Q&A: Motivating your sales team

A sales team take part in a motivational teambuilding exercise

Your salespeople are the driving force of your business - nurturing your existing customers, chasing down prospects and converting leads. So how do you motivate a sales team to ensure you maximise their potential and get the best results?

Ian Cochrane, general manager at Gazing Performance Systems, a development company that helps people perform well under pressure, explains how to motivate a sales team.

What motivates salespeople?

Individuals are motivated by a variety of different things. It can be difficult for managers to create an environment that works for everyone. You have to take into account individual personalities.

Most people are usually motivated by the two strongest human emotions - fear and desire. So whether it's fear of failure or a desire to achieve, you have to understand what drives the individual.

How do I reward sales staff?

Pay incentives are an important driver, usually in the form of commission and bonuses. However, 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 rise.global.

Is money a big motivator for salespeople?

Being motivated by money is no bad thing. When someone says 'I am going to bust my chops to make these sales and get the commission', that's a good thing. You need salespeople that are hungry and eager, and who can perform in high-pressure situations.

You can usually help people like that to develop better skills and processes, but it can be much more challenging to develop that 'hunger' mindset.

What can I do to get the most out of my sales team?

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.

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 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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