Science and psychology point to powerful sales data visualization as the untapped x-factor for activating inside sales motivation. An initial question: When your inside sales reps view their performance data, what's being visualized?

Whatever the answer, it's impacting their levels of sales motivation.

Motivate Inside Sales Reps: A How-To Guide

The thesis behind this post is simple: Sales teams who don't view their own performance frequently and in clear, compelling ways are missing out on scientifically-backed sales motivation. There is a huge new opportunity to source internal sales motivation for each and every rep, using these numbers.

Here's everything you need to know. 

Step 1. Make Sales Motivation Data-Driven.

First, let's look to the technology involved here. Major advancements in data analytics software are enabling sales leaders to organize and visualize performance data in much more sophisticated ways.  

The technological leaps made in just the last 5 years alone have been staggering. At an enterprise level, platforms such as Tableau, Mixpanel and Hubspot have the horsepower to store, organize and present data with an incredible level of sophistication.

In turn, data visibility has become infinitely clearer, making the data itself that much more more vivid and more compelling. And it's only going to keep getting better. As it applies in sales, data analytics software now affords sales teams the ability to view both historic and real-time performance data with bracing clarity.

At the same time, sales performance data is now easier to access than ever before. For one, its dispersment is more egalitarian than ever, with platforms offering sales teams the option of total transparency. Once restricted to managers, rep performance data is now at their fingertips.

Secondly, complex data can now be accessed instantaneously. Exception reporting used to take hours upon hours of Sherlock Holmes-esque spreadsheet investigation. Now, managers just fill out a few fields and hit "Generate." Lag time: 0.9 seconds.

To that point, and perhaps most importantly, data visualizations are now more insightful than ever before. They incorporate advanced metrics, forecast future performance and can even congratulate you automatically for a new personal best.

Step 2. Create Powerful, Perpetual Feedback Loops. 

In Christopher Mims' excellent Wall St. Journal piece on startup productivity, he outlines the serious threat that big data poses to middle management. In sales, however, the implications for managers are much rosier.

As I wrote in two pieces that extrapolate the Mims' article into our industry, big data presents the potential for gigantic leaps in sales coaching and employee engagement.

In sales, we know that codified, clearly-communicated sales processes and performance benchmarks are both defining qualities of an elite inside sales team.

Hearkening back to an interview we did with Neurosurgeon Doug Taylor, M.D., it becomes clear as to why. "The brain needs structure and goals, something to work towards. If you don’t have structure and goals, it is much, much easier to become apathetic."

The overwhelming majority of sales teams (hopefully) give reps both structure (process) and goals (benchmarks/quota). Significantly less have a codified strategy that keeps both top of mind, as often as possible. Which is where data visualization (and the science behind employee engagement) come into play. 

Highlighting an excerpt from the Taylor interview, which breaks down the relationship brain chemistry has to stress and motivation: "If you have a certain deadline or a certain goal you are trying to achieve, a higher level of norepinephrine and dopamine could possibly increase your mood and make you work harder to achieve that goal by inducing all your faculties and expending the right amount of energy for personal gain."

As Dr. Taylor pointed out earlier in the conversation, the best way to heighten both norepinephrine (stress) and dopamine (enthusiasm) is via external stimuli. Taken altogether, you have a scientifically proven case for giving reps their real-time performance data, complete with goals, progress and a rewards system, in clear, compelling visualizations.

III. Best Practices for Inside Sales Motivation

To optimize the impact of data visuals on sales motivation, here are a few key notes.

Inside Sales Motivation Tip #1. Use Real-Time Tracking

The ability to visualize sales performance in real-time actually goes to the concepts of human conditioning, rewards pathways and Pavlov's Dog.

Real-time tracking grants you the ability to create a continuous feedback loop.

The more up-to-the-minute the data is, the better, as a rep who has just spent the entire morning cold calling will return to lunch much more invigorated if he/she can pull up a graph showing successful completion of his daily call benchmark.

If the manager and the rest of the team can also see it, it becomes that much more powerful. 

Final note: Sales leaderboards are an interesting, double-edged sword here. They can have both positive and negative effects on motivation, which is why it's ideal for sales gamification software to have additional features in place that enhance positive feedback loops.

Inside Sales Motivation Tip #2. Use Proper Metrics

This one's simple.

If you're going to track additional sales metrics besides revenue or deals won, ensure that they fit within your process and tailor to the different roles, offices and territories that comprise your Sales Force.

Inside Sales Motivation Tip #3. Set Reasonable Goals

Dr. Taylor also discusses the need for balance in how much stress you heap on your team.

"I think the ideal would be to find the perfect balance - of not having too stressful of an environment, but definitely a small quality of stress to make you work harder and smarter."

Finding that sweet spot for your sales team calls for careful attention to goal feasibility. You need objectives that push each rep outside their comfort zone, but not too far.

Inside Sales Motivation Tip #4. Make Visuals Compelling

The key here is not only to make your sales data clear, insightful and easy to access. You must go a step further and ensure it is compelling.

To flesh that out, let's take a quick example of what not to do.

Let's say you give your sales development team daily goals for outbound calls (50), prospects contacted (100) and leads generated (3).

As they work towards their goals each day, three circles on their screen chart their progress by lighting up a certain color. Once the entire O is that color, they've hit their daily goal.

But you made one critical mistake. As it lights up, the circle starts to resemble this image.   

As reward for their hard work, your reps are receiving two signals.

One is "Stop!" -- as you've picked the universal color for stop signs. The other is, "Thanks for hitting your number. Here's the red circle of death!"

The takeaway here: Be very aware of the conscious and subconscious signals you give your reps. 

Inside Sales Motivation Tip #5. Find a Cultural Fit

Badges and cartoon avatars may work in call centers, but they're ill fitted for money-driven sales professionals who spend their days calling upon high-level prospects, negotiations complex deals and using guile/hustle to succeed. 

For an example of successful sales gamification visuals, on the other hand, here's a good one from the Harvard Business Review.  

Inside Sales Motivation Tip #6. Create Fair & Compelling Rewards

As a final point, the more you associate an effective rewards program (ex. bonuses, promotions, trips) with your data visualization, the more sales motivation you get from the visuals themselves.

The more prestigious, unique and compelling a prize, the greater the impact it has on the rewards pathways of its prospective recipients (and will have for the eventual winner). 

Further Reading on Inside Sales Motivation

I'll leave you with a few quick links, all of which reinforce the points addressed in this post.

Ambition: Manage and Motivate Inside Sales Teams

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

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