Sales Team Motivation

How to Motivate a Sales Team Without Money

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1. How to Motivate a Sales Team Without Money

Consistently motivating is a difficult but essential part of modern Sales Management.

Broadly speaking motivation falls into two different categories namely Intrinsic and Extrinsic.
Intrinsic motivation in sales is a behaviour the salesperson finds personally rewarding, for example, a salesperson may enjoy attending conferences and events because they enjoy the break from routine and like working an exhibition stand.

This person is intrinsically motivated to attend a conference. Conversely, some salespeople may prefer not to travel and dislike lights away from their home and family so for them attending a conference may be demotivating.

External Motivation in sales is a behaviour the salesperson is not naturally motivated to do but does so in exchange for a reward. This may motivate team members in the short term, but long term this needs to constantly replenished such as commission which can become costly.

As an example, you may externally motivate a salesperson to attend conferences and events in exchange for time off in lieu, which would then allow them more time at home with their family.

How to Motivate a sales team without money
Types of Sales Motivation

The good news is there are other ways to motivate a sales team without money that get equal or better results than financial rewards. Theses ways to motivate your sales team include both internal and external drivers and are tailored to every team and every individual as there needs and desires will vary. This can be addressed by doing a personal goal setting session with the sales team and will result in both short term and long term motivation.

Daniel Pink explains the differences in the types of Motivation in a great video below.

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2. What is Sales Motivation and Why Is It Important?

Motivation in sales is the art of inspiring, supporting and leading people to reach or exceed their sales targets in a way that supports the team and the business.

Motivating a sales team can be a never-ending challenge for Business Owners and Sales Leaders. At one end of the scale, the worst-case scenario might be motivating salespeople with little or no motivation who have high levels of absenteeism and at the other end of the scale could be maintaining the motivation of high performers who do hit targets, but need to take their sales game to the next level. 

It’s important to understand that motivation in sales can also be negative, for example, if a salesperson is motivated to reach their sales targets they may “steal” the best sales leads, they may lie to customers or they may not help and support other team members.

The wrong type of motivation can be very destructive and demotivate other members of the sales team.

Whilst money via compensation, commission or sales incentive plans are the “obvious” way to motivate your sales team, these are not always the best for the business or sales outcomes.

Regardless of the industry you serve or the products and services you supply, until you discover How to Motivate a Sales Team without Money could be the difference between your business thriving or surviving. 

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3. What’s More Powerful than Motivation?

Even when motivation creates positive outcomes the biggest single problem is that in many cases it is temporary. For example, many people are motivated to make New Years Resolutions however a study by Strava showed that most people give up on their New Years Resolutions by January 12th every year. 

What’s proven to be more powerful is to find a Cause that the whole team can support and work towards. The main difference between a Cause and Motivation is where personal motivation can dip and needs to be constantly topped up a Cause is self- fueling, like a fire that burns inside.  

As an example Charities often find volunteers to work for free and run marathons because they support their Cause.  

Steve Jobs successfully aligned the Mission of Apple with a Cause that every employee could get behind namely “To contribute to the world by making tools for the mind that advance humankind.” What satisfied Jobs the most was watching kids use Apple products in the classroom.  

How to Motivating Sales People Without Money
How to Motivate your Sales Team Without Money

The best, most engaged, most proficient sales teams all have a Cause they are working towards and they, therefore, are permanently motivated.

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4. Find and Build a Common Cause

The simplest way to find and develop a Cause is to survey the sales team (anonymously) and ask them what would they have liked the company to achieve so much, that if the company did, they would be proud to tell all their family and friends.

This may require some example suggestions and good facilitation but you will be able to find a starting point you can build on.

It’s important to include the Sales team in creating the Cause so they have a sense of ownership and feel included in the decision-making process.

If the Cause is purely based on the CEO’s hopes, beliefs and dreams it is less likely to engage, inspire and motivate the sales team, and will end up as just another poster on the wall.

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5. How to Motivate Demotivated Sales Teams

Motivating a Sales Team without money is pointless unless you find out what is demotivating them first. Before embarking on any programme to engage, inspire and motivate any sales team it’s essential to remove or reduce the roadblocks that are stopping them. This exercise alone if done well will help to re-engage them.

It’s the price, it’s a bad territory, the product isn’t right, our service is poor, I need more support, our website is no good and I never get any leads.

Whether these reasons are true or not they need to be addressed and discussed sooner rather than later.

The reasons salespeople Struggle can be caused by many different things however the real reasons may not be as obvious to either the Business or the Sales Person.

Why does someone who interviewed so well, then perform so averagely or worse? The salespeople all presumably interviewed well or they wouldn’t have received an offer for the position they are now in.

How to motivate a sales team without money
How to Motivate a Sales Team When Sales are Down

After years of talking to salespeople, Managers and Business Owners we’ve created a list of the most common reasons that demotivate salespeople and listed them below in the 23 Road Blocks to Sales Motivation.

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6. The 23 Road Blocks to Sales Motivation

The best way to motivate salespeople is to find and remove the things that are demotivating them. Regardless of how much time, money and effort that you put into motivating the team these Road Blocks will always limit the results so it makes sense to start by removing these.

6.1 They’ve Stopped Learning

The best Salespeople are the best because they continuously want to improve and if they are not learning they then get frustrated because by nature they are usually ambitious. As an example in many cases interest in training typically comes from the top sales performers who are hitting their sales targets versus the under-performing salespeople who never hit their sales targets. The under-performers are usually trapped in their comfort zone and need more help to stretch and grow. Learning is much more than a one or two day course, it forms an integral part of the culture of the company and identifies, develops and rewards high performers. These high performers are the next generation of leaders in the business.

In the motivational video for sales teams below Jim Rohn gives a powerful speech to a group of salespeople on how to use Personal Development to Change their lives.

6.2 Sales Leaders Must Walk the Walk & Not Just Talk

In sales more than any other profession, Salespeople can be overly critical of the Sales Manager and if their Leader is not Walking the walk and just talking the talk they will quickly lose interest in following that leader. Think of it like this. When you go to the gym do you expect the trainer to be fitter than you? Yes of course you do. So when salespeople go to work, they expect their sales leaders to be better than themselves and set the bar high in terms of sales performance, effectiveness and accountability.

This does not mean that the CEO has to be an expert in sales as this is accepted as a more general role covering many different departments and objectives however the Sales Leader must be a specialist, someone they can learn from and look up to in terms of Professional Selling.

6.3 Sales Leaders Must Create a Shared Sales Vision

The most successful Sales Teams have bought into and share the Companys’ Vision, Mission and Values, or rather the company has successfully sold the salespeople the Companys’ Vision, Mission and Values. This way their paths are aligned and they achieve success by working together towards mutually beneficial goals. Jim Collins author of Good to Great talks about having the right people on your bus. If they don’t want to go in the same direction as your bus they will inevitably not contribute to the journey.

Collins goes onto explain how being on-board is not enough, employees need to be on the right seat the bus and as the company grows they may even have to change seats if they don’t or can’t grow with the company. Your company’s Vision is what your Bus aspires to be. Your Mission statement is what the Bus is and what it’s objectives are and the Values are the rules and ethics by which we will run our bus.

If the salesperson is not “bought” into the Leaderships vision of where they are going they will struggle to perform and the worst-case scenario is they stay and form part of a culture of satisfactory underperformance.

Whether in the first 3 months of employment or after 10 years in the position, salespeople and the company leaders need to have a Shared Vision of where they are going. 

6.4 Motivating Struggling Sales Teams

We believe every person inherently wants to turn up at work and do a good job. “Stuff” may get in the way that limits or prevents the salesperson from hitting their sales targets, which then demotivates them. This stuff can appear in the form of excuses that salespeople give for not hitting their sales targets. Sometimes there are genuine reasons why the salesperson is underperforming and some are “fluff” to cover poor performance. The role of the sales leader is to remove all the genuine reasons that reduce or block sales performance which then shines a light on the real reasons or underlying causes of the performance. This may include further training or 1-2-1 coaching which involves time and money and this needs to be evaluated against the cost of having to find and hire a replacement. Ultimately no salesperson will remain in an environment where they are not successful and the business will struggle to attract the right calibre of salesperson if they do not create an environment that facilitates success.

In this video Kellogg School of Management share some practical tips on what can be done to engage teams.

6.5 Money

Once a salesperson is unsettled and decides they need to change jobs, they will then always look for a job with more money as by nature they are ambitious. They do however want and need a reference, so when it comes to the exit interview they are usually unwilling, to tell the truth in case it upsets the employer and jeopardises their reference. After all, if a salesman was to say “I’m leaving because you refused to help me develop and grow, I don’t care about dominating the Global widget market and by the way, your sales process is more like a sales prevention process”, how would the company take it?

It’s much easier just to say “sorry boss it’s not you, it’s me, I simply can’t afford to turn this opportunity down”. This is further evidenced by the number of salespeople who retract their resignation when their current employer matches or exceeds the higher pay offer and then within 12 months quit again but this time it’s for good.

6.6 Sales Team Values

When the salespersons, personal Values are not congruent with the values of the wider team the relationship will rarely either last, or be productive for either party. For example, if an organisation accepts the practice of lying to customers they will struggle to retain staff who hold the personal values of Honesty. The conflict or incongruence in values will grate on the salesperson and they will eventually leave. When Sales Teams share a set of common values they will work as a team and help each other be both successful and achieve more. They will pick each other up during low periods that are inevitable in life and they will drive each other forward during the highs.

There are numerous similarities between high performing Salespeople and modern sports stars. High performing sales teams can also tap into the coaching and management methods of successful teams to gain insights on performance. In terms of motivation, the film On Any Given Sunday includes a now-infamous speech by the coach played by Al Pacino. This is allegedly based on a speech by Marty Schottenheimer in 1989 of the Cleveland Browns which is unconfirmed however it’s a powerful example of how influential a coach can be.

6.7 Sales Methodology

the way, the process, the methods and approach a Sales Person uses to sell are held dear to their hearts like a religion. Ask a salesperson to change the way they approach a sale and it can be like asking a duck to bark. This is most relevant when Sales Reps move from a Transactional to a Complex Sales Process, or even from a largely Account Management role to a more Business Development focussed one. It is possible to retrain Sales Reps to apply a different Sales Methodology however this is dependent on the Salesperson first admitting their methodology will not work in their current situation and then being willing to retrain. 

6.8 Growth Mindset

In Carole Schwecks book Mindset she describes people as having either a fixed mindset or a growth mindset and how those with a growth mindset go on to become successful in all walks of life. Salespeople need to have the mentality of winners and truly believe in the value of their products or services. If they don’t believe they won’t be passionate and they won’t care if they make the sale or not. Mindset or Attitude defines, or at the very least influences, the success of any Sales Reps. not their Sales Skills.

Salespeople with the right attitude will do whatever is necessary to develop their own Sales Skills which is why most employers now hire on Personal Values and Mindset first rather than skills which can be developed. Prior success in Sales does not guarantee the salesperson has the Right Mindset as positive sales results can be the sign of a bullish market rather than great sales performance. Salespeople representing a Brand can often be “carried” by the Brand, as customers overlook their shortcomings, and a lack of effective competition leaves buyers with little real choice. As the saying goes “A rising tide lifts all ships”. 

6.9 How to Motivate a Weak Sales Team Without Money

The new ABC is not always be closing but Always Be Coaching. Rather than having a myopic obsession with sales numbers and KPI’s, the most successful Sales Managers have the skills to train, coach and mentor their sales team. Without an effective Performance Coaching strategy, good salespeople will leave the organisation and the poor performers will stay because it is comfortable for them. Coaching provides a consistent and structured support framework that keeps Sales Reps on track, identifies areas for growth and acknowledges success. Numerous studies show Coaching provides a proven ROI in terms of additional sales revenues and improved workplace culture. You can read more about coaching sales teams in this article.

6.10 Ways to Motivate a Sales Team to Hit Sales Targets

Activity drives results, so to hit sales targets the challenge for Salespeople is that 99% of the activity they do sees no immediate return. Research, planning, preparation, sales calls, sales meetings sales administration, CRM quotes & proposals see on immediate return and in a world where instant gratification is constantly sought it’s easy for Sales Reps to become demotivated and give up on the sales activity that drives results, albeit some days, weeks or months down the line. Matthew McConaughey delivered an amazing speech on life at the University of Houston where he talks about the problem of associating happiness with success. In sales, we never have 100% control of the outcomes or successes because other people are involved. McConaughey talks about moving away from happiness and instead of taking joy from the doing of the task. Whilst this isn’t easy it’s more important in sales than any other role to take enjoyment from the doing of the sales activities equally if not more than the successes or sales wins that follow.

6.11 Setting Motivational Sales Goals

Goals are the “Why” behind what motivates a salesperson; the “Why” is what gets them out of bed in the morning and gets them to work late into the evenings. Goals can, however, demotivate Sales Reps if they are linked to targets that are in the eyes of the Sales Reps impossible to achieve. Salespeople then view the goals as an underhand way of Management making it impossible for them to earn their commissions or bonus. Goal Setting should link personal goals with the business objectives of the company and cover the four main areas of the Salespersons life namely, Personal, Financial, Sales Goals and Development Goals.

The top salespeople in any business are always goal-orientated, but what rarely motivates salespeople are the business goals such as 20% growth, increased sales targets, higher margins and increased market share. Salespeople are motivated by personal goals which have direct relevance to them and their families. A bigger house, a better car, a dream holiday, a weekend away are the obvious ones, but we have coached salespeople with goals like writing a book, passing a driving test, going back to college and all manner of simple and often small goals.

The key to How to Motivate a Sales Team is quite simply to tie in the sales teams goals with the goals of the business. For inside sales, you could offer vouchers for driving lessons as an incentive when they hit certain sales targets. Use vouchers for weekend breaks for field salespeople and their partners as rewards for hitting sales targets.

6.12 Sales Accountability

Every Sales Rep at some stage needs to be held accountable which in itself doesn’t demotivate them however what does demotivate them is seeing under-performing sales reps continuously being allowed by management to underperform.

If Sales Reps do not feel there is any accountability for behaviours and performance there is no incentive for them to try harder or to care about their performance. Sales Accountability is like a performance bar that is set by the Sales Leaders and when the performance bar is low the underperformers will still struggle however the high performers will start to coast to get over it. 

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7. How to Motivate and Lead a Sales Team Without Money

A motivated and well-drilled sales team will outsell one twice it’s size, but only if they have good sales leadership. Salespeople are not motivated by Sales Managers, they are motivated by Sales Leaders.

The best Sales Leaders have a high degree of emotional intelligence and have a natural ability to lead and motivate their Sales Teams.

One analogy we use is that of the knife.

If you imagine a salesperson as a knife. Every interaction the sales leader has with the salesperson should be at 45 degrees and sharpen the blade. Conversely, every interaction a sales manager has is at 90 degrees subsequently this dulls blade and blunts the blade.

What we mean by this is that sales leaders catch people when the do things well. Sales managers catch people when they do things badly.

These interactions are the day to day, seemingly innocuous small conversations that happen. Salespeople take their lead from those above them and if we want them to be better we need to be better at leading them.

Great sales leaders get the sales team engaged and this engagement helps build and maintain motivation.

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8. Motivational Quotes and Tips on Ways to Motivate a Sales Team Without Money

Motivational tips, quotes and speeches will have little to no effect if they are not part of a wider programme that addresses all the reasons that are causing demotivation. It’s easy to fill the walls with posters and quotes but this can be destroyed in seconds if the overall culture is not supportive and positive.

Motivational speeches should be short to retain the attention of everyone and where possible be in a context supporting a wider theme such as teamwork, hard work, consistency and never giving up.

The video of a former soldier and Welsh athlete Steve Jones competing in the 10,000 meters in Brussels, 1983 went viral and is hugely popular with Sales Teams as it exemplifies the benefits of never giving up.

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9. Summary

Sales team motivation will not help when sales are down until whatever is demotivating the team is removed, or addressed in some way. Often, this de-motivation is being caused by a combination of several things rather than just one thing alone.

There are of course many other different issues that may contribute to why a salesperson is struggling, however, some or all of the reasons above will most definitely limit the results of any salesperson if they are not addressed.

Some sales reps may address some or all of the issues on their own, others, however, will need help with these. It is worth remembering that the time and money spent by Leadership addressing these challenges is usually much less than the time or money spent recruiting a new salesperson.

Furthermore, unless you address these challenges, the company is most likely to end up with the same problems with the next salesperson which then creates a revolving door of salespeople.

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You can learn more about how to build a winning sales team via the Complete Guide to Sales Management.

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Author Bio

Iain Swanston has spent over 30 years in B2B sales selling, training and leading teams both domestically and internationally.  In addition he serves as an Associate at Strathclyde University Business School where he has delivered the sales content for the Masters in Entrepreneurship since 2015.

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