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The Sales Manager’s Guide to Motivating a Sales Team

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If you have ever worked as a salesperson, you know firsthand how demanding the job is. You are constantly under pressure to achieve top sales results, and you cannot afford to slack off at work and miss out on commission.

That is why it is so important for sales managers to motivate their salespeople and help them stay focused. If you are not currently taking steps to motivate your team, they could end up with poor morale and decreased sales as a result.

Unsure of the best ways to motivate your salespeople?

Keep reading to discover 6 strategies you can use to build a motivated team that comes to work every day ready to achieve top sales results.

How to Motivate a Sales Team

1. Start by hiring the right salespeople.

Before you think about how to motivate your sales team, you need to make sure you are building a team that is capable of being motivated in the first place. If you are not doing so, you will likely end up with lackluster results regardless of how hard you push them to succeed.

If you are unsure of how to identify and hire a motivated salesperson, consider these tips:

  • Use a sales personality test like The DriveTest™ prior to the interview. Doing so will help you take the guesswork out of identify candidates who are Driven. That way, you can feel confident in every interview you conduct. Allowing you to only interview and hire high-potential salespeople while reducing costly turnover in the sales department.
  • During the job interview, ask the candidate to describe a time he/she took initiative during his career. Motivated candidates will be able to give you all the details about how they used self-motivation to influence positive change in the workplace.
  • Ask the candidate about self-development. Highly motivated people always strive to improve their skills and perform better at work.

When you are interviewing, remember to look for culture fit too. The last thing you want is to hire a motivated candidate who will disappoint you by quickly quitting his job due to poor culture fit.

2. Give a motivational sales speech.

If you have noticed that your team is experiencing low morale, it may be a good time for you to step in and boost their morale with a motivational sales speech.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when you are planning your speech:

  • Be positive and engaging. If you want to motivate your team, it is important for you to come across as positive and motivated as well. Be sure to engage your team and get them excited about work again.
  • Tell a story. Your salespeople may zone out during your speech if you do not present your information in an entertaining way. Start your speech with an inspiring story if you want to hook them and keep their attention.
  • Avoid reading your speech. It is fine to use a PowerPoint or notecards for reference during your speech, but put everything in your own words so your sales team stays engaged.

If you do not enjoy public speaking or would rather not give a motivational sales speech yourself, consider hiring an expert to come to your office and give a speech. You may even want to ask your salespeople who they would like to hear give a speech – if you can get a well-known influencer to talk to you team, there is a good chance they will be ready to work harder than ever afterward.

3. Offer fair compensation.

While money should not be the only motivator for your salespeople, it can still play a major role in how hard they are willing to work. Make sure you have a compensation plan in place that allows for unlimited earning potential if you want your salespeople to stay motivated and maintain high morale at work.

Also, if possible, avoid unexpectedly changing the compensation structure in a way that could negatively affect your sales team. Not only could this cause them to become demotivated and experience low morale – it could cause them to leave your company in search of a better-paying sales position.

It might be expensive to offer an attractive compensation plan to your salespeople, but you will be happy with the return you get on your investment.

Tip: Read this blog post to learn about creating the best compensation system for your sales team.

4. Post sales results publicly and recognize top achievers.

Driven salespeople are competitive by nature, so if you post their results publicly, they will be motivated to out-sell their peers.
In addition to posting sales results, make a point to recognize top achievers during your sales meetings. You may even want to create a quick weekly or monthly meeting where you discuss everyone’s sales results and ask the top salesperson to come to the front of the room and share the sales tactics he/she used to achieve his/her results.

5. Offer fun sales incentives.

While recognition can be a great motivator, fun sales incentives can sometimes be an even more effective way to push your team to sell more.

Here are a few ideas for incentives you could offer top performers:

  • A $25 gift card
  • Extra time off work
  • Movie tickets

When you are trying to determine what incentive to offer, ask your team directly what they would most like to be able to win. Then, you can let your team know that the top salesperson each week will win that item.

Keep in mind that your top salesperson is not the only person you can reward. You may also want to offer incentives for the most improved salesperson to motivate your team to continue improving.

6. Be a good sales manager.

As a sales manager, it is your job to lead by example. If you show up to work every day with a negative attitude, your team will likely be affected by that negative energy and possibly question their sales potential as well.

On the other hand, if you come to work motivated and committed to helping your team succeed, they will sense your positivity and strive to achieve better sales results.  So, make an effort to praise your salespeople verbally when they are improving their skills or achieving impressive sales results. They will appreciate the gesture and feel motivated to keep receiving positive feedback from you.

You just hired a new salesperson who seems to be the perfect candidate to fill a gap in your team. Smart, driven, excellent at making contacts, this skilled new hire hits the ground running.

Why Do Salespeople Plateau?


You give the new employee a slightly larger territory, maybe a few more contacts. The new hire eats those up, too. The employee seems like he could be a top earner on your team, so you offer the amount of work equal to your top earner.

Suddenly, you are met with resistance. In fact, the new hotshot’s numbers may have even fallen. Eventually the work flattens out and the salesperson appears to have lost all ambition.

Has this happened to you? What is really going on?

Common External Factors to Diminishing Sales Production

It is possible that your management style simply does not mesh with one of your salespeople. Even top performers can have their productivity undermined by the wrong work environment. This could be due to a few different reasons:

  • Not enough leash. Keeping employees “on a short leash” is typically done by either not providing enough new, professional opportunities or by micromanaging. Since this article is focused on a salesperson that has flat-lined, in this case we refer to micromanagement.
  • Too laid back. On the flip side, giving employees too much leash can also be a bad strategy. If salespeople are coasting, maybe it is because they think they are meeting all of your expectations. They have grown comfortable in their positions, and might need a little nudge to continue.
  • Not providing enough information. Knowing how much information to give to your team is the mark of an experienced manager. If your employees feel like they are being left in the dark, you may want to hold a meeting to share goals, discuss their jobs and explain your vision for the company’s path forward.
  • Ignoring their needs. Keep in mind that the line for addressing needs is highly subjective, but a salesperson may feel that you are not concerned with addressing his or her career concerns. This is a common reason for an employee’s performance to flat line. If this happens, your salesperson has stopped viewing the position as a career opportunity and instead as a job. It is up to you to prove otherwise. Reach out to determine your salespeople’s needs. Provide training and invest in them. They will respond.

Internal Factors Affecting Your Salespeople

Assuming external variables like fair compensation and good management are in place, chances are you have someone who is not particularly high in one of the key personality traits we look for in high performance salespeople: Need for Achievement, Competitiveness and Optimism – collectively known as Drive.


Why High Need for Achievement Is So Important

If you recall from earlier posts, Need for Achievement is a non-teachable personality trait that compels certain people to keep raising the bar, no matter how high they have already pushed it.

They are never quite satisfied and continue to want more, which, in the context of sales, means they will keep pushing themselves to produce more to meet their ever higher sales goals.

Distinguishing between Need for Achievement and the sometimes similar quality of aggressiveness and poor temperament is vital. You may be able to tell based on the manageability of the employee in question. Aggressive employees are not easy to manage. They tend to be unsatisfied with everything and compete with their co-workers to an unhealthy degree.

Salespeople with high Need for Achievement are actually easier to manage than the average salesperson because they are self-motivated. They require less direct supervision and are capable of following projects through to completion.

To detect whether your ambitious employee is aggressive or self-motivated, administer a professionally developed sales skills test.

A Healthy Dose of Competitiveness

Too much competition can sow discord among your team.

However, a healthy amount of competition is necessary. Salespeople especially need to see what their co-workers (and salespeople from other companies) are capable of achieving, so they can set milestones for themselves.

Also necessary is the desire to compete internally, always striving for better numbers year after year. A non-competitive employee will be unaware of co-workers’ numbers and is probably not tracking his own figures closely.

Optimism Pays Off

The signs of a salesperson lacking optimism can be fairly obvious. Occasional rejection is to be expected in sales.

Low optimism will lead to your employee take those rejections personally, diminished enthusiasm and productivity. Salespeople high in optimism know that the sales industry is a numbers game. A rejection means that the odds are in their favor to close a deal next time.

It is also worth noting that a high-earner harboring a negative attitude may signal burn-out. You will want to test these individuals immediately for Drive and watch for decreases in performance.

What to Do If You Think Your Salesperson Has Plateaued

As a business owner or sales manager, you may try various motivational techniques to boost a salesperson that has flat lined, but ultimately you will find it impossible to overcome this hard-wired psychological barrier. That is why it is so important to administer a sales skills test to both current sales team members and new hires.

Depending upon how you run your business, it may be wise to have some “steady Eddie” flat liners on the team, as long as you do not waste your time and resources trying to turn them into something they are not: high flyers.

Many sales teams thrive with the right balance of “hunters” and “farmers,” but sales managers must first identify these traits in their current team to optimize their performance and set realistic expectations.

What tactics have you tried with salespeople that have plateaued on your team?

A motivated sales team is a successful sales team.

You cannot expect to try these strategies every once in a while and get the results you want. For maximum effectiveness, you need to implement motivation strategies consistently so your salespeople always have something pushing them to achieve top sales results.

If you try many different approaches and still find it difficult to motivate your team, talk to them directly and figure out the reason they are unmotivated. Then, you can come up with a tailored solution based on their feedback.

Sales Hiring Simplified!

Hire top-performing salespeople with The DriveTest®. Get started now with one free test.

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