How to Actually Motivate Your Sales Team

On the heels of  a global pandemic, the subsequent Great Resignation, and now mass layoffs and economic uncertainty, individuals are suffering a lack of motivation, productivity, and proper support amid such challenging times. 

Workers are stressed. They might not be on their A-game. This has led to a surge in articles and other resources with advice on how to help yourself out of any slump you might be facing at your desk. 

However, there aren’t nearly as many guides that detail how those in leadership positions can help their team with this struggle. This is an important discussion that needs to be had because, as a manager or leader of a team of people, you can make a significant impact on the mental health of your employees.

In today’s current economic climate, job satisfaction seems that much more critical to a person’s mental health. The way employees feel about their job can truly make or break their performance, and that is why it is your responsibility as a team leader to keep your employees motivated and engaged.

This leads to the question: how do I help motivate my employees? What can I do as a team leader to improve employee engagement and spark productivity?

One thing is for certain: you won’t get them motivated with financial numbers.

Why Numbers Don’t Motivate

As stated in a recent post from the Harvard Business Review, a focus on achieving a financial goal for the company won’t be enough to get your sales team excited or interested in their work. Placing a sole emphasis on meeting a financial target “erodes morale and undermines long-term strategy.” A successful long-term strategy requires an engaged workforce.

Consider this: when you talk about numbers and financial goals alone, the feeling becomes strictly transactional. This transactional approach spreads from the leader to the employee, and from the employee to the customer or prospect. Building trust is crucial for brands right now, and a transactional approach is not the way to build that trust.

It’s important to recognize that the way your employees feel about their company (and for salespeople in particular, the product they’re selling) drives their behavior.

If your sales team is only focused on spreadsheets and numbers, how can you expect them to feel very engaged and motivated to succeed?

How to Actually Motivate Employees

Motivation is a key factor in success, especially now. In fact, some of our own customers report that they are keeping an eye on and tracking motivation levels more now than ever before. It is crucial that you are keeping your team engaged and motivated to ensure that everyone is doing their best work.

Financial targets are not a driver of employee performance, they are merely an outcome or result of the work of your sales team. To really make a difference, you have to focus on things that truly drive a change in behavior, such as engagement and motivation.

The following are a couple quick tips and tricks to help engage and motivate your sales team.

How to Motivate Sales Team - Gamification

1. Invest in Gamification

Get your employees excited about their quarterly goals by encouraging friendly competition and celebrating success. Switch up the monotony and use different experiences to break up the daily routine every once in a while.

The best way to motivate employees (beyond compensation) is through competition and recognition. Activities like contests, leaderboards, and other sales motivators help get employees engaged by promoting positive competitions among teammates and recognizing and celebrating success. Gamification also helps build a culture of accountability and reinforces the key behaviors that drive performance.

While there are some DIY options out there (check out our free sales contest templates), the last thing you want to do is create too much stress for yourself while trying to help motivate your team members. Solutions like LevelEleven automate your gamification so you don’t have to sacrifice your own time to set up (and continuously update) contests and leaderboards from scratch.

How to Motivate Sales Team - Give a purpose

2. Give Your Sales Team a Purpose

Make sure your employees understand the why behind what they’re being asked to do. If they can connect the goals to a larger picture, they’ll be much more engaged and motivated to succeed.

For example, at a recent sales team meeting, our leadership made sure to explain not only the importance of sales activities, but why those activities are so important. The conversation did not stop at “these are the sales goals you need to meet this quarter” and “here are the numbers we expect you to achieve.” Instead, the emphasis was on the purpose behind the numbers.

Ensuring your team understands how their work fits into the larger scheme of things will help boost engagement and improve performance. It can also help an employee feel a sense of pride of ownership, knowing that there is a purpose or significance behind what they do on a daily basis. Taking the time to discuss how an individual’s daily work contributes to the larger whole is key to improving motivation in sales.

How to Motivate Sales Team with Emotional Support

3. Don’t Shy Away from Emotion

One of the best pieces of advice from the Harvard Business Review article is to “discuss individual customers with emotion and specificity.” Emotions are a strong motivator, and if you can get your team to feel this emotional connection to customers, they’ll be more likely to go above and beyond for them – leading to happier and more loyal customers.

In a study conducted by experts from the University of Michigan, employees at a call center were tasked with soliciting donations from alumni to contribute to scholarships for incoming students. The group was split in two, and one group met with a scholarship recipient for a short conversation before they began their daily work. The control group did not.

In the end, the group who had the opportunity to forge this emotional tie to the human being who benefited from the work they did was significantly more successful than their teammates who did not.

This same principle can be applied to your own team: if you speak about customers on an individual & human level, it can create more of an emotional pull that is a strong motivator.

Like the employees studied by the experts at the University of Michigan, your employees will be more motivated (i.e. willing to spend more time and energy on their work) if they feel an emotional connection to their customers.

This connection is helpful in other ways, too. Currently, buyers have less tolerance for sellers that don’t have empathy or a personal touch. In fact, at a recent LinkedIn Sales Solutions event, Spark, it was revealed that over 90% of C-suite executives do not respond to any cold emails. If your sales team is simply going through the motions (a common occurrence when employees feel a lack of motivation) and aren’t engaged, they won’t have success.

It’s no longer just about what you sell, it should be about how you can help. The same idea should be applied to your interactions with staff: focus on how you can help them, rather than focusing only on making the numbers. This human-centered approach demonstrates the empathy that is critical to relationship building between you and your employees, as well as between your employees and their customers.

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