How to Motivate a Sales Team

How to Motivate a Sales Team: A Strategy That Actually Works

Want to take your sales team from the top 10% to the top 1%?

Make sure they’re highly motivated.

Because skill, while obviously critical, will only take you so far. Most good sales teams are filled with highly skilled reps…

But only the great sales teams are built with reps that are both highly skilled and highly motivated.

The problem is, all the motivation hacks you’ve tried to this point don’t work. 

Pep talks…

Bonuses…

Quotas…

They produce temporary results at best.

And after a while, it can seem nearly impossible to keep an entire team of “lone wolf” sales reps motivated and collaborating at a high level.

But that’s because this approach to motivation doesn’t work.

Having a team of truly self-motivated sales reps is possible. We’ve done it at Closers.io–and we’ve built tons of top 1% sales teams for our clients.

Here’s how you can do it too…

Why Most Motivation Advice for Sales Teams Doesn’t Work

Most people say the same old things when talking about motivating sales teams…

  • Openly praise people
  • Set clear goals
  • Give great rewards
  • And so on

This stuff can work…

But it usually doesn’t.

Why?

Because there isn’t an underlying system–a set of behaviors, beliefs, and processes within a company that produces highly motivated sales reps.

And without a system, openly praising people or any other item on the list of generic advice won’t really do anything.

You may see a slight improvement, but it won’t last because it doesn’t address the core problem.

But when you create a system that is not only designed to keep your team motivated-

 has expectations that each individual stay motivated 

you see something completely different.

That’s what we’ve seen happen to countless sales teams we’ve worked with *and built from scratch) at Closers.io.

Once we help them change the system, motivation stops being a problem.

So, this leads to the obvious question…

What Truly Motivates Sales Reps?

Money obviously plays a key role in motivating sales reps, but lasting motivation requires much more.

Daniel Pink’s book, Drive, outlines findings from research that reveal the 3 true elements of motivation:

  1. Autonomy – the ability to direct one’s work
  2. Mastery – the ability to get better at something that matters
  3. Purpose – connecting the work with something bigger than oneself

And it’s no different with sales reps.

On the surface, it may seem like salespeople only want money, but they always have much deeper desires. 

They want to be part of something bigger than themselves.

They want to find purpose and meaning in their work.

And they want to grow personally and professionally.

If you can’t offer those 3 things, along with clear and nearly uncapped earning potential, you will never keep your sales team highly motivated.

That’s why it’s so critical to build a culture around these principles.

And that’s exactly what the next section shows you how to do.

How to Build a Culture That Keeps Your Sales Team Motivated (Even When Sales Are Down)

1. Offer Incredible Career Opportunities

At the end of the day, all salespeople are looking for opportunities to grow. Again, this isn’t necessarily only about money. They want to grow in status and skill as well.

But that’s why sales reps will immediately lose motivation if they feel they’ve reached their ceiling with your company.

One of the easiest ways to make sure this doesn’t happen is by focusing on creating incredible career opportunities for your most talented reps. 

That means always providing a “next step” or nearly uncapped earning potential with your comp structures.

This incentivizes your sales team to perform at the highest level at all times (and not rest on their laurels if they hit their quota for the month).

A few ideas for how you could implement this with your team:

  • A leadership position
  • Equity
  • More autonomy
  • More flexibility or time off

There isn’t a “best” answer here. It depends on what each individual on your team truly wants. 

So, focus on getting to know each sales rep. When you figure out their goals and what makes them tick, you can offer them opportunities that will actually keep them motivated and doing their absolute best.

2. Become a Master at Communicating Mission and Values

A huge part of motivating your sales team comes down to your ability to communicate vision, mission, and values.

Because, as Daniel Pink reports, people want to be part of something bigger than themselves. 

Your sales reps want to see how their work contributes to the bigger picture. They want to play a role in growing something huge–think companies like Amazon or Apple.

This is a significantly higher motivator than pay.

So, a huge part of your job as a sales leader is keeping your team focused on the bigger picture.

You want them to constantly think about what you’re building together and the critical role their work plays in the process.

The bigger picture doesn’t necessarily have to be the “big company” you’re trying to build–it can also be a lifestyle. 

If your teams’ primary motivation is having freedom over their time and schedule so they can focus more heavily on living their life, you can paint that picture for them as well.

It all comes back to what vision you’re communicating to your team and how good you are at communicating it.

If people don’t buy into that vision, for whatever reason, they won’t be motivated. Period.

3. Demand Excellence

Your sales team will never exceed the level of the standards you set as a leader.

That means YOU set the bar and YOU’RE responsible for holding your reps accountable.

If you accept anything less than their best possible performance, your results will suffer.

That means you must fearlessly hold people to high standards.

This is uncomfortable for a lot of people. They think doing this means you have to be some sort of tyrant. 

But that couldn’t be further from the truth.

The best salespeople love to be challenged. They want to stretch themselves and continue growing. 

And if you hold each team member to high standards in an open, transparent, non-condescending way, you will help your reps achieve more than they ever thought possible.

Think of two of the best modern-day football coaches, Nick Saban and Bill Belichick.

Do you think they accept anything less than top 1% performance? 

If one of their players isn’t performing, they simply coach them until they do or they move on.

This ultimately helps the team as a whole maintain high performance, but it also helps the individual (even if they are let go).

Keeping a low performer who has no real path to improvement is actually doing them a disservice. 

Coaching them and ultimately letting them go pursue other opportunities is actually the kindest, most thoughtful thing you can possibly do for them.

And it also reinforces the fact that your team is filled with A players only.

In an environment like this, people naturally bring their A-game and stay motivated. They know the expectations on them are high and they want to rise to the challenge.

4. Run Great Meetings

99% of the companies I come across run meetings TOTALLY wrong.

They:

  • Spend way too much time on teambuilding
  • Are super inefficient
  • Don’t give people clear action steps
  • Don’t coach or give feedback to specific team members
  • And more

But I’ve learned while training 100+ sales teams that the quality of your culture is the quality of your meetings–especially with a remote team.

And we’ve refined our meetings so much over the years at Closers.io that new hires say they love our meetings.

How’d we get them to that point?

By doing the opposite of what everyone else does.

We use them to coach.

While we don’t neglect team building and having fun, the meetings are fast-paced and efficient. 

Individual team members report on their KPIs and get coaching directly in front of their peers (unless a 1-on-1 call is required).

Everyone is held to a high standard and must give an explanation if they miss their KPIs. I don’t come down on them if they missed their KPI–I only do if they don’t know why. 

On the surface, this might sound like a high-stress environment. But in reality, this level of coaching in our meetings creates a culture of excellence and accountability. 

People love it because they are constantly getting direct feedback and growing both personally and professionally.

And they know they’ll leave each meeting with clear action steps for their day–rather than sitting around wasting time like with most companies’ meetings.

5. Don’t Overlook Qualitative Metrics

Quantitative metrics are often the end-all-be-all for sales teams.

If you make your numbers, you stay. If you don’t, you go. And if you exceed them, you’re rewarded.

But looking solely at quantitative metrics doesn’t give you the whole picture of how your sales team is doing.

It tells you what is happening but not why it’s happening.

And if you overlook qualitative metrics, you’ll never get a “temperature check” that tells you how your team is feeling and the obstacles they’re facing.

You’ll be flying blind and won’t know how to coach your team.

That’s why at Closers.io, we focus on two things to get daily qualitative metrics to provide clarity on our sales team’s performance and motivation:

1. Daily morning meetings to check the team’s pulse (following the principles outlined previously).

2. End-of-day report – we have our reps fill out a report that goes over the calls they had, the results they saw, what went well, and what could be improved. This also has a section on where they grade themselves. 

These two tools help you pinpoint specific areas to coach your reps on. 

And we use this system so we can coach each of our salespeople to help them reach their own individual goals (even if they’re outside of the company).

Motivated Sales Reps Are a Result of Your Systems

There’s a ton more to building a culture of high-performance, intrinsically motivated sales reps, but this is the main overview of the process at its most basic level.

The key is developing a system that attracts and incentivizes the right people. 

And once you have that in place, your system will naturally start producing highly motivated sales reps.

Need help developing that kind of sales culture?

We can help.

At Closers.io, we help organizations build, train, and manage the top 1% of sales teams. Simply click here to book a consult and see how we can do the same for you.

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