your reps can seem like a real time commitment — and it is. The reason you should make that commitment is that motivation brings out a number of intangibles in your reps, individually and as a team, that you can’t get by any other means — and the benefits for your company can be striking.

Motivation breeds resilience #

Teams that are highly motivated are unlikely to let their performance drop, even in the midst of trying to close a difficult deal. It takes 106 dials for a sales rep to get one scheduled meeting, and the average sales cycle for closed-won deals is 96 days. Your team needs to be persistent across this entire period and not get discouraged if they hit a wall when trying to get a meeting or close a deal.

Motivational strategies breed organization #

A sales team should be viewed as just that — a team, built to collectively satisfy a goal, not just as a set of unrelated individuals who happen to be driving at the same targets (or, even worse, who are supposed to be competing with each other). You’ll have reps of different personalities, with different degrees of experience, on your team. Getting a handle on motivation is key to getting the best out of all of them. It gets more and more important as a way of unifying your sales team as it scales.

Motivating your team is a form of investment #

Reps who feel that the company they work for cares enough about them to find out what makes them tick are more likely to go the extra mile for their team and their employers; that’s a much more powerful motivator than a simple bonus scheme, which drives reps to work harder only for themselves. A motivated team is happier and more stable.

How to Motivate Someone on Your Sales Team #

So you know what winds each one of your sales reps’ respective clocks. Now, let’s translate that understanding into actual motivational techniques.

Encourage your sales reps to play to their unique strengths #

Chances are, if your reps have gotten this far, their style of approaching a sale must be pretty good, or at least functional. Don’t be tempted to straitjacket your team members: the adaptable may thrive, but you’ll end up de-motivating the rest. Motivating your sales team members according to their strengths is particularly vital when coaching and motivating younger members of your team; they’re more prone to discouragement and self-doubt regarding the value of their approach when encountering failure.

This kind of motivation is not accomplished with just a few well-chosen words of encouragement. If you have a rep who is uncertain on the phone but brilliant at conjuring up social media sales, consider tweaking your approach to accommodate this (you’ll find it a worthwhile adjustment). If you have a more experienced rep who couldn’t sell through LinkedIn if their life depended on it but is great on the phone, then assign them more on-call leads. These shows of good faith will motivate your team.

Coach, Coach, Coach #

It might seem like a strange thing to mention coaching when talking about sales motivation, but nothing can replicate the benefits of true confidence — a sales rep making a call knowing that they’re fully prepared for it is an excellent way to avoid the procrastination trap (more on that to come) and make the best possible impact on a prospect.

Coaching is the most direct route to this. Talk to your managers and reps, identify common and individual areas of weakness: Are some reps less sure of themselves when it comes to discussing your product in depth? Are others poor when it comes to properly structuring discovery calls? Overcoming areas of doubt and weakness is a key confidence builder — and a confident rep is a more easily motivated rep.

A huge majority of B2B decision makers believe that sales reps tend to come to calls underprepared. Getting your reps in the know is an excellent way of making them stand out, and this preparedness will shore up their motivation.

Keep your sales team wise to the bigger picture #

Any sales cycle will involve down days, hard times, and disappointments. It’s getting harder, too: on average, it now takes twice as many call attempts to reach a prospect as it did in 2007 (up to 8 from the previous 3.68). By regularly pulling your team together and reminding them what it all amounts to, you’ll give them what it takes to push through those difficult periods.

Don’t forget to zero in from time to time #

Looking at a long list of jobs that need doing is a surefire way to produce anxiety and procrastination in your sales team. Train your team to break down large tasks into smaller ones to make their motivation carry further.

Reward small wins as well as big ones #

The rewards don’t have to be huge or even palpable, but recognizing your team’s individual moments of triumph (a tricky prospect pinned down, getting from the discovery stage to the late stage quickly, instead of the usual nine days) will keep them going through a long sales cycle.

Face Failure Head-On #

Sales can be a highly emotional process: failure can really put a dent in a rep’s motivation, and a too-strong fear of failure can have even worse potential outcomes. Use all failures as a means for growth within your team; review them non-judgmentally and collaboratively, and stress their importance as learning experiences.

Ninety-two percent of all salespeople give up on a lead after four rejections; removing the stigma from failure will help ensure that your team doesn’t make up part of that number. Being able to examine both your successes and failures in detail can be hugely helpful in this. Luckily, we know a solution that can do the trick.

Make motivation part of the furniture #

Coaching events or meetings focused more directly on motivating your team are great, but making your team’s environment motivational is an excellent way of maintaining high levels between these events. Send your team automated email alerts that contain pearls of sales wisdom every day; find a quote that gets everyone going, and put it up around your office. Take a look here if you’re stuck for inspiration.

Give Them the Right Tools #

As we’ve seen, motivation is considerably easier to keep a hold of when your team, your sales leader, your environment feel like they’re running with you. That principle applies to tools, as well. Fitting your sales reps with the right tools will reduce the likelihood of a lot of tedious admin sapping their motivational drive.

Focus on solutions that can actively help your team:

  • Conversational intelligence programs that let them hone in on areas of potential improvement in their sales call techniques
  • A good, high-functioning CRM that can allow your reps to keep track of their various priorities, while automating some of the grunt-work that cuts down on their selling time

We know of a solution or two that can help do all this.

Mastering Sales Motivation #

In many ways, mastering sales motivation is a reactive pursuit — it involves communicating clearly with your reps and finely tailoring your approach to motivation based on what you learn. As you embark on the sales cycle, it then becomes about how well you can react to bumps in the road and keep your sales team on an even keel through the ups and downs.

The result of doing this right is a team of tremendous energy, engagement, and fire, for whom failure is water off a duck’s back and success only a matter of time, patience, and perseverance. Motivation is the most transformative component of a sales ecosystem. Master it, and your sales team will be unstoppable.

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