While working in the sales profession can be immensely rewarding, it’s no secret that salespeople face numerous challenges, from meeting aggressive quotas, to competing against lower priced competitors, to getting up to speed on new compliance and regulatory rules, and many more. Keeping a sales team focused and motivated in the face of these challenges can be difficult.

In honor of National Salesperson Day, we spoke with successful sales leaders and asked them one question that’s top of mind for all those who manage sales teams:

“In your experience, what’s the best way to motivate and incentivize a sales team to reach, and ideally exceed, their goals?”

Here’s what some of the best sales leaders we know had to say:

Jeff Schumerth, Manager of Sales Operations
LexisNexis Risk Solutions

The best way to motivate a sales team is to simplify the sales process so they can focus on selling. Provide market-validated selling points around your products (market, industry, use, revenue generation, cost-saving impact, etc.) and create a reinforcement process so, when they are having customer discussions, key product details aligned to customer needs are top of mind. This makes critical value stories easy to share – simplifying the sales process.

Tony Isaac, Manager of Sales Performance Improvement

This is the magic question for many sales organizations.

Top performers are going to consistently hit their goals; they’re competitive by nature and possess an internal drive that is only satisfied by achievement. In my experience, they are motivated when they’re included in company decisions such as on an advisory board where they can share their experience and feel like they are contributing to more than just the bottom line sales.

Core performers, who represent a large percentage of our company, are motivated by incentives that are obtainable. For example, while they may not be the top volume performer, having incentives or prizes for highest margin per sale is an achievable goal.

Low performers, who are typically newer sales people, are motivated by early successes. They need to know and understand the selling strategy and execute the strategy. Incentives are built in as their book of business increases.

Lori Richardson, Founder
Score More Sales and WOMEN Sales Pros

First, make sure you've hired the right people. Second, understand what motivates each of them and what their goals, beyond hitting sales targets, are. Coach individually, through servant leadership.

Chester Liu, Sr. Director of Sales Enablement
Black Duck Software

I sit down with my sales reps, ask them about what personally motivates them, then set custom goals that they can get excited about.

Of course, there are still overall goals for the sales team (quotas, etc.) that everyone needs to hit, but a manager’s job is to help them break it down into actionable and measurable activity.

Perry Cole, Director of Sales Force Development

There are several key elements to reaching and exceeding goals:

  • Clearly define success (the goals) and keep those goals visible
  • Provide an environment through great coaching that enhances each salesperson’s motivation to succeed
  • Ensure that great performance is consistently recognized and rewarded

Ken Blank, Director of Sales Learning & Development

Ever wonder why the same few sales people compete for that $25 gift card, while other sales people, even maybe your top performers, are not? It’s because we all show, and like to receive, appreciation in our own way. The book “The 5 Languages of Appreciation” has been an excellent resource for countless managers I have coached. I highly recommend every sales manager read it.

Patrick Gunn, VP Sales, EMEA

There is an old saying in sales that compensation drives behavior. Most sales reps will look at their compensation plan at the beginning of a year and see it as a rule book on how to make quota and money. So, you need to ensure their goal is linked to your organization’s overall goal. If you have a new business rep, make it all about new logos, expansion into certain markets or expansion into certain territories. If you have a named account manager and the goal is retention and expansion, drive the compensation in that direction – new departments signed up, new regions added, SaaS contracts renewed potentially for longer periods, etc.

Also, be sure to make noise about new wins, accounts retained and expansion of existing customers throughout the whole company. This motivates sales and as well as the rest of your organization. Success breeds success and drives behavior.

Tony Caruso, Director of Sales Enablement

The first thing managers need to do is show how a goal can be attained and exceeded. For the rep, I call this creating a Plan to Make a Plan and the manager needs to coach them on creating it. Basically, it’s a work-back plan that states “If I’m going to achieve X, then I must do ABCDEF and in this cadence and timeframe.” Too often, sales goals are based on aspiration and when you apply activity math it becomes very demotivating to a rep when they see how daunting the task is. The inverse, however, is true. Show a rep how to create a reasonable Plan to Make a Plan and they become motivated because it’s doable and they start seeing how they can beat it.

We’d love to hear from you – how do you motivate your sales team to success? Tweet us @qstream.

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