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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- User vs. Daily Sales Benchmarks.
- User vs. Past Sales Performance.
- User vs. Peers.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Other Helpful Guides to Sales Motivation
Besides those already referenced throughout this post, here are a few more comprehensive guides on sales motivation worth reading.
- Winner's Guide to Running Effective Sales Contests. [eBook]
- Motivate Your Inside Sales Team: A How-To Guide
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.
- FiveStars: Adam Wall. Sr. Manager of Sales Operations .
- Filemaker: Brad Freitag. Vice-President of Worldwide Sales.
- Outreach: Mark Kosoglow. Vice-President of Sales.
- Cell Marque: Lauren Hopson. Director of Sales & Marketing.
- Access America Transport: Ted Alling. Chief Executive Officer.
Watch Product Walkthroughs:
- ChowNow. Led by Vice-President of Sales, Drew Woodcock.
- Outreach. Led by Sales Development Manager, Alex Lynn.
- AMX Logistics. Led by Executive Vice-President ,Jared Moore.
Read Case Studies:
- Clayton Homes: HBR finds triple-digit growth in 3 sales efficiency metrics.
- Coyote Logistics: Monthly revenue per broker grew $525 in 6 months.
- Peek: Monthly sales activity volume grew 142% in 6 months.
- Vorsight: Monthly sales conversations grew 300% in 6 months.
Contact us to learn how Ambition can impact your sales organization today.