Motivating salespeople to work toward — and ideally exceed — organizational goals and milestones is a crucial consideration for organizations everywhere. The responsibility of each individual and the sales team’s overall capacity to generate revenue by selling products or services makes their productivity and engagement a top priority for effective sales leaders. 

Not sure how to motivate sales teams in your organization? In this comprehensive guide, we’ll run through the importance of employee motivation, outline a range of primary sales motivators, and discuss how to motivate salespeople using tried-and-tested strategies.

The Importance of Motivating Sales Teams

You already know that working in sales can be challenging. Persistence, confidence, and hard work are required to be successful in any sales role, and it’s easy for sellers to become discouraged when prospects just aren’t biting. 

That’s why without adequate motivation, sales teams are less likely to perform at their best. Keeping sales teams focused, engaged, and confident is essential not just for meeting your quotas, but for keeping your valuable team members happy and engaged. The benefits of improving motivation for sales personnel are endless, but here’s how motivation can help your salespeople meet personal, team-based, and company-wide objectives. 

Meeting Quotas

Quotas are an essential area of focus for any sales department, and research shows that teams that address engagement and motivation outperform others by an average of 20%. Quotas set individual and team expectations, outline company goals, and provide benchmarks for measuring success. Motivated employees are more likely to meet and exceed their sales quotas, which leads to wins on several fronts, including:

  • Increased revenue and growth
  • Enhanced team working efforts
  • Improved organizational culture 

Employee Happiness

Your salespeople are often the first point of contact between your organization and prospective customers. Their morale is therefore directly correlated to the morale of the business as a whole. Sales roles can be stressful and challenging, but when people feel appreciated and valued, their motivation to succeed will be increased and job satisfaction rates will be higher. Happy employees will:

  • Stay with you for longer
  • Be loyal brand ambassadors
  • Provide better customer service

Employee Retention

When people enjoy their work, feel included, and are motivated to meet individual and organizational goals, they will be much more likely to stay with you for longer. Improving employee retention is essential because:

  • The average job search can cost up to twice an individual’s salary
  • When employees leave, they take their knowledge and experience with them.
  • High turnover can be demotivating for remaining employees, who may feel that their hard work is not valued.

Increased Revenue

Naturally, a major benefit of increasing motivation for sales team members is increased revenue. Motivated sales reps work harder and sell more, leading to increased profits that can be used in several ways to ensure the long-term success of the business. Examples include:

  • Developing new products and services
  • Hiring more employees
  • Paying higher salaries or bonuses

The Building Blocks of Sales Team Motivation

People are unique, and so too are the factors that motivate them. So for each individual salesperson, sales motivation will come in different forms based on their personal goals and career aspirations. Therefore, there are several aspects to consider when figuring out how to motivate salespeople

Here is a list of the most common motivational influences for salespeople:

1. Money

Money is the most obvious — and the most powerful — motivator for most salespeople. Motivation to earn additional income through commissions, bonuses, or other incentives results in immediate and tangible benefits. This extra financial boost can be used to achieve other goals outside the workplace like buying a new car or going on vacation. So, the more money they can earn, the more motivated salespeople are to sell.

2. Opportunity

When employees see opportunities for growth and development within a company, they are likely to work harder and achieve their goals. Likewise, when the links between working hard and advancing their career, taking on more responsibility, or learning new skills are clear, sales teams have a more significant sense of purpose and direction. 

3. Teamwork

While it’s inevitable that some members of any given sales team will be independent go-getters, many salespeople are more motivated by the social aspects of being part of a team. These workers derive satisfaction and ongoing motivation from group problem-solving activities, contributing to other colleagues’ successes, and playing a direct role in helping the business meet its organizational goals and milestones. 

4. Independence

While teamwork is important, it’s also essential not to ignore individual needs. The sales team may operate as a unit, but for those who prefer to be left to their own devices, finding ways to empower individuals and give them more freedom and independence in their work increases motivation by enhancing their feelings of power and control. 

5. Purpose

To sell effectively, sales teams need to believe in your products and services, as well as your broader organizational goals. Keeping employees updated on their contributions and how they’ve helped reach specific business milestones makes them feel more connected, meaning they’ll be more passionate about their work and bring that passion to their sales pitches.  

6. Recognition

In the fast-paced and challenging role of a sales rep, recognition and affirmation are essential. People feel valued and appreciated when they are recognized and praised for their efforts, which motivates them to work even harder to achieve consistent recognition and even greater success in the future. 

7. Visibility

When given opportunities to stand out from the crowd by showcasing their skills, talents, and accomplishments, salespeople feel more confident and fulfilled, resulting in a deeper sense of pride in their work. They’re also more likely to feel they’re making a meaningful contribution to the company.   

8. Excellence

Not all salespeople have aspirations to move upwards into management roles. Some simply love selling, are naturally target-driven, and want to be the best at it. Letting employees who take pride in reaching and surpassing goals know they have your support and that you’re confident in their abilities can sometimes be all the motivation needed. 

How to Motivate Sales Teams

While the objective of any sales manager is typically to increase overall team performance, a variety of approaches will help ensure the motivational techniques that you use connect and resonate with every team member on an individual level. 

Looking for innovative and proven ideas on how to motivate salespeople in your organization? Check out these top sales team motivation strategies. 

How to Motivate Sales Teams Through Behavior Change Psychology

Behavior change psychology refers to how people’s behavior can be altered or modified in a particular direction. But changing behaviors can be challenging — just ask anyone who’s ever started an ambitious new fitness plan or committed to a New Year’s resolution. 

In the context of motivating sales teams, behavior change psychology involves identifying the specific behaviors you want to change, analyzing the factors that drive or inhibit said behaviors, and developing strategies that can be used to influence them in a consistent way. The key stages in the process include:

  • Connecting Behaviors to Goals

It’s essential to connect the desired behaviors to the overall goals of the team. Suppose your goal is to increase revenue. In that case, you must identify specific behaviors that are most likely to lead to increased sales and communicate this connection to the team. For instance, you might need to reinforce the behavior of disqualifying deals that are not a good fit so that your team can spend time on the deals more likely to close. 

  • Identifying New Behaviors

Clearly identify new behaviors the team will need to adopt to achieve their goals. Let’s stick with the disqualification example above. If a team is struggling to disqualify deals in a timely manner, you may want to provide parameters or a checklist to help the team identify when they may be spinning their wheels on a deal that will go no where. 

  • Aligning Behaviors to Goals

Creating a clear link between encouraged behaviors and sales team outcomes is essential. This may mean changing some of your workflows and internal processes. For example, having salespeople “make X number of sales calls per day” is not a results-focused goal, whereas “move X number of leads to the next stage in the sales funnel” is.  

  • Using Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement is a powerful tool in encouraging the continuation of changed behaviors. By acknowledging or rewarding instances where a behavior change led to improved sales, managers can create an environment of increased accountability that continues to drive motivation. 

  • Providing Feedback

Change can be frustrating, and so can change management. However, feedback is essential because it’s crucial for teams to understand how their behaviors impact performance, what has gone well, and where further improvements are needed. 

How to Motivate Sales Teams by Building Trust

When sales teams have faith in their managers and leaders, you’ll see improvements across the board in engagement, productivity, team collaboration, and employee satisfaction. Therefore, adopting strategies that keep teams inspired and wanting to impress is essential. 

Here are a few examples of techniques you can utilize to build the kind of trust that keeps teams motivated:

  • Be true to your word – Nobody is motivated by empty promises. Whether it’s scheduling a coaching session or implementing a change to company workflows, demonstrate integrity by following through and doing what you said you’d do on the agreed timeline. 
  • Lead by example – Being hands-on is a great way to build trust as it shows managers aren’t fostering a “do as I say, not as I do” attitude. For example, a sales leader who jumps on the phone to help the team cold call as they near a significant milestone will make workers feel supported, as they’ll see that their manager is in the trenches with them.
  • Use positive language – Just as your sales call scripts should use positive rather than negative words and phrases, so should your sales managers. For example:
    • If a team member asks a difficult question, “Let me find out for you” is a better response than “I don’t know.”
    • If something goes wrong, “I can understand your frustration” is a better response than “that shouldn’t have happened.”
  • Invest time in your teams – By making a concerted effort to get to know your salespeople, motivation will increase because they’ll know you’re invested in them on a personal level. It’s also a great way to learn about varying motivation drivers between team members.
  • CollaborateMotivating sales team members by building trust on an individual basis is just as important as encouraging cohesive teamwork. Here are a few ideas on how to build trust by embracing individual strengths to make sales reps feel more included:
    • Ask people for their input on the sales strategy
    • Recognize successes with a personal note
    • Delegate special projects or assignments 
    • Assign additional responsibilities and authority on appropriate projects
    • Invite individuals to lead a team meeting or conduct a segment of sales training
  • Act on feedback – Good sales managers and team leaders should be open to receiving feedback themselves and should act upon it to make improvements that the whole team can see.

How to Motivate Sales Teams with Incentives & Rewards

Directly relating results to take-home pay is undeniably one of the most effective methods of motivation. However, not all incentives have to be financial. For some employees, the acknowledgment of success is just as important as the reward itself. 

There are myriad ways you can incentivize motivation, and the approach you take will depend on the dynamics of your teams and the individuals within them. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Give ample verbal approval, even for small accomplishments
  • Give bonuses or higher commissions to top-performing staff
  • Set up special incentives for superior performance — like additional vacation days or vouchers for hotel stays, meals out, etc.
  • Openly publicize top performers in the company newsletter or with a post on the internal communications board 

How to Motivate Sales Teams by Encouraging Professional Development

By talking to each sales rep about their strengths and their plans for the future, you can tailor professional development plans that boost motivation and retention simultaneously. Best practices for compiling professional development plans include:

  • Setting clear targets – Employee goals should be concise, realistic, and linked directly to broader business objectives. Remember to make your goal-setting criteria SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely).
  • Creating leadership plans – Creating leadership development plans shows sales reps that you have a long-term vision for them within the company.
  • Providing ample monitoring and evaluation – Continual improvement is impossible unless you provide regular feedback about progress, areas of concern, and suggestions for ongoing personal development.
  • Encouraging external learning opportunities – Make time for employees to attend sales conferences, seminars, and industry meet-ups to network and form external connections. 
  • Investing in technology and software – Provide employees with productivity tools, learning management systems, and online sales courses with materials that can be downloaded and processed at their own pace.

How to Motivate Sales Teams by Adapting Your Leadership Style

Sales managers have to wear a lot of different hats. There’s no one-size-fits-all leadership style, as not every situation can be handled using the same people-management techniques. For example:

  • An autocratic leadership style may be effective in a crisis situation where quick and decisive action is necessary.
  • A transactional leadership style may be a better fit when implementing a new system of rewards designed to improve lead qualification and conversions. 
  • A coach-style leadership strategy may be the best approach when dealing with a sales rep suffering from poor performance. 
  • A servant leadership style may be required in lean times when sales reps need additional support, training, and resources to get the job done.

How to Motivate Sales Teams by Showing Gratitude

This is one of the most underrated — and often forgotten — yet most effective motivation tactics out there. Yep, as simple as it sounds, one of the easiest methods of motivating salespeople is simply to thank them for their hard work. 

Everyone craves recognition and appreciates being told when their efforts have made a difference. And there’s very little to lose, as demonstrating gratitude costs the company nothing. Normalizing saying “thank you” and “well done” regularly can do wonders to improve engagement, motivation, and company-wide organizational culture. If you can be specific about the differences individuals have made to project timelines, sales goals, conversion rates, and so on — even better. 

Win More Deals with Challenger

Need help with sales team motivation? Challenger powers the leaders of some of the world’s biggest brands as they coach their teams to drive growth and expand customer relationships. 

Our commercial transformation program includes all of the skill development, message creation, and implementation support organizations need to succeed in their sales goals. From online sales training to live workshops focused on coaching best practices, we can help you find ways to transform your team. 

We’ve helped hundreds of leading companies tackle sales bottlenecks and industry disruptions, and we’d love to help you too. Contact us today to start a conversation and discover how partnering with Challenger can help boost the performance of your sales teams.

Challenger, Inc.

Challenger is the global leader in training, technology, and consulting to win today’s complex sale. Our sales transformation and training programs are supported by ongoing research and backed by our best-selling books, The Challenger Sale, The Challenger Customer, and The Effortless Experience.