The quest to motivate your workforce can seem never-ending, regardless of the industry in which you operate. But for sales managers, where the work requires constant drive and no two people have the exact same motivations, it can be incredibly difficult to devise ways to motivate your whole sales team at once. What’s more, research suggests we’re not getting it right just yet – according to Gallup’s Workplace Report 2023, only 13% of employees worldwide are truly engaged and motivated. If your team are motivated and happy in their work, they’re more likely to go the extra mile and improve their performance.

Here are four of the best ways to motivate your sales team to perform at their full potential:

Get creative with incentives

While it’s true that money will always be a major motivator for most sales people, it’s not the only thing that gets them out of bed in the morning. In fact, for the more than 5,800 sales people who responded to Chester Elton and Adrian Gostick’s Motivators Assessment, the most common motivator was the ability to balance work and home time, with money coming in well down the list of top priorities. Ken Thoreson, sales expert and president of Acumen Management Group, says that compensation is typically not one of the top three things that top performing sales people desire. Instead, he believes confidence in the company, the culture and working environment are the most compelling motivators for sales people.

With that in mind, think outside the box when it comes to delivering incentives. Sales people will always appreciate bonuses for strong performance, but non-financial rewards such as additional holiday leave, more flexibility in their work hours and location, lunch and dinner packages, additional professional development and training opportunities will also help to motivate.

If you’re not sure what motivates particular sales people, ask them! You may be surprised to find someone you presumed to be money-driven is in fact hoping to spend more time with their family at the end of the day. Tailored incentive programs can take a little more effort from a sales manager perspective, but will ultimately be more effective as you target more people well.

Align business goals with personal goals

By understanding your team’s individual goals, you’ll be able to frame your organisation’s business goals in a way that feeds into their personal aims. Ask your sales people what motivates them outside of work – everyone’s circumstances and priorities will be different, so this is best done in one-to-one meetings. Then take these targets and show your team how their own personal objectives feed into business goals, and vice versa.

For example, if a sales person is hoping to buy a house in the new year, all targets they hit and exceed at work are bringing them one step closer to their home deposit. If someone is training for a marathon, offer mental skills coaching that can help build up grit and perseverance that will be beneficial both within the work environment and on race day. Once you understand what your team are pushing towards, you can use these goals to help drive them to achieve their best at work. And by facilitating their goals and providing tools, time and support to help them get there, you’ll benefit from a team who feels more valued and more engaged. Research shows that 70% of the variance in team engagement is determined solely by the manager, so it’s a win-win for everyone.

Provide recognition

Recognition, both privately and publicly in front of the sales team and wider business, is crucial in ensuring sales people stay motivated. Studies reinforce this, with research saying that it’s the third biggest reason most people leave their jobs is a lack of recognition.  And for sales people, recognition and non-financial reward can be even more effective as a retention tool than compensation.

As a manager, it’s important to reward your team’s effort as well as their success. Incentivising wins, such as bringing on new clients or achieving your daily call target, will always be effective in motivating your sales people. However, the nature of sales means that not every interaction will come with a tangible – and successful – result, so ensure you’re recognising your sales team’s hard work and perseverance as well as their big successes.

Never underestimate the power of praise when it comes to encouraging sales people, particularly if it’s in front of their peers. McKinsey found that praise and commendation from immediate managers is an even more effective motivator than performance-based cash bonuses.

Employees who feel recognised are more engaged, motivated, and likely to go the extra mile and by implementing collective team goals for hitting targets, you’ll nurture a sense of camaraderie and togetherness amongst your sales team.

Set career progression goals and training opportunities

It’s no secret that career progression and development are high on the list of the modern worker, a lack of opportunities for advancement is one of the top reasons sales people quit their jobs. Despite this, sales leaders spend just 20% of their time helping their team close deals, according to CSO Insights, suggesting there may be a disconnect between the training sales people want and the guidance that is given to them. Remedy this by scheduling regular meetings, shadowing sessions and roleplay exercises with sales people at all levels to ensure they continue receiving hands-on training and updates throughout their career.

With opportunities for career growth being one of the top reason for sales people leaving an organisation, it’s up to you to ensure your team have clear development plans in place and feel like they are growing within their role and your organisation. Provide opportunities to take on extra responsibility, such as leading sales meetings or being the main point of contact on a new account, and touch base with your team regularly to ensure they feel challenged and like they have room to develop.

Lead by example

The above steps should all help to drive motivation amongst your sales team, as long as you lead by example and provide a positive, encouraging environment for you and your team to thrive in. If you’d like more help to drive performance and enthusiasm in your team, contact us here to see how we can help.