Best Way to Motivate Your Sales Team

Motivation is a subject about which much has been written and discussed over the past decades. Many theories have been expounded by the likes of Maslow, Hertzberg and MacGregor and one would not dispute their content. Being psychologists, their theories were based on this branch of science. However, companies are bound by certain rules, regulations and expectations, so these theories often fail to work as intended, because managers were unable to satisfy the needs identified.

At one time it was thought that all motivation could be injected from outside; however, motivation is about personal needs which come from inside the individual. People have needs which require to be satisfied and they will only be motivated if the end result is satisfaction of one or more of these needs. Therefore managers can only motivate individuals effectively if they know that person’s needs. These can often be observed by the person’s behaviour.

Motivate Sales Team Best Way to Motivate Your Sales Team

Needs, which are essential, should not be confused with wants, which are desirable. If you attempt to motivate someone by satisfying a want, that person will weigh up the extra effort required before deciding whether to accept the challenge or not.

Identifying needs

As mentioned above, observation will provide a good indication of whether a person is motivated or not. Many people are self-motivated, which means that they make the effort to satisfy their needs and maintain the required level of satisfaction, and give outward signs of this fact. Those who are less motivated also give out signals to this effect.

Positive signs

  • smart appearance
  • cheerful expression
  • maintain good eye contact
  • carry out tasks willingly
  • cooperative
  • volunteer suggestions and ideas
  • react positively to requests and new activities
  • accept constructive criticism well
  • neat and tidy.

Negative signs

  • defensive body language
  • uncommunicative
  • monotonous tone of voice
  • responds to criticisms and requests with ‘Yes but…’
  • poor time keeping.

As a manager, it is essential to talk to each member of your team to ascertain their particular needs, even those who appear to be well motivated. It is only then that you can apply the right motivations.

Although you should never assume what motivates anyone, you can make some calculated guesses depending upon the age and experience of the individual. For example:

Motivate Sales Team 1 Best Way to Motivate Your Sales Team

Needs of young salespeople

  • good basic rate of pay
  • time for personal activities
  • good prospect of promotion
  • high level of interest and job satisfaction
  • help and guidance when requested.
  • Needs of experienced salespeople
  • status within the team
  • additional responsibility
  • ability to work without interference
  • recognition for effort and results
  • respect from manager and colleagues.

Satisfying needs

It is a popular myth that everyone, especially salespeople, is motivated by money. We all have basic needs and expect that we will receive a salary that is sufficient to meet these needs. So salaries are not motivators in themselves. Commission only salespeople will be motivated by money up to the point where they have earned enough to satisfy these basic requirements.

Everyone has different needs, that is why one can motivate only individuals and not groups or teams. While you may not have the authority to satisfy specific needs such as more money or promotion, there are four areas of need of which everybody will have at least one:

  • Reward – People like to be rewarded for achievement and effort. This need not be in the form of money or gifts. Sincere and genuine praise can often be sufficient. To be effective, praise should be specific. ‘Thanks very much for getting that report to me on time, Bill: it was very helpful.’ Follow this up with a handwritten note to reinforce the reward. Remember to give praise for effort as well as result.
  • Responsibility – Many people need to feel responsible for a task or job, for which they have complete control and authority. You can satisfy this need by good delegation. Ask one of your team to provide specific market information or design a better control system.
  • Respect – Everyone needs to be respected for what they are and for what they can contribute. Encourage and listen to people’s ideas and suggestions. Involve your sales team in making decisions, especially those that will affect them. An example of this is to get them involved in setting targets. Take an interest in them as individuals, find out about their outside interests.
  • Recognition – Probably the most important motivational factor. Everything that one does is aimed at satisfying this need, to be recognised by others. Whether it is securing a new account, getting paperwork in on time or being the top salesperson in the team, each is to satisfy the need for recognition. So make sure that everyone is made aware of each person’s achievements.

Offering incentives

Although most salespeople have a competitive streak in their nature, it does not mean that they will always respond positively to competitions. Sales executives will only take part in competitions if:

Motivate Sales Team 2 Best Way to Motivate Your Sales Team

  • they need the prize on offer
  • the extra effort required does not outweigh the value of the reward
  • they need the recognition of being seen to be the best, irrespective of the prize.

One of the major problems with competitions is that they are too long in duration and those people who are lagging behind at the half-way stage will become demotivated, knowing that they cannot possibly win.

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