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Motivating Sales Reps: 5 Tips From an HR Expert

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Motivating a sales team requires more than just an attractive commission structure or paycheck. Human resources expert, Lindsey Zajac, discusses the best ways to identify and inspire a complacent and unmotivated sales team. 

Not feeling motivated to watch the entire discussion? You can skip to specific parts you’d like to see using the timestamps below 👇 Five actionable tips are at the end!

Identify Common Causes of Complacency & Lack of Motivation [1:47]

It can often be difficult to pinpoint the specific reasons behind your sales team’s complacent behavior. Learning about the most common causes of these symptoms is a good way to understand what you need to do as a leader to improve the situation. Some of the most common causes Lindsey sees with a lack of motivation among sales reps are as follows:

  • Absence of clearly defined goals
  • Poor communication
  • Lack of established priorities

These all point to a sales team that doesn’t understand what’s expected of them or how to do what’s expected of them. As Lindsey says, “Nobody just wants to be a cog in the wheel.” Your sales team wants to know the purpose behind what they’re doing. Specifically, they want to know the impact their actions will have on the company as a whole.

These causes present themselves in different ways in the workplace. They can be identified as any of the following:

  • Ineffective leaders that aren’t supportive or accessible to their team
  • Minimal or non-existent training
  • Team members that aren’t a good fit for a sales role

Find What Motivates Each Individual Sales Rep [3:19]

Once you’ve identified the causes of the problem with your sales team, it’s key to understand that there’s no “one size fits all” solution. Additionally, what motivates you as a leader is not necessarily going to be what motivates the individual sales reps on your team.

Before developing a solution, you as a leader have to take the time to ask each individual on your team about what motivates them. Often times, sales leaders make the mistake of assuming that everyone on the sales team is motivated by their commission, a paycheck or money in general.

The truth is, regardless of job type or role, some people are extrinsically motivated while others are intrinsically motivated.

An individual on your sales team that is more extrinsically motivated may need an external reward to stay motivated, such as a prize or money. On the other hand, an intrinsically motivated sales representative will find satisfaction in knowing that they did excellent work. These types of individuals are also more likely to enjoy taking on a challenge.

Based on the discussions you have with your sales team, you can categorize your sales representatives based on their intrinsic or extrinsic motivations. This can help you create an ideal working environment that motivates every individual on your team.

Understanding which motivation category each individual falls into can help you, as a leader, manage the multitude of personalities in sales more effectively.

Understand Your Sales Reps' Unique Motivations [5:08]

Coming back to the “all sales representatives are motivated by money” generalization, it’s key to understand that there are different reasons why individuals decide to take on a sales role. Some do it solely for the earning potential, but others may value the ability to build new relationships, find that perfect solution for a potential customer, or embrace their competitive side.

You’ll always be able to find something that motivates each of your sales representatives. If they weren’t motivated by something, they most likely wouldn’t bother coming to work.

Track Key Performance Indicators Without Micromanaging [6:50]

Once you’ve developed a strategy to motivate your team, it’s time to examine the results of you and your team’s efforts. Start bringing key performance indicators into the picture by tracking your sales team’s activity level. If your strategy is working, then you should see an increase in door to door activity, the calls they’re making and emails they’re sending. Overall, you’re looking for an increase in your sales team’s outreach activities.

Improved motivation brings an increase in activity, which ultimately can help your team achieve better results. If you see an increase in activity but the results still aren’t there, you have a separate issue to tackle. Your team is motivated, but most likely needs some additional support or training. For example, they could be making a ton of calls each day but when it comes to objections, they’re unsure of how to handle them.

When tracking KPIs it’s important to avoid falling into the “micro-management” trap. Lindsey suggests when talking to your team, referring to KPIs as “the indicators that will help drive optimal performance to make you successful in your role.” Calculate the average number of calls, emails, or door to door visits that the top performers make. This will give the sales representative a better understanding of how much activity they should be engaging in to improve poor performance.

Remember to let them know that these guidelines are meant to help them, as much as they are meant to help you and the company overall.

Actionable Strategies to Keep Your Sales Reps Motivated 8:35

When a sales representative is first getting started in their role or is having a great week result wise, they’re likely to be highly motivated. The question is, what can you do to maintain or bring that motivation back when their responsibilities appear stale or they have a month of poor results? Lindsey says that the following are just some of the actions you can take to bring back the motivation and keep it flowing:

‣ Tip #1: As a leader, be conscious of the energy you give off when you’re around your team. People often look to their leaders for the types of behaviors they feel they should exhibit, so emulate the positive energy that you want your team to have.

‣ Tip #2: Encourage your sales team to focus on the customer experience rather than the outcome of the sale. What differentiates your company from competitors? Think about it, then share your beliefs with the team.

‣ Tip #3: Begin practicing one on one coaching on the job with your team. With sales roles, it’s more effective to teach behaviors on a call rather than by lecture in a classroom-like setting. Hands-on experience is key.

‣ Tip #4: When you see that your team is achieving results, it’s important to let them know that you are aware of those results and appreciate their efforts. Also, remember to reward extrinsically and intrinsically motivated individuals in different ways!

‣ Tip #5: Continue to build the capabilities of your sales representatives after they’ve gone through initial training. Work to remove any obstacles that are making it difficult for them to achieve results.

Embrace Your Personality to Inspire Your Team 10:34

You don’t necessarily have to take on a “cheerleader” role to motivate your sales team. Something as simple as going up to each sales rep and asking them how they’re doing, or providing them with some sort of inspiration for the day can motivate your team.

Showing interest in each individual, letting them know that you believe they’re capable of achieving great results and encouraging them to come to you if they need assistance can make all the difference. Lindsey discusses how “countless studies have shown that affirmation, encouragement, and support is more rewarding long term than fear, threat or intimidation.”

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