November 15, 2023
March 1, 2024

8 Tips to (Healthily) Motivate Sales Teams

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Anyone who owns a business that aims to sell to consumers or other businesses understands the importance of sales teams. Every individual in a company is important, but salespeople are the foundation of a business’s income. These people are usually outgoing, energetic, and motivated, which makes them perfect for the work they do.

But even the best salesperson on your team can only maintain that energy and that motivation in a healthy environment. Motivation only thrives when salespeople feel supported to do their best work. We’re not talking about carrot-on-a-stick motivation here—no, this blog is about developing and maintaining intrinsic motivation for salespeople so that your teams are excited and enabled to give their all each day.

Here are the eight ways you can help sales teams develop and maintain healthy motivation:

  1. Build a supportive culture
  2. Understand your people
  3. Set purpose-driven goals for everyone
  4. Focus on behaviors, not results
  5. Plan the destination, not the path
  6. Find a balance between collaboration and competition
  7. Recognize, recognize, recognize
  8. Let salespeople choose their own rewards

When a company focuses on these tips, their salespeople will be more motivated; and engaged, motivated salespeople are 21% more profitable than unengaged ones. Let’s take a closer look at these eight ideas.

1. Build a Supportive Culture

This step may sound broad or intimidating, but bear with us—it’s actually pretty simple. The first way to transform your sales culture is to make sure everyone feels valued. 93% of employees who feel valued by their leaders are motivated to do their best work, and you can convey value in a lot of different ways:

  • Ask for and listen to everyone’s opinions.
  • Get to know each person on a personal level.
  • Provide flexible working arrangements in whatever way you can.
  • Offer career growth and developmental opportunities.

Another way you can create a culture of support and care is by building trust in your sales teams. Your salespeople have to trust you—your knowledge, your experience, and your genuine care for them—in order to be fully motivated in their work. Showing that you value your employees (like we talked about above) is one way to build trust. Another great way to build trust is to be open, honest, and consistent in your communication.

A few other ways to build trust include admitting when you’re wrong or when you’ve made a mistake, honoring any commitments you make to your teams, and showing that you have your team’s best interests at heart.

Once your sales team is built on a foundation of value, trust, and support, your salespeople will intrinsically have more motivation.

2. Understand Your People

This is a big topic that is important for every manager in every department, but it’s perhaps most important for sales leaders. It’s all too easy to lump all salespeople into the same category (extroverted, competitive, loves attention), but that kind of stereotyping can be harmful to your team members’ motivation.

One thing that can vary greatly with different salespeople is how they like to be managed. Some may really appreciate a more hands-on approach to management, but others may want to be left to their own devices. Learn what approach each of your employees prefers and then strive to modify your behaviors to accommodate that.

Think of it this way: different prospects respond better to different sales styles, right? Well, the employees selling your products are no different. They respond to different management styles, and they’ll feel motivated when they’re supported in their preferred way.

Another big part of understanding your people is understanding what drives them. What are their goals? Where do they see themselves a year, five years, or 10 years from now? What do they hope to accomplish in both their professional and personal lives? Once you understand what’s important to them, you’ll have a better idea of what motivates them.

3. Set Purpose-Driven Goals for Everyone

Now that you’ve created a culture where your salespeople can thrive and you understand each of them better, you can get into the nitty-gritty details. Sales goals can be anything from a monthly quota to a yearly net new deal goal, but the main thing you have to remember is that each person is different (this ties in perfectly with the last tip!). While a standard sales quota may motivate some people, others may need a different type of goal. Set team goals that motivate everyone, and help each person set meaningful individual goals as well.

No matter what goals you end up setting, you have to make sure that they’re purpose-driven as well.

What does that mean, exactly? It means that your salespeople find meaning in the work that they do and the goals that they strive for each day. Your teams need to walk away from work feeling good about what they did (those who feel that way are more motivated and committed).

As an example, Awardco sells employee recognition and reward software. But instead of setting a goal to make X amount of cash this quarter, we could set a goal to help X number of employees feel more appreciated at work. Or save HR reps Y amount of time. This small change will motivate employees because they’ll find meaning and satisfaction in their work, not repetitive drudgery.

4. Focus on Behaviors, Not Results

We were going to tie this section into the last one, but it’s important enough to have its own space. Goals are vital for any sales team, and you should always aim high. But focusing only on results can make employees feel stressed and burnt out, which eats away their motivation faster than we can eat a pint of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream (trust us, that’s fast).

What we mean by results are the things out of your salespeople’s control. Things like whether or not a prospect decides to buy or how much money they decide to spend. Things that are in your salespeople’s control, however, are their behaviors. How many calls they make, how well they listen during those calls, how they collaborate with their coworkers, etc.

When you focus on the behaviors that are in your employees’ control, your people will feel empowered to do their best because they’ll feel accomplished with their efforts, even if they just couldn’t get Suzy to renew for another year. And the best part is, when you encourage, reward, and drive these behaviors, you’ll almost always see better results as a…result.

5. Plan the Destination, Not the Path

You’ve probably heard something like this before, but it’s a good tip, so we’re going to repeat it. The goals mentioned above are a destination for your sales teams, and it’s great to plan out exactly what you want to accomplish for a given time. But you shouldn’t plan out each sales rep’s path for them. Instead, let them plan their own path to reach the shared destination.

In simple terms, don’t micromanage. Nobody wants that. Studies show that people are more motivated when they’re treated like partners, not someone who needs babysitting. So trust your salespeople enough to let them work in their own ways at their own pace, and then hold them accountable for their efforts.

6. Find a Balance Between Collaboration and Competition

Competition can be a great motivator. Whether the prize is bragging rights, a trophy, or cash, competing to win can bring out the best in people. However, sales teams are just that: teams. They find the most success when working together, collaborating, and sharing in successes. So how can you find the right balance between collaborating and competing?

  • Focus competitiveness on the competition. Your business is already competing with other businesses in your industry. Why not use that to fuel the competitive fire that many salespeople crave?
  • Hold inconsequential competitions. Light-hearted competitiveness and rivalries can be a lot of fun, but only if there isn’t a lot at stake. Buy a silly trophy that sales teams can compete for, or give the winners their choice of candy bar. These types of small prizes can bring out the competitive spirit in people without bringing out negative feelings for those who lose.
  • Set both individual and team targets. For individual goals and targets, push each salesperson to compete against themselves. For team targets, whether yearly goals or end-of-month sales pushes, offer performance-based bonuses or rewards for the entire team, not just the highest performer. That way everyone will collaborate and support each other to excel.
  • Use ambition wisely. Ambitious salespeople are a blessing for sales teams, so you should never stifle their initiative or ambition in order to lower competition. What you can do is ask ambitious team members to take on collaborative projects, such as mentoring a less-experienced coworker, and then recognize their efforts.

Healthy competition is a great thing in sales, but your goal should always be to foster an environment of collaboration, cooperation, and teamwork before anything else. Once that culture is in place, healthy competition can take everyone’s motivation one step further.

7. Recognize, Recognize, Recognize

Here are two stats for you to chew on: 40% of Americans would put more effort into their work if they were recognized more often, and 88% of employees who feel valued are more engaged.

And here’s one more fact from the Harvard Business Review: symbolic rewards—such as handwritten cards or public recognition—have a significant effect on an employee’s intrinsic motivation and performance. In fact, recognition is even more effective than monetary incentives.

This tip is simple to understand: when you work hard and are recognized for your efforts, you feel valued, which feels good. When you feel valued and good, you want to work hard again. Salespeople work hard all day trying to win clients and customers for you, and they deserve to be recognized. Whether that’s a hand-written thank you card or a personalized birthday gift, good recognition shows employees that you care about them as a person, not just a faceless employee.

So while monetary incentives can and should be used to motivate sales teams, they shouldn’t be the main focus. Your main focus should be recognizing each salesperson personally as often as you can.

Pro tip: Awardco lets both leaders and employees recognize those around them. With both manager-to-report and peer-to-peer recognition, you can build a culture of appreciation and foster greater collaboration.

8. Let Salespeople Choose Their Own Rewards

Whether you create a sales contest, an incentive program, or an employee-of-the-month system, your sales teams won’t be motivated by rewards that they don’t want. After all, why should someone who dislikes golf put in extra effort if the only incentive reward is a set of golf clubs?

Awardco offers a reward network full of millions of reward options for employees to choose from. All you have to do is reward your salespeople with points that they can then use on whatever they want. You can even set up a custom sales incentive program with a completely customized catalog of rewards for your sales teams! 

Or, you can simply ask each person what they want (within a budget) and get it for them when they accomplish their goal. Whatever method you choose, everyone will be motivated to do their best because they will actually get a reward that excites them!

Light That Motivational Fire

Sales teams pull a lot of weight in a company, and that can create a lot of pressure and stress that lowers motivation. With the above tips, you can build a culture that both supports employees and pushes them to excel in a collaborative and rewarding way. Don’t settle for monetary incentives that only reward a few people. Recognize and celebrate everyone on your sales teams, and you may be surprised how consistently high your sales numbers are.