< back

The Ultimate Guide to Sales Motivation

Oct. 1, 2015 · Jeremy Boudinet · 11 Minute Read

Motivation and tenacity might as well be water and oxygen for sales professionals. But for many sales managers, instilling these two traits within their organization remains an endless source of frustration.

Ambition is here to guide you through a 360° look at the forces that impact sales motivation the most. Elite sales professionals relentlessly hustle and remain determined in the face of adversity. They go the extra mile in prospect outreach, take an extra minute to proofread emails and stay an extra hour or two (or more) past 5pm.

The 13 Catalysts of Sales Motivation

The aim of this post is to reveal the science and psychology behind employee motivation in the sales profession. Everything about your sales organization, from its process to its people to its onboarding, has an impact on sales motivation. 

The mistake many sales managers make with sales motivation is an initial one - they see it as its own initiative, rather than one that should be factored into every codified aspect of their organization.

So to start things off on the right foot, it's important to remember that sales motivation always comes down to science and psychology. The goal is to set up external stimuli that become integrated into your team's daily grind, and eventually rewire brain chemistry so that reps become their own generators of sustained, internal motivation.

As we're about to show you, the challenge for managers is instilling proper stimuli across each and every aspect of their sales organization. In this article alone, we'll be covering 13 critical topics that influence sales motivation the most. So strap yourself in.

Further Reading: 

  1. Improving Sales Motivation: Q&A with a Neuroscientist

Sales Motivation Factor #1. Incentives

Let's start by discussing the topic with the greatest correlation to sales motivation, sales incentives. 1,000 years ago, sales was motivated by money. 1,000 years from now, sales will be motivated by money (or perhaps Bitcoin).

Set up a commission structure that's for your market. Then, augment with reward and recognition. Of all the decisions you make that affect sales motivation, your decisions with respect to sales compensation and incentives will have foremost influence.

Further Reading: 

  1. A Millennial-Friendly Guide to Sales Incentives

Sales Motivation Factor #2. Culture

In sales, talent shapes culture and culture shapes talent. In terms of sales motivation, culture has a very simple objective - put reps in the position where they feel motivated as effectively and as often as possible. In a post we contributed to the CloserIQ Blog, I outlined how this works in startups building an enterprise sales team.

The Wolf of Wall Street may be an extreme example, but managers should heed its overarching lessons about how the tone and tenor of your sales floor will reinforce positive (or negative) sales motivation.

Further Reading:  

  1. Confessions of a Disgruntled Sales Rep‚Äč
  2. 3 Vibrant Inside Sales Cultures that Drive ROI

Sales Motivation Factor #3. Leadership Style

This is a big one that requires some personal introspection on the part of sales managers. For example, I'll ask the NBA fans out there, is your leadership style more of a Jordan or a Bird?

However you lead, it has a massive impact on sales motivation. Never forget that employees, especially millennials, are no longer loyal to companies, but managers. It's important to reiterate here that a sales force leader's ultimate goal is not powerful, external sales motivation, but powerful, sustained sales motivation from within.

Further Reading: 

  1. Sales Management Lessons from 10 Coaching Catastrophes

Sales Motivation Factor #4. Quota-Setting

I've seen this one work multiple ways. In all cases, organizations often will structure multi-tiered commission levels that align with how difficult their quota is.

Some people set quotas that will be impossible to obtain for all but the top 15% of reps. Knowing that such a high bar will disillusion the less hungry and mentally tough reps on their sales force, these organizations are willing to sacrifice the lambs in their sales force to get maximum value from their most capable talent. 

Other people set quotas that are more attainable. The trade-off is that their commission levels tend to be significantly lower than those with very high quota. The real power of quota is in setting expectations. Which is why many organizations shoot for a sweet spot in how high they raise the bar for reps -- elevated to the point where the breadth of disillusionment reaches a self-defeating level.  

Further Reading:  

  1. 4 Steps to Smarter Sales Metrics.

Sales Motivation Factor #5. Training and Coaching

Feelings of competence are universal prerequisites for lasting sales motivation, so your training and coaching regimen will have guaranteed impacts on sales motivation one way or the other.

The causation is self-evident to anyone in sales whose watched a poorly trained rep's motivation go down in flames. The more resilient ones will persevere until they reach success, but the majority will be looking for a new job either on the company's accord or their own accord way sooner than that happens.

One-on-one coaching can help instill sustainable sales motivation over time, as long as the sales coach mixes in bits of encouragement.  A more confrontational approach may work in some instances, but will also unnecessarily turn others off. 

Further Reading: 

  1. The Sales Influencer Series Presents: John Barrows

Sales Motivation Factor #6. Team Dynamics

The Harvard Business Review piece we invoked earlier puts on a clinic for this topic. The impact of team dynamics on sales motivation is somewhat of a wild card and trickier for managers to control.

A couple key takeaways revolve around subtle social engineering. One sales force conceptualized junior and senior-level sales personnel as "bench players" and "starters." 

Another ran sales contests that awarded multiple prizes, which mid-level performers would occasionally win over top performers. The results provided sales motivation to the middle tier (recognition) and top tier (wounded pride).

This is really just the tip of the iceberg for this topic, but you get the drift, so start thinking about how to social engineer team dynamics to inspire better sales motivation.

Further Reading: 

  1. How to Prepare a Sales Team for Adversity

Sales Motivation Factor #7. Competition

Dovetailing off the last topic, healthy competition can act as a force multiplier for sales motivation.

Sales is an inherently competitive profession. Competitions offer myriad ways to dial up sales team motivation -- especially if you get multiple offices or departments involved. The Ambition platform itself grants users four separate levels of competition-based sales motivation.

  1. User vs. Daily Sales Benchmarks.
  2. User vs. Past Sales Performance.
  3. User vs. Peers.
  4. User's Team vs. Team of Peers.

As with any competition, the inherent fairness, ability for participants to see progress towards success and rewards for victory in each competition will influence the amount of sales motivation teams derive.

Further Reading:

  1. Harvard Business Review: The Sales Director Who Made Work a Fantasy Sport

Sales Motivation Factor #8. Feedback

Feedback can come from a variety of sources -- managers, peers, prospects and so forth.  And it's always happening. Getting hung up on by a prospect is feedback. The tone, timing and subtleties of feedback will be what impacts sales motivation - typically more than the messaging itself.

An important thing to remember with feedback. People tend to remember not what you tell them, but how you make them feel. If you're a manager offering negative feedback, make sure it's given in a helpful way.  Proper subtext will differentiate feedback that's detrimental to sales motivation from feedback that has a positive impact. 

Further Reading: 

  1. Big Data: The Savior of Employee Engagement
  2. The Sales Influencer Series Presents: Lori Richardson

Sales Motivation Factor #9. Recognition

As Sales Influencer Series interviewee Matt Hottle rhetorically asked me, "What's the first thing every sales rep does after closing a huge deal? ... Call and tell someone about it!" Cut to every sales professional nodding. 

Your reps love timely, authentic recognition, the younger and greener among them especially. Take the time to publicly recognize them in person, it means a lot more than an email. 

Further Reading: 

  1. Your Guide to Managing Millennial Sales Reps

Sales Motivation Factor #10. Performance Reviews

To be perfectly honest, it's typically not in a good way. From an initial standpoint, the Harvard Business Review has documented emerging scientific proof of cognitive bias in these reviews. And unless they're inaccuracies that all skew towards the positive, they don't bode well for sales motivation.

The bottom line here is to tread lightly with the parts of performance reviews that veer beyond objective data and into subjective analysis. A great way to do so is by structuring these discussions as a dialogue, with feedback given both ways.

Another small hack - it's been proven that the person who says more in a conversation tends to leave it with a more positive impression of how it went. In most cases, the more time you spend actively listening in a performance review, the better the impact on that rep's sales motivation.

Further Reading: 

  1. The Best Way to Evaluate Sales Rep Performance

Sales Motivation Factor #11. Hiring

Every one wants to be part of an elite team, and the better your hiring, the stronger the push you'll get in all-around team sales motivation.

By contrast, poor hiring over sustained periods of time can be a major risk to sales motivation, as increased turnover and a weakened team deflates morale. 

Further Reading: 

  1. 5 Hiring Questions that Identify Elite B2B Sales Reps

Sales Motivation Factor #12. Onboarding

First impressions matter. Onboarding determines which foot your new hires start off with not only in performance, but sales motivation.

Onboarding can actually be a secret weapon for sales motivation, as a class that accelerates up to full productivity quickly and confidently gets a jumpstart on poorly onboarded counterparts.

The better the tone you set during onboarding, the greater likelihood of getting positive sales motivation from the rest of the topics covered here.

Further Reading: 

  1. How to Cut Onboarding Costs for Your Sales Force

Sales Motivation Factor #13. Technology

It's much easier to be motivated when your reps aren't having to input CRM data. It's much, much easier to be motivated when you're getting automatic recognition for micro and macro-success.

The more technology streamlines your sales process, as opposed to disrupting it, the better its impact on sales motivation. This very point is the reason behind Save The Millennials, a campaign we've launched with 20 other companies to call upon enterprise technology as the best potential savior of Millennials in sales, marketing and customer success.

Further Reading: 

  1. How Sales Enablement Impacts the War for Talent
  2. 5 Technology Hacks that Drive Salesforce KPIs

‚ÄčOther Helpful Guides to Sales Motivation

Besides those already referenced throughout this post, here are a few more comprehensive guides on sales motivation worth reading.

  1. Winner's Guide to Running Effective Sales Contests. [eBook]
  2. Motivate Your Inside Sales Team: A How-To Guide

That wraps it up. If you need a proven sales motivation platform, contact us to learn how Ambition can help by bringing transparency and competitiveness to your real-time KPIs. 

The Sales Motivation and Management Platform

Ambition is a sales management platform that syncs every sales organization department, data source, and performance metric on one easy system.

Ambition clarifies and publicizes real-time performance analytics for your entire sales organization. Using a drag-and-drop interface, non-technical sales leaders can build custom scorecards, contests, reports, and TVs.

Ambition is endorsed by Harvard Business Review, AA-ISP (the Global Inside Sales Organization), and USA Today as a proven solution for managing millennial sales teams. Hear from our customers below.

Watch Testimonials:

  1. FiveStars: Adam Wall. Sr. Manager of Sales Operations . 
  2. Filemaker: Brad Freitag. Vice-President of Worldwide Sales.
  3. Outreach: Mark Kosoglow. Vice-President of Sales.
  4. Cell Marque: Lauren Hopson. Director of Sales & Marketing.
  5. Access America Transport: Ted Alling. Chief Executive Officer.

Watch Product Walkthroughs:

Read Case Studies:

  1. Clayton HomesHBR finds triple-digit growth in 3 sales efficiency metrics. 
  2. Coyote Logistics: Monthly revenue per broker grew $525 in 6 months.
  3. Peek: Monthly sales activity volume grew 142% in 6 months.
  4. Vorsight: Monthly sales conversations grew 300% in 6 months.

Contact us to learn how Ambition can impact your sales organization today.

About Ambition
Sales Leaders, HR Professionals, and C-Level Executives use Ambition to recognize, motivate, and develop employees into more engaged and productive versions of themselves. Funded by Google, used by the Fortune 500, endorsed by the Harvard Business Review.
chat
#}