Essentials for Motivating Salespeople

“Hey, it’s a jungle out there”. A brilliant meeting followed by a woeful meeting; the emotional roller-coaster world of sales.

You’re up and down within minutes, depending on the client’s interest and reaction. You’re always too early or too late for the business chance.

The client is never on your timetable, especially your schedule around meeting the month’s quota. So how do we keep salespeople motivated to push through and produce the needed results?

Managing salespeople requires time-usage perspective. Break the team composition down to some key segments; the star, the non-performer, the new or developing, and the plateaued employee.

Our natural instinct is to spend a disproportionate amount of our time on “fixing” non-performers. Stop doing this!

Instead, spend only 10% of your time on it and give them clear guidelines, firm activity targets, lots of encouragement and sell them hope.

Tell them they can do it but let them do it—don’t do it for them. Send them to training to get the required skills.

The plateaued employee should get slightly more attention—around 15% of your valuable time. This group needs you to model the sales process, to go together on joint calls and to receive your coaching.

Set realistic activity levels, monitor achievement and let them know that your time becomes more available to them the more they achieve results.

The new and developing deserve 25% of your attention. Their attitude and skills are good, but they lack experience. Extra coaching, your modelling of the sales technique, and priming the pump with some new leads all set them on a course for becoming high-level performers.

In fact, they are keen and want to succeed, to challenge the more established performers for the top sales spot.

The star performer is often neglected because we see them as capable, skilful, competent, already producing—we think we just need to get out of their way and let them get on with it, and use our time to do other things.

Big mistake! They need 50% of our time.

Their capacity for even bigger deals, bigger clients and more strategic solutions is the greatest you have available to you.

Don’t waste this succulent opportunity by spending your time with low-level performers who, even if they doubled their production, would not make a great deal of difference to the overall monthly quota achievement.

Get the star performers dealing exclusively with higher-level strategic accounts. With your seniority and contacts you often will have better initial access, and so can clear their path forward.

Don’t use your prime client opportunities as a training exercise for less capable salespeople!

Keep thinking of new ways to challenge the stars. They have the capacity to do more complex deals so keep pointing them in this direction.

At the same time, clear obstacles, find them needed resources, and don’t forget to praise and appreciate them.
Often these employees are highly driven, so we think they are totally self-contained and don’t need our recognition. Not true! They may not need it but they still want to hear it from you.

Formal, informal and daily recognition tools are some of the basics in the sales manager’s toolbox. Examples of formal recognition are awards, reward trips, plaques and pins, while informal acknowledgment is a spontaneous recognition of milestones achieved.

Examples include an individual or team lunch, tickets to a film or sporting event, a holiday or food. Daily appreciation might include a simple “thank you”, a congratulatory handwritten note, or recognition in front of the group.

Be careful with this last point in Japan. Being singled out for praise in front of one’s peers can be uncomfortable in a group-oriented culture like Japan, where fitting in is more valued than standing out.

Murahachibu (banishment from village collective celebrations and joint activities) was a traditional exclusion technique used to punish those who didn’t fit in. Japanese know that in many cases if you stand out in Japan, the knives will come out!

So, very often to give praise in private is a safer bet.

However, when you do give praise—whether in private or in public—be specific. Tell employees what you admire, the reason (with actual evidence), and then ask them a question so you can shut up and they can do the talking.

By the way, “good job” is the most pathetic form of praise as it is so meaningless. Many bosses use it; don’t be one of them. Rather, be clear and precise about exactly what workers did well.

Top salespeople are competitive but money isn’t the only recognition tool available to you. Find out what else each of your sales team members want and tailor rewards to them.

Knowing what your individual team members want should be a big part of your psychoanalyst role as sales manager. There are many studies done on engagement, motivation and what employees want from their organisation. Read these for reference but, better still, just ask!

Spend time uncovering the desires and aspirations of your people. By the way, these change over time, so keep checking what tangibles and intangibles they are seeking.

To motivate your team, try this: praise early, praise often, praise with detail, and reward with what they want—not what you think they want.