Your sales team is the lifeblood of the company; without sales, the company would cease to exist. That is exactly why it is essential for your sales team to always be running in tip-top shape. However, we can't escape the fact that life happens. Sales figures might drop, customers might leave, or the team might encounter some internal problems. The best way to cushion your team from blows like these is to have a solid foundation–one built on mutual respect and constant motivation.
Why Motivating your Sales Team is Important
Contrary to popular belief, "motivation" isn't just some HR word that's only thrown around during company kick-offs or office retreats, nor is its successful implementation limited to perky, pep-squad-type leaders. So, beyond the bells and whistles, why is motivation a critical factor in building successful teams?
Reason #1: To feel is human.
Though we all want to be perfect, we're far from robots. We're humans with feelings. We get happy, stressed, ecstatic, and tired at any given moment, and our emotions can influence the decisions and moves we make. That's not to say that we're prisoners to our emotions, but rather, having emotions is part and parcel of who we are. And this fact is something we can actually play to our advantage.
When someone is excited by something you're selling, they're fueled not by the shiny new toy but by its benefits. People line up for the latest iPhone because they want to be part of the "in" crowd. Buying takeout isn't rocket science, but it saves the stress and hassle of preparing food at the last minute. In some way or form, people are motivated by how much better they feel at the thought of life with your product or service, and that's what leads them to check it out.
A sales team's mission is to drive sales by finding what brings customers joy and connecting that with what is being offered. Similarly, that's your mission as a sales leader: finding what fires your team up and using that knowledge to motivate them into performing well.
Reason #2: The right attitude brings the right results.
The monotony of doing the same thing every day becomes dragging as time passes. Thus, it’s important for your team to be equipped with the right attitude to be able to ride out these slumps without compromising their work. Initiatives to motivate your team regularly would help ensure they're in the right frame of mind about their daily tasks.
You reap what you sow, goes the proverb. Your team's success will greatly depend on how they contribute to the big picture. When you channel your team members’ emotions towards goals aligned with company thrusts, the synergy of everyone's combined enthusiasm will carry the team further. With positive results, people become even more encouraged to do better, and the cycle begins again.
The best part is the give and take that motivated groups bring to the table. Anyone can attest that they've gone through some "off" days. But having a group with the right attitude as support makes all the difference; you can feed off the group's advice and positive energy and feel recharged in no time.
Reason #3: Motivation turns your team into self-starters.
Moving an unmotivated sales team is a tiring ordeal. They don't see the purpose behind their tasks and find it hard to get things done. Work becomes a never-ending checklist that the boss continuously fills up without rhyme or reason. Leaders get exasperated with the sluggish performance of their teams and tire themselves out picking up the slack, taking on tasks they should be delegating, and issuing constant reminders to the point that it borders on micromanaging.
Team motivation is important because it makes a member more than just the arms and legs of the business. If you take the time to explain to your team the whys and hows behind the tasks given to them, they'll be intrinsically motivated to move things forward themselves.
With less monitoring, real collaboration can happen. Once that's settled, all the other tasks will fall into place. Motivated teams would no longer be limited to merely performing tasks and guided by overall objectives instead. They would also be willing to scrap activities that are not aligned to the overall goal, saving on time and energy for leaders to evaluate and potentially rework. For example, an unmotivated sales force would likely trudge through a call list regardless of context, but a motivated sales force would go one step further and evaluate if these leads are productive ones in the first place–a lifesaver for team leads as this would produce more leads in fewer calls.
How to Consistently Motivate Your Sales Team
Now that we've established why team motivation is important in a business, let's look into how we can practice it sustainably in the workplace to keep teams going.
Make motivation part of the daily routine.
Grand rah-rah spectacles might make for an inspirational moment people will fondly look back on, but it's not exactly a sustainable way to motivate your team. If the same big gesture is made repeatedly, the shock-and-awe effect relied on in the past becomes predictable and loses impact. Besides, you're human, too, and would probably run out of steam; having to create a special occasion every time you need to cheer your team on is too exhausting to even think about.
Make motivating others an easy task and use the power of habits and routines to your advantage. Begin your weekly plenary with a segment to recognize team wins or for teammates to share their accomplishments during the previous week and thank the people who helped them make it happen. You can also schedule weekly one-on-one meetings with your team members to get project updates and keep tabs on their disposition towards their work. You thus get to resolve demotivation among members proactively.
Including motivation as a routine helps establish a culture of gratitude that inspires others to give their best, even months after the company kick-off. Though seemingly insignificant, small tasks done consistently can beat grand gestures.
Set realistic but challenging targets.
Motivation is a balance between challenge and encouragement. If a task is too easy, there's nothing to motivate. But if it's too hard, no amount of motivation will make up for the work that entails meeting the target. You'd want to set your sights high to push your sales higher, but not impossibly high that your salespeople wouldn't even bother trying.
Many companies fall into the trap of a top-down approach. Management gives a target for the entire company, and the sales manager's hands are tied to distributing the number across his members. The result is a wildly disproportionate individual target that will demotivate your team and cast doubt on the company's strategy.
Set your goals in a sweet spot between these two extremes. The best way to do this is through data. Get each sales member's historical performance and their customer's average performance, and boost this up within a reasonable range based on industry standards. Having sales analytics software would be very helpful to add up all the numbers and provide insights. It will also assure your team that you're not unnecessarily bloating the number; you know what they can and can't handle.
From there, set lead measures that your team can influence to measure their impact daily. You can even add variations to inspire some friendly competition: make an informal team contest on who can make the most calls or strike the most productive leads in a month to bring some excitement in the workplace. Rewards are also great ways to sweeten the deal–maybe a pizza party once the team hits the group target or personal quotas–to give the team something to look forward to.
Strive for consensus, not command and control.
Actively strive for your team to perform and understand the why behind what they do. Knowing how they add value to the business makes it easier for the team members to appreciate their job. Many old-school businesses opt for the command and control model, which centralized decision-making processes to the head of the group. While this works for some setups that remain fixed, today's businesses need dynamic members to keep up with changing times.
A big reason for businesses' hesitation to shift to a consensus mindset is the problem of managing disagreements. It may sound odd, but disagreements are a good sign; it means your members care enough about the work they do to scrutinize the plan and are comfortable enough to share their opinions. It takes time and effort to field dissenting opinions, not to mention the possible internal disputes that may come out from handling the comments. To build an environment conducive to discussions, encourage brainstorming or war games activities. Disseminate changes ahead of time and give teams a few days to get used to things while providing them the option to raise their concerns privately.
Likewise, this also means you have to be flexible to varying points of view. Should the team raise resounding concerns, be open and understanding enough to consider them. Employees want to be heard; give them the space for that. Keeping a command and control model in today's work setup assumes that the team is not smart or important enough to be explained to or heard, greatly affecting team morale.
However, it doesn't mean you have to be a doormat. You also have the right to assert your point of view. While building consensus takes a bit more time, promoting a culture of openness and understanding sets your team up for a work dynamic that is respectful, collaborative, and empowered.
Be generous with positive feedback.
There seems to be the notion that too much positive feedback will only spoil the hearer. That is not true. There's no such thing as too much positive feedback.
Positive feedback is easy to give when things go well, but it should also apply in any eventuality. Acknowledging a member's strengths and good points in front of the rest of the team gives that member a sense of pride and encourages them to continue performing well, to everyone's benefit. When your teammates display exemplary character during a tough situation, that also deserves recognition.
The same goes for constructive feedback. Inform your team about things they need to improve on as they happen and provide critical incidents to substantiate your feedback. If your team needs to be conditioned to be receptive to the news, scheduling quarterly or mid-year performance reviews will help as a venue for providing feedback.
Support their interests–even outside work.
The best bosses are the ones that respect their teams as individuals in and out of the office. Get to know your team, and find out what makes them tick. Support their cause or encourage them to share something they're passionate about. Knowing that their boss is genuinely interested will result in a motivated sales team and bring about a loyal one.
There are professional goal-setting exercises that you can use to help identify your team's personal and professional goals and aspirations. Going through some of these exercises will allow you to build meaningful connections with them in the process.
Instead of grand gestures, creating a motivated team requires consistent and sustained effort. Make motivation a daily habit through simple expressions of gratitude and set challenging targets based on what they can achieve. Make feedback a two-way street and be generous with it. Lastly, find time to learn what your team is like–both in and out of the office. Motivating a team turns them into self-starters with the right can-do attitude for sales.