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Grow Your Business Sales & Marketing

3 Proven Ways to Motivate Your Sales Team

3 Proven Ways to Motivate Your Sales Team
Credit: Didecs/Shutterstock

A motivated sales staff is critical to the success of your company. The relationships they build with your clients and customers create the foundation of your organization — not just in terms of individual sales, but also your overall reputation and growth. Lackluster salespeople slowly erode at that foundation, making it harder to hit goals and move into new markets.

There are many different ways to motivate a sales team. Some companies use quota programs with bonuses and other financial rewards. Others go the "fun" route with contests, trips, tickets, dinners and other innovative rewards.  But sales professionals need more than gift cards or event tickets; they want to succeed in their chosen profession by climbing up the ladder.

You also need to keep in mind that not all employees are motivated by the same things. Develop top performers by combining different rewards that will keep all of your staff motivated. [See Related Story: Your Employees Don't All Want the Same Company Culture ... Now What?]

Cold, hard cash is a tried and true motivator. Many sales teams hold weekly, monthly and quarterly contests on both the individual and team levels. You can set the parameters to fit your business, such as the number of widgets sold, the total sales in dollars or the number of new accounts opened.

But here's the trick: Everyone is used to the system that rewards the top sales performer. Try a system that rewards the individual that tries the hardest. For instance, Dan McGraw, founder and CEO of Fuelzee, said that one of the best ways his company learned about motivation was by rewarding the sales team for "no's."

"Every time someone got a no, we tracked it in our system, and the person with the most no's received a $100 gift card every week," McGraw said. "This might sound crazy, but you get a lot of no's when doing sales. The more no's you get, the closer you are to getting a yes. The prize of getting a yes is way larger than $100, so you still wanted to get there. This nearly doubled our outbound calls and motivated the whole team."

For some salespeople, the ability to have a little fun during work time is even more of a motivator than money. Common rewards for reaching sales goals or benchmarks include leaving work early, attending a happy hour or maybe giving a trip to reward success over a long period of time.

But fun in small spurts can be just as rewarding. Rick Hanson, a vice president for worldwide sales and field operations with Hewlett-Packard Enterprise Security, said his company uses FantasySalesTeam to award points to "players" (sales reps) for carrying out their daily tasks, like increasing a pipeline or closing a deal. The unique twist is that the reps don't just compete as individuals, Hanson said; they build teams just as in fantasy football.

"Reps earn points for their FantasySalesTeam based on the performance of their chosen peers and friends, and this creates an environment of encouragement and pressure amongst the players," he said. "To win the game, they must rely and push on each other to perform. Even more exciting is just how many reps in our sales organization can, and want to, participate."

Another way to make sales fun is to reward reps with office/desk gadgets and games, said Kevin Baumgart, vice president of sales at Hireology.

"You might not think that a pingpong table for the office would push people and drive behaviors," Baumgart said. "Try it. From my experience, chair massagers, beanbag chairs, stand-up desk converters, cube art, etc. can all be motivational rewards as well."

Fun and financial rewards often work, but for some employees, the ultimate reward is the opportunity to get ahead in their careers. Managers should offer incentives that help employees develop skills to move to the next level, including your own time, said Jeff Hoffman, a sales executive, educator and founder of Your Sales MBA.

"Try a sales contest where the prize or a midway bonus is you," Hoffman wrote on HubSpot. "Work for the leading rep for a few hours, doing whatever they direct you to — calls, demos, presentations, etc. Not only does this motivate your team; it also shows you aren't afraid to roll up your sleeves and get in the trenches."

The whole team will see you leading by example, creating an inspirational ripple effect, Hoffman said.

Another reward is lunch with a C-level executive. As Hoffman wrote, "Most sales reps crave one-on-one time with a senior leader to share their thoughts and get an inside look into company strategy." The chance to impress or relate to an individual on a mentorship level will pay dividends for everyone, Hoffman added.

By offering a variety of rewards, you stand a greater chance of having a motivator for every personality type on your team and developing all of your salespeople into top-tier team players. When your goals and their goals align, only the best things can happen.

Additional reporting by Sara Angeles.

Marci Martin
Marci Martin

With an Associate's Degree in Business Management and nearly twenty years in senior management positions, Marci brings a real life perspective to her articles about business and leadership. She began freelancing in 2012 and became a contributing writer for Business News Daily in 2015.