11 ways to motivate your sales team

Posted February 11, 2022

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By Serena Miller

Editor, Sales Best Practices at Outreach

How many times have you wished there was a killer speech or inspirational video you could share with your salespeople that would give them all the motivation they need to crush their monthly numbers?

While it would be nice if it were that easy, experienced managers know that it takes more than spirited pep talks and YouTube to keep people fired up. To boost your team's performance and drive revenue, it takes months of consistent support, encouragement, and empowerment through various channels.

In this article, you'll find a list of eleven tried-and-true strategies for motivating your sales team to ensure they improve your company’s bottom line not just in the short term but continuously over time.

1. Give Public Displays of Recognition

Salespeople typically receive a commission, but that alone may not keep them energized or happy with their job. Like most people, they want to feel recognized and appreciated for their achievements. A recent study found that 44% of employees said they'd switch jobs if they didn't receive adequate recognition.

While applauding reps on one-on-one calls and emails can help them feel appreciated, public recognition gives them extra rounds of morale-boosting. For example, instead of only congratulating Kim privately on closing that colossal deal that took months, highlight her achievement on the weekly team call. She'll get her second round of recognition from you as you sing her praises to the team, and she'll get a third round afterward from her colleagues as they talk to her about the win and congratulate her.

Public displays of recognition don't always have to be shout-outs on internal sales meetings, of course. They can range from small expressions to grand gestures, too, such as:

  • Implement a digital or physical recognition board — Create a public space, whether online or in-person, where you can show appreciation to reps for their accomplishments. Bonus: employees can use the space to recognize one another, too, and exchange peer recognition.
  • Host team dinners — If a rep closes a particularly complex or essential deal, treat them and anyone who assisted to a celebratory dinner. Toast to their success and feed their appetite for recognition.
  • Schedule monthly appreciation days — Once a month, host an appreciation day where you and other leaders or team members take time to highlight critical wins. A regular pat on the back can go a long way in making reps feel that you and the company notice their efforts.

Whatever ways you decide to recognize your team members, make sure to do it quickly and often. Take advantage of those moments when they happen and shine a light on them for your team to see. Doing so can inspire more reps to take it up a notch!

2. Emphasize Team Collaboration

Selling is a competitive environment by nature. While rivalry between companies is a given, you don't want to encourage a combative mindset amongst your team members. Instead, establish a collective attitude of collaboration and support by rewarding cooperation through techniques like:

  • Recognize mentoring — Empower togetherness by creating a reward system for those who act as mentors for their peers. This approach engages and motivates more experienced or senior-level salespeople to guide their peers in the right direction. Rewards might include small bonuses, gift cards, extra paid time off, luncheons, trophies, or custom company swag. You can get creative!
  • Promote knowledge-sharing — Your sellers’ experience is incredibly valuable, both for fostering a sense of community (which can be even more challenging when motivating a remote team) and boosting other reps' expertise. Encourage every team member, regardless of rank or tenure, to regularly share what led to their successes and failures.
  • Incentivize teamwork to overcome the competition — Create an all-for-one, one-for-all mentality among your team by encouraging reps to lend another a helping hand. Instill the attitude that competitor organizations are the adversaries that they should join forces to conquer. Promote peer-to-peer problem-solving and objection handling, and encourage reps to pass the baton to a colleague if they feel they’re not the right fit for closing a specific deal.

It’s natural for reps to want to compete. When you help channel that inclination into prioritizing their teams' well-being so they can beat other organizations, you'll create the conditions for a more aligned and productive environment.

3. Focus on a Deeper Meaning

Research from Gallup shows that highly engaged teams are 14% more productive than teams with low engagement. But what is employee engagement anyway?

Employee engagement is the level of personal commitment someone has to their organization's goals and objectives. Sales managers can help increase employee engagement and make work more meaningful for their team by bringing their mission statement to life.

An easy way to put this into practice is to collect and share customer success stories regularly. These stories remind your team that what they do positively impacts others' lives. Whether helping clients overcome challenges or making their day-to-day work more manageable, these stories can serve as great motivators.

Even better: go beyond your sales team and share them with the whole company. There's nothing quite like a reminder that your work makes a difference in the world, and everyone can benefit from knowing that.

4. Set Routine Goals

Different salespeople find motivation in different ways — there’s no one-size-fits-all fix. As a manager, you'll want to take the time to understand what motivates each team member to help them set goals that they care about and propel the company forward. For example, while some reps might get inspired by team contests or how their efforts impact the broader organization, others might prefer to strive for individual quota achievement or extra money.

Once you know what motivates each rep, use that information to help them set goals consistently. Here’s how you might frame each plan for each salesperson.

  • Daily goals — Help them identify a single, relatively feasible goal that they can reach every day. This task can be stress-free, quick to complete, and a fun break from more mundane activities.
  • Weekly goals — Weekly goals should be tied to actual business results and align with pre-set metrics that help reps track their improvement. They should help sales reps hone their skills and understand the impact of those skills.
  • Monthly goals — Reps’ monthly goals are higher-stakes objectives that can help them reap higher-value rewards. You can determine them based on monthly performance and allow reps to work for something they want (e.g., extra PTO, a new iPad, etc.).

Each type of goal is essential, but the right mix will depend on your team’s specific KPIs. Make sure the goals you choose for each rep are associated with the overall team and business objectives.

5. Build Trust

Trust is the foundation for motivating sales teams. If sellers don't think you have their best interests in mind in addition to your other priorities, then they may become unproductive and closed-off.

Show your salespeople that you care about them by nurturing honest, open, and transparent relationships. Share business goals and challenges and specific reasons around company-wide decisions. This clarity helps reps understand that you’re on their side and that they’re part of a team that respects and values their efforts.

It’s crucial to note that trust—like Rome—can’t be built in a day. A single conversation or meeting won’t get you there, so take the time to build more direct, transparent relationships consistently with your reps. It may be helpful to ask them what they need so they know that they can trust you and the company as a whole.

6. Encourage Autonomy

Salespeople can sometimes find themselves feeling like cogs in the machine—just a part of a fast-moving organization. For many, selling can start to feel like a daily grind that limits their creativity and binds them to the ideas and strategies of their superiors.

You can prevent these dispiriting feelings by encouraging sellers to exercise their freedom to cultivate new ideas that grow business. Instill in them the confidence that they are knowledgeable enough about the product or service they sell (and the customers to whom they’re selling) to offer valuable insights for improvement.

Reward reps for their entrepreneurial ideas, perhaps using a tiered approach:

  • Share new ideas — Offer a small reward (e.g., a free lunch or a $20 gift card) for reps who share their new ideas with the team.
  • Implement new ideas — Give reps the time, space, and available resources to implement their new ideas. Reward them for putting in the effort with a company-wide shout-out, new Bluetooth speaker, or plaque.
  • Implement new ideas that work — If a rep’s idea, once implemented, takes off and succeeds, show your appreciation. Offer a bonus, a day off, or a team dinner to celebrate their achievement.

A bonus of encouraging their independence is that it can help build trust, another key to keeping motivation high as previously noted.

7. Support Their Career Goals

It’s vital to motivate salespeople based not only on company goals but also on their personal and professional goals. Get to know them. Learn what drives each rep and where they want to grow in their lives and careers. Demonstrate your investment in their success outside of your team and organization. It all ties together for them, you, and the company at the end of the day.

You can encourage sellers to reach their goals by helping them understand the connection between their current actions and their future career. It’s a morale booster when reps know their boss has their back — and has a clear view of how to help them get where they want to go.

One thing you can do is sit down with each rep and map a transparent path to achieving their aspirations. Whether it’s climbing the ladder or becoming the best and most helpful salesperson, your interest in their interests will prove your commitment to their success and ultimately the company's success, too.

8. Offer Reward Choices

Inspiration to perform at the highest level possible is born out of a myriad of reasons. Thus, you won't want to hand out the same rewards for each salesperson. Joe might work tirelessly for that new iPad, for instance, while Sally (who already has an iPad) will put in the extra hours for some much-needed time off. Still others may be more intrinsically motivated, where helping customers and making an impact is enough of a reward.

To ensure you’re motivating every seller, offer a variety of incentives and align them with realistic goals that inspire reps to crush it. You could even empower your team to create their own rewards as long as they're within the budget range.

9. Tailor Your Management Style

Effective managers understand that the best way to yield results from their team is to fit into their reports’ worlds instead of forcing a single approach on everyone. While some employees thrive under rigid structure, others need flexibility and independence to succeed. One rep might like direct criticism, while another might prefer a gentler approach.

Managers should schedule one-on-one meetings with each team member and future team member and acknowledge how they understand everyone is different. You can only be an effective manager if your management approach mirrors how each rep prefers you coach them. Listen closely and take note of each seller’s work style, personality, preferred meeting cadence, and pet peeves.

  • To help you form your management style for each team member, you can ask some simple questions, such as:
  • How can I best frame any advice I might have for you?
  • What format would you like to use to provide me with feedback, questions, or concerns (email, written document, face-to-face, etc.)?
  • Does face-to-face coaching work best for you, or do you prefer another style?
  • Do you prefer to work autonomously, or would it help if I provided you with specific guidance around your daily/weekly/monthly tasks?
  • How involved would you like me to be in your daily activities?
  • Are there any pet peeves you’ve had about previous managers? If so, how can I avoid repeating those?
  • How often would you like to meet to discuss your goals, challenges, and performance?

This list is a starting point, so feel free to ask them any questions you think would help them be transparent with you.

10. Empower Them with Tech

Reps can only remain productive, efficient, satisfied, and motivated if they have the tools they need to get the job done. Enable them with technology that helps them focus on selling instead of time-consuming, monotonous tasks that don’t necessarily add value.

At the same time, you don't want to throw tools at your reps. Implementing multiple, disparate sales technology can cause more distractions and confusion than good and hinder rep productivity. If they have to toggle between various tools and apps throughout the day, their efficiency and motivation to complete their tasks can decline.

Instead, focus on implementing a sales technology platform that centralizes everything in one place. Some tools help reps manage and automate workflows, gain actionable insights that eliminate the need to sift through mountains of data, and navigate the increasingly complex buying process—all in real-time. For instance, Outreach's Sales Execution Platform can help your team cut out the noise and stay motivated to do what they do best: sell.

11. Fuel Their Health

A salesperson’s motivation can suffer when they don’t take care of themselves mentally or physically — primarily through nutrition, sleep, and exercise. Reps often overlook their health in the fast-paced sales world, but ensuring your team members’ wellness is beneficial to them and your company’s success.

Leaders must keep a watchful eye on reps to prevent burnout. If an employee admits that they're sleep-deprived, suggest time off or a break. For food, try to keep healthy snacks on-site and connect reps with experts or other resources on sufficient on-the-go nutrition. Encourage sellers to take time to exercise, or ask your company to implement a health and wellness stipend for employees.

Above all, regularly emphasize the importance of a balanced lifestyle and the sustained difference reps will see in their work and personal lives. Make a point to discourage working too many hours in favor of getting a deal done, and demonstrate that you practice what you preach.

Motivate Your Sales Reps for a Happier, More Productive Team

Motivating your sales team is more than driving them to close that next sale. It’s about implementing techniques that demonstrate your appreciation and investment in their growth. By leveraging some (or all!) of the tactics above, you can get reps excited about their daily tasks, achieving their goals, and performing well for your company.

Not sure where to start? Download our free guide that shows you three simple ways to kick off your journey to inspiring a passionate team that crushes their quota.


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