For the best sales results, you need to have a highly motivated team bringing their A-game, day in and day out. Often, it's up to sales managers to make sure their team maintains this positive and results-driven attitude.
But it’s not always easy.
According to our Top-Performing Sales Organization research, 55% of Top Performers agree that managers are effective at creating and sustaining maximum selling energy compared to only 32% of The Rest. Of course, management isn't the only key influence on sales motivation.
What Is Sales Motivation?
Sales motivation is one of the eight categories of the Sales Performance WheelSM, our framework for sales performance analysis. It focuses on sellers' attitudes, leadership's ability to create and sustain selling energy, and the organization's culture with respect to selling. Along with autonomy, mastery, and purpose, there are other factors of motivation to consider. Sellers may be motivated by:
- Compensation: Bonuses, sales commissions, salary
- Incentives: Products, vacations, extra time off
- Achievement: Being a top performer, completing a project, reaching goals
- Altruism: Desire to help others, giving to others
- Advancement: Promotions, climbing the corporate ladder
- Creativity: Thinking outside the box, creating new solutions
- Recognition: Awards, public recognition, team recognition, individual recognition
- Leadership: Leading teams and projects to success, mentoring and coaching others
The key is to find out what motivates each individual and then align their goals with that.
5 Fundamentals to Increase Sales Motivation
Companies commonly focus on compensation, bonuses, and incentives to get top performance out of their sales team. Yet sellers bring their own intrinsic motivation to their jobs, and it's up to the organization to tap into them. So how exactly can you increase sales motivation for yourself and the rest of the team?
Here are the five areas we recommend you focus on:
1. Culture and Company
We’ve seen organizations where selling is respected—where other business units and employees consider the sales team vital. We’ve seen organizations in which sellers enjoy tremendous support from leadership.
We’ve also seen the polar opposite.
Ultimately, if you want to maximize sales motivation, your culture and company needs to support sellers as much as possible.
Anyone who has worked in an organization with an unsupportive, chaotic, or toxic culture understands why. It’s difficult to stay motivated when you don’t believe in the place you work, or your employer doesn’t seem to believe in you.
On the other hand, a supportive culture and company can give sellers exactly the purpose they need. When sales leaders tap into this purpose, their sellers often:
- Dedicate themselves to action plans
- Strengthen their sense of ownership for achievement
- Find the motivation to persevere in the face of obstacles
Imagine an army of sellers who don't just sell because it's their job; they sell because their own sense of purpose is driving them to reach their potential. They know their company and the people around them have their back.
It’s a powerful thing.
How Do You Develop a Culture and Company that Motivates Sellers?
Sales leaders need to uncover what motivates individual sellers, and then have sales managers and coaches help sellers define their goals, build action plans to achieve them, and hold them accountable. When you unleash purpose, the likelihood of unleashing sales motivation skyrockets.
If a seller doesn't have a fire in their belly, it's very hard to light one. But if a seller does have that fire—even a flicker—the right manager can help the flame burn bright. Our research has shown that Elite Performers are more than 2x as likely to have managers who make an effort to motivate sellers.
Here are a few ways sales managers can set the stage for seller success:
- Help sellers see how they can achieve challenging goals: Work with sellers to define goals and build action plans to meet them. Then hold sellers accountable to those actions on a weekly basis.
- Foster a supportive culture: Enable sellers with the tools, materials, resources, and support they need to win.
- Create maximum selling energy: Celebrate successes, keep lines of communication open, and help sellers’ fire burn bright.
- Set challenging but achievable goals: Challenging goals are more motivating. Be sure sales goals and quotas are challenging, yet achievable.
In the end, sales management is responsible for creating an environment that motivates its sellers.
Sometimes, it’s all about mindset and perspective. To that end, we've put together 54 of our favorite sales quotes from RAIN Group's best-selling books, research reports, white papers, and award-winning blog that will inspire you—and your sales team—to reach top performance.
Need a sales morale boost?
View and download 54 Sales Quotes to Motivate and Inspire.
3. Intrinsic Motivators
Conventional wisdom holds that sellers are motivated by money. True! But there's a lot more to the story. Sellers can be motivated by many intrinsic factors, such as:
- Winning (not necessarily related to money)
- Personal development
When you know what motivates any one individual person, you can focus on drawing that motivation out on a regular basis.
What’s more, motivation isn’t static. There are specific habits that, when applied consistently, inspire and strengthen motivation across teams. Here are three ways to bring that motivation out.
Motivation is a skill more than an innate attribute. You can recruit your drive, building it like muscle. In our Extreme Productivity research, we studied 2,377 business professionals to learn what the most productive people do to manufacture motivation, control their time, and execute at the highest levels.
I'm a very driven person.
Interestingly, we found that The Extremely Productive (The XP) are 2x more likely to be driven than The Rest. Driven by what, though? Often, that drive is emotional. You can rationalize it in all sorts of ways. "I want to make more money. I need this promotion to get to the next step."
You want money for freedom. You want money to do what you want to do with your time. Promotions bring prestige. They bring hope of career advancement and fulfillment. These are desires. If you want your desires to come true, you need disciplined action to help you get there.
How you manage your calendar and your expectations of what you'll get done every week drives whether you accomplish it or procrastinate. Proactivity drives productivity and motivation. Procrastination kills it. The Extremely Productive (The XP) are 2.7x more likely to be proactive than The Rest. This is a key driver of productivity.
I am very proactive.
Yet, everyone—even the most productive people—procrastinate every once in a while. When there's something you know you need to do that seems difficult, it requires a lot of energy to get started. So you avoid it. If you avoid getting started on difficult things, it doesn't mean you aren't working. You can fill your days with work. That's easy. Sit back and react to email? No problem. Show up to the meetings on your calendar? Check.
On the other hand, turning off your email, putting your phone in the drawer, and diving into your Greatest Impact Activity (GIA) isn’t so easy. The most productive people have it figured out:
- They start their day focused on their GIA.
- They put their GIA in their calendar.
- They stay focused on their GIA, and, even when pressed to do so, don't react to other people's agendas.
In fact, only 4% of The XP feel like they react to other people's agendas instead of driving their own. Igniting your proactivity is about making the effort. It’s about getting started on the actions that'll get you where you want to go.
And when you’re making progress on your goals, it’s motivating!
Understand habits and you can change them as you wish. Our research shows that 63% of The XP agree that their work habits contribute significantly to their productivity.
My work habits contribute significantly to being extremely productive.
Fortunately, you can change even the most embedded habits if you know how. When you understand how habits work—The 4 Elements of Habit—you can replace habits that don’t support sales motivation for ones that do.
- Trigger: Something happens that cues action. For example, your email alert dings while you're working.
- Thought: The cue triggers a thought, even if it's fast or subconscious. The thought might be, "I should check the new email."
- Response: Following the thought, you take action by toggling over to your email to read the new message.
- Reward: This is your gain or payoff. "Oh great! That report I'm waiting for is in. I'll stop what I'm doing and take a look."
Why's habit change so important for motivation? Your habits either drain you or give you energy. It’s hard to stay motivated when you’re drained.
Employ the habits that will fuel your energy to maintain motivation.
Execution is affected by many factors. There’s a person’s talent, skills, and intrinsic motivations. There’s operations and enablement. We’ve found that defining the right goals and strategies is a critical step toward maximizing sales energy, focus, and engagement—essential ingredients for better sales execution.
One study, for example, looked at assessment results of 400,000 sellers and compared the top 5% of sellers to the bottom 5%. Interestingly, of the top 5% of sellers, 100% have personal written goals. Of the bottom 5% of sellers? Only 16% have personal written goals.
This data tells us that the most motivated sellers make sales execution tangible. They write down their goals. They have a roadmap in place to achieve those goals, including hard action items and timelines. Most importantly, they and their sales managers have an accountability framework in place to make sure this roadmap is executed.
In our research report, The Value-Driving Difference, we looked at the differences between companies that are value-focused and those that aren’t. One of the most surprising correlations was the relationship between value and sales motivation. Companies that have a true focus on value for buyers are much more likely to have highly motivated sales forces.
Perhaps nothing is more demotivating to sellers as needing to hit quota and selling as much as possible regardless of whether it adds value to buyers. That's not to say that having a quota isn't important. From our research we know that companies with achievable sales goals are more likely to have motivated sellers. But having goals alone isn't enough.
Too many organizations focus on motivation directly. Focus on value and you'll unleash the sales motivation you’re after. In fact, Value-Driving Sales Organizations are 2.5x more likely to say their managers and leaders are effective at creating and sustaining maximum selling energy from sellers and they’re 2.2x more likely to say their culture drives and supports sellers' motivation to succeed.
Vibrant, proactive sales organizations have value at the core.
- Differences between value-driving and non-value-driving sales organizations
Ultimately, Sales Motivation Goes Deeper than Money
The organizations stuck in the old “throw more money at it” mindset are now finding that true sales motivation requires a more comprehensive approach. The numbers don’t lie: organizations with an immature approach to sales motivation tend to experience poor performance and high turnover.
The framework we’ve laid out above—Culture and Company, Management, Intrinsic Motivators, Execution, and Value—is a great place to start.
Remember: purpose and value. If you want to boost sales motivation, you need to look beyond changing compensation and the challenges that come with it. Instead, work towards building a value-focused sales organization that gives sellers real purpose.