Employee engagement is directly tied to productivity and performance. According to a 2020 Gallup poll, teams with engaged employees not only produce better outcomes across the board, but they also maintain stronger customer relationships and lower turnover.

But employee engagement doesn’t just happen. For sales teams, especially the SDR role, work often consists of repetitive activities — which is not to say those activities aren’t important or impactful. It does mean that it’s easy for reps to burn out, or to go into autopilot mode, or to lose sight of the bigger picture.

All of those things can ultimately result in disengaged employees. And all too often, that’s the case. According to that same Gallup poll, 13% of employees reported being actively unengaged (the lowest level of engagement) and 52% reported that they are “not engaged.” In other words, the majority of employees are suffering from disengagement at work. 

The good news is that sales managers and sales leaders can improve and strengthen employee engagement — that is, it’s not some immeasurable, intangible thing that you can’t control. Here’s a quick rundown on employee engagement: what it looks like, how to measure it, and employee engagement best practices you can implement on your team.


What is employee engagement?  

Much like your sales culture, employee engagement isn’t a program or initiative. It’s something that sales managers constantly need to tend to and nurture.

There’s no hard-and-fast definition of employee engagement, but generally, it’s impacted by a number of factors. When evaluating your overall employee engagement, you can use this as a starting point to audit how engaged your employees are.

  • Clarity of role and position: Does each and every rep understand their role and responsibilities? More importantly, do they know how their work contributes to the bigger picture — i.e., team-wide and company goals?

  • Playing to their strengths: Does the work that your people are doing align with what they’re good at (and/or passionate about)? Hopefully, if you’ve hired the right people for the right roles, you can answer yes to this question. And of course, that’s not to say there may not be learning and skill development that needs to happen. But keep in mind, as teams and companies grow and evolve, roles change, too.

  • Healthy relationships and culture: Are your employees connected to each other and do they have healthy relationships with management? Your people don’t have to be BFFs, but they should have solid working relationships. Employees will also be more likely to feel engaged if there’s trust and transparency between employees and management, and a culture of open communication. 

  • Team alignment: Is everyone working toward the same mission and vision? Do your people understand how their personal goals are integral to achieving shared goals?

Why do sales employees struggle with engagement?

As mentioned above, it can be all too easy for sales reps to slowly drift into autopilot mode. Daily and weekly activities can feel repetitive and even meaningless if there’s a lack of understanding around how that work is critical to hitting quota and the Big Number.

It’s also worth mentioning that transitioning from in-office to remote work can have a huge impact on employee engagement. Going from a high-energy sales floor to working in your spare bedroom can be tough. Whether open communication takes a hit or your employees start feeling isolated or disconnected, it’s worth paying extra attention to employee engagement best practices 

6 Employee Engagement Best Practices 

Here are 6 ways sales managers can influence and improve employee engagement on their team.

  1. Make it meaningful: Connect the dots for your employees. How does picking up the phone 50 times a day to cold call prospects lead not only to their personal success, but the success of the business as a whole? Of course, it’s not just about financial success. Think about what your company stands for: what’s the mission and vision? How are you changing the way people live and work, for the better? You don’t have to give your team a daily speech, but find ways to tap into the passion your reps have for what they’re doing, or to actually show how they’re impacting the world around them.

  2. Encourage accountability: Set customized goals for your reps that are realistic, achievable and specific. And then hold your reps to them. This is where weekly, data-driven sales coaching sessions are key. A formal sales coaching program does wonders for creating a culture of engagement: you’ll be able to help and support your reps before they fall off track, and they’ve got a reason to stay focused and make progress toward their goals. It also creates an opportunity for open communication, so they can share blockers and challenges that you can resolve together.

  3. Keep them motivated: At Ambition, sales gamification is one of our favorite ways to create a culture of engagement because it hits on all the factors that can add to (or detract from) employee engagement — and at the end of the day, sales contests get reps fired up to sell. Mix up your competitions to keep them fresh: run team and individual contests, do a mix of short-run and longer-tail contests, and be sure they’re all tied to the metrics that matter most.

  4. Prioritize culture: Here again, this can be a struggle if your team is now WFH. Get creative and find ways to keep your reps connected to each other. That means leveraging opportunities for peer collaboration and coaching, but also just having fun together. And no, it doesn’t mean you have to do another Zoom happy hour. For example, at Ambition, we’ve set up a recurring monthly “Philanthropy Spotlight,” where different members of our team can share the community work that they’re actively involved in. It makes everyone feel good and it’s also an opportunity for employees across departments to connect.

  5. Recognize and reward: Public recognition is another employee engagement best practice that needs to be part of your playbook. The best kind of recognition happens in real time and requires team-wide visibility into progress against goals. Whether your team is in-office or remote, leverage tools like Slack and email integrations so that everyone knows when a rep sets a meeting or closes a deal. Simply getting the team pumped up and supporting one another is huge; but it’s also worth re-evaluating the prizes and incentives you’re offering your people. (If you need some inspiration, check out this post!)

Keep your reps engaged, motivated and accountable to their goals with the leading sales coaching and gamification software! Get a demo today.

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