Beyond bonuses: How to motivate your sales team

Motivating a company sales team is an inherently difficult task. You can’t depend on what motivated you as a sales rep to also motivate your team. Not only must you be sensitive to the personalities you’re working with, but you must also use more than monetary rewards to encourage your team. A carrot-and-stick approach used alone is ultimately unsustainable.

In fact, motivating your team starts with you, not them. Though you may think you’re hiding it from them, your entire team can sense your disappointment, frustration, and stress during a difficult quarter. A positive mind-set is crucial and must often be intentional. What are you saying to yourself in your head?

Start by being genuinely positive and authentic on the sales floor. Only then can you begin to motivate others on your team.

Start with the right motivational process

To understand what truly motivates your teams, you must first know your employees. What makes them tick? What do they value? Everyone is different, and your motivational strategies should honor that.

For example, while one rep may prefer the boss’s handshake behind a closed door (private recognition), another may like a party in their honor (public recognition), an extra vacation day (convenience), or a parking spot near the front door for a month (public recognition and convenience).

Along with informal conversations, send out quick surveys to determine what motivates each team member. What made them want to work in sales in the first place? What are their career goals?

Make sure your sales managers also understand what motivates their team members. Managers too should have positive mind-sets to inspire their teams.

Use nonmonetary strategies to motivate your sales teams

Team motivation does not have to be expensive. Assuming you already offer fair pay and benefits, nonmonetary strategies can be just as effective. According to a 2009 survey conducted by McKinsey & Company, nonfinancial incentives were rated as more powerful motivators than financial incentives. Use this to your advantage.

Keep motivational efforts simple and aligned with both your company goals and your rep’s personal goals. Below are seven nonmonetary ways to motivate your teams.

1. Celebrate wins in creative ways

Publicly acknowledge the efforts that reps are making to help the company succeed. And don’t focus on celebrating only major wins, such as reaching quota; celebrating small wins can significantly increase motivation as you assign value and recognize great underlying behaviors (e.g., quality customer interactions).

One way that Zendesk’s sales management celebrates sales rep wins is through a “champagne campaign.” Anytime a rep reaches their target number, a bottle of champagne is placed on their desk. It’s a small but effective strategy.

Another simple yet encouraging method is buying gold balloons. Every time a sales rep achieves a certain goal, tie a gold balloon to their office chair. It’s noticeable to the rest of the team and gives people a sense of winning. Even if certain reps are behind, watching people around them win is a motivator to push forward.

Compile a list of rewards that make sense for your company, and ask reps individually what they prefer to receive.

2. Encourage team building

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Empower reps to build interpersonal relationships and encourage a culture of trust and collaboration. Host team outings, such as monthly lunches. To get reps interacting with one another on a regular basis, set up a mandatory watercooler time. Use Slack or a similar platform to create a #watercooler channel. Set up a bot to automatically pair up reps to meet once a week or once every two weeks for 30 minutes. Reps are given context outside of their own tasks and are more motivated to work together.

Another idea is to host a friendly sales contest, such as reps teaming up to reach a certain quota. According to one report, 80% of global sales executives offer goal-oriented competitions, and 47% of them find these contests highly effective. Use prize ideas like “Access to Leadership,” where you take winning reps out to lunch or offer a top parking spot for a month.

Don’t overlook individual mentorship as a team building exercise, either. Pair lower-level reps with senior-level reps. Experienced reps can share how to set realistic goals, what strategies have been effective, and how to speak to customers. Lower-level reps can increase their skill level and professional development.

3. Send motivational emails

Motivational emails are especially effective before a quarter or month close. The right messages can get people in the mind-set to prepare for those final few days. A couple of weeks out, send more directive emails. “Here’s the gap before our big quarter close, and here’s how we’re going to get there.” Share top tips such as how reps can get real with their pipeline or where they can best spend their time.

Closer to the final date of the close, send lighter messages. Reps already know what they have to do—now, get them motivated to cross the finish line. Include GIFs or short, lighthearted videos you create with your managers. This blend of communication styles gives actionable ways to succeed and gets your reps excited about completing the quarter.

In addition to motivational team emails, send individual emails to let team members know that you recognize and appreciate their efforts. According to Reward Gateway, “70% of employees say that motivation and morale would improve ‘massively’ with managers saying thank you more.”

4. Focus on the right metrics

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Introduce metrics that focus on the quality of activities rather than on the quantity. Too often, sales managers focus on misaligned metrics, including sales cycle, activity metrics, and win rate. Although not inherently bad (just used incorrectly), these metrics motivate reps to achieve quick wins rather than build quality customer relationships.

For example, activity metrics (e.g., number of calls made), do not take into account the quality of the calls, emails, or meetings. Were they actually effective in moving a potential customer down the pipeline?

Aligned sales metrics are customer-centric and focus on long-term wins. Lead response time, lifetime value (LTV), and stage-by-stage conversion rate are excellent examples of metrics that motivate your reps toward quality customer interactions.

5. Implement a quarterly stand-up

Sales meetings are often seen as time-wasters, but they don’t have to be. Hold a quarterly meeting with all team members to share what’s coming up for the quarter. Energize the room by being passionate about the information you’re presenting. First, focus on the overall goal for the upcoming quarter. Then, break down the individual goals needed to reach this number.

Also, highlight individual and team benchmarks. How have your reps met the daily, weekly, and monthly goals? Where did team members shine in the last quarter? Walk through the challenging wins they’ve had, and detail how this success can act as a road map for the upcoming quarter.

Most importantly, involve your reps in the presentation. Ask questions and get feedback on how your team feels about the quarter. Speak to their pain points, and address any issues they bring up. Your goal is to identify challenges and offer actionable solutions for the coming months.

6. Demonstrate confidence in reps