Motivating your sales and marketing team

Group of employees from sales and marketing teams playing tug-of-war

Your salespeople are the driving force of your business - nurturing your existing customers, chasing down prospects and converting leads. Effective motivation can significantly boost the performance of your sales and marketing staff. Salespeople in particular often respond well to a combination of financial incentives and management support, driving increased sales and profitability. So how do you motivate a sales team to ensure you maximise their potential and get the best results?

Here are the key ways to motivate your sales and marketing team - and some pitfalls to avoid.

Financial incentives for sales staff

Financial incentives such as sales commission can have a powerful influence on staff behaviour. Setting targets and other key performance indicators is essential.

To be successful, incentives should be based on what you want your salespeople to achieve. For example, commissions might be based on the profitability of sales, rather than simply revenue, and only payable when customers pay rather than when orders are placed.

Higher incentives can be offered for winning new business, rather than simply taking repeat orders.

Competitive remuneration packages help you attract and retain quality sales employees. Offering relatively low basic pay and high incentive payments can reduce the strain on cash flow, but may risk encouraging an over aggressive approach to sales.

Remember: while pay incentives are an important driver, support and recognition is also vital. Be specific in your praise if you want to encourage staff to reach particular goals. Public pats on the back can be good for morale. Consider recognising your top sellers with an online leaderboard using a tool like

Pay and bonuses for marketing employees

Some aspects of wider marketing roles lend themselves to similar incentives. For example, you might offer a bonus for a marketing campaign that generates an above average response rate, or a higher than expected number of new leads.

Success in less immediately measurable marketing activities, such as branding, might be encouraged with a bonus related to the overall performance of the business.

It may be worth considering longer term incentives, such as share options, to compete for high-calibre marketing managers.

Any targets set should be a realistic assessment of what is achievable, taking into account market conditions. Employees are more likely to buy into targets that are agreed rather than imposed.

Effective management for sales and marketing staff

Marketing employees at all levels can benefit from coaching support, particularly when they are relatively new to the role. Make yourself available as a resource - for example, if a salesperson wants you to attend a crucial meeting to help close a big deal.

Employees respond to praise; criticising staff for problems that are outside their control is counterproductive. It’s important, too, that employees feel they are being treated fairly: for example, by ensuring that the most profitable sales accounts are shared out equitably.

Regular meetings and open communication are important. Short-term campaigns and incentives can help reinvigorate a stale team.

Teambuilding events can also help boost morale, provided they are not seen by staff as an unwelcome imposition.

There are five key factors in creating a positive environment for selling:

  1. Provide clarity of direction. Make sure everyone knows where they are heading and are aligned.
  2. Make sure your sales staff have the skills and resources to be able to achieve their goals.
  3. Ensure your salespeople monitor their performance.
  4. Know your key threats, and have contingencies in place if things aren't working.
  5. Know what motivates individuals, in order to get the most out of them.

Avoiding sales and marketing management pitfalls

Poorly planned targets and incentives can drive damaging behaviour. For example, telesales staff with a target for the number of sales calls made may hit the target - but without calling the right people or making any sales. I

Likewise, salespeople may overpromise to win sales, while product quality, on-time delivery or customer service is neglected.

Clear policies are needed to ensure the whole marketing department works as a team: for example, to prevent salespeople ‘poaching’ their colleagues’ clients.

Recognition needs to be given to the contribution other members of the marketing team may make to winning a sale, and to overall business performance. Shared incentives based on overall team performance may be an option.

What are potential demotivators for a sales team?

If you don't do the five things above, you risk demotivating staff. But there are other ways to demotivate your salespeople, such as constantly challenging their decisions and not praising good behaviour. Ruling through fear is the wrong way to manage a sales team.

That's not to say fear can't be useful - people often need a stick as well as a carrot. But anything that moves the goalposts - from changing your pay and bonus structure to suddenly upping targets - is a sure way to demotivate your salespeople.

How do I set sales goals and targets?

Setting targets has to be done in consultation with the sales staff themselves. They should be easy to understand, and achievable. You have to get staff involved and work out what is reasonable. If you set ambitious targets, you should acknowledge that they are a stretch.

How should I communicate with my sales and marketing staff?

You can tell a group of people something, and they'll all come away with different messages. But the definition of communication is what the other person understands. So managers must check that staff have received the right information.

Communication works two ways. Feedback from staff can help shape the company strategy, as salespeople usually have the closest contact with customers.

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