5 Keys for Motivating Your Top Salespeople

It goes without saying that your top salespeople are the backbone of your team. Sure, they keep the sales rolling in, but they also play a key role in keeping your entire team motivated. When your top few are hard at work, the rest of the team aspires to their greatness.

However, those top salespeople aren’t robots – they go through burnouts and times where they just need an extra boost of motivation, themselves. The question is, how can you keep them motivated to perform at their best?

Here are five keys for motivating your top salespeople.

1. Help them strive for improvement.

No matter how great your top salespeople already are, they can and will get stuck in a rut if they’re not setting bold goals, learning new skills, and striving to be better.

It’s the same with anything else in life – if you think you’re the bee’s knees at something and you stop working to be better, you’ll fall behind. This can be applied to just about anything: playing an instrument, your golf game, working out in the gym… the list goes on. If you make the choice to stop working on improving, you’ll soon get complacent and stuck.

So, as a sales manager, you need to guide your top salespeople in choosing new skills to learn and next-step goals to accomplish. It could be taking a sales psychology course, improving writing skills to create better proposals/presentations, or sitting with another team in your organization to better understand how they deliver value to the customer. Whatever it is, it should challenge what they know and expand their skill set and/or knowledge base.

2. Involve them in the hiring process.

It’s important to keep your top salespeople feeling like they’re contributing to and leading the team in many ways, beyond just selling. Top salespeople are wonderful assets to use during the hiring process to really get a good snapshot of a potential candidate. To do that, have a candidate spend a day with one of your top salespeople.

The new-hire candidate gets to see first-hand what a typical day looks like, and your salesperson gets an opportunity to do some in-depth screening by asking questions and getting a feel for how much potential the new-hire candidate really has.

Afterwards, ask your peak performer these questions to gauge what he or she thought of the candidate:

  • What questions did the candidate ask you?
  • Did the candidate seem at ease with our customers?
  • What qualities did you observe in the candidate that would be an asset to our team?
  • Did you observe any qualities or habits that could be detrimental to us?
  • If you were me, would you hire this person?

3. Use a success profile.

Instead of waiting for an annual review to come around before helping your top salespeople identify areas of potential improvement, use a success profile to have meaningful discussions more often. This profile will help you focus on more specific development needs, which means your comments will more likely be viewed as helpful feedback than after-the-fact criticism.

A success profile is a simple self-assessment that the salesperson uses to rate him or herself on skills, attitudes and activities of great performers. The profile is comprised of the specific answer to, “What skills and attitudes distinguish our company’s #1 salesperson?”

Examples of skills and attitudes in your success profile could include:

  • Prospects consistently, strong work ethic
  • Excellent at coordinating sales activities of each member of the account team
  • Consistently develops new sales opportunities within existing accounts
  • Attempts to solve customer problems before seeking help
  • Coachable

One additional benefit of having a success profile is that your top salespeople are more able to develop themselves.

4. Raise the bar.

Most companies set a minimum number that a salesperson must sell or they are “de-hired.” While having set minimums is fine and probably necessary, don’t use them for motivating your team. Do you really want your top salespeople to be shooting for the minimum?

No, you don’t. Raise the bar – help your peak performers (and everyone on your team) shoot for standards of excellence, not minimum performance guidelines.

5. Set a breakthrough team goal.

Set a breakthrough team goal for your team can be a huge motivator for your top salespeople. You can’t play it safe if you want to truly inspire your team, so choose a goal that’s “out there.”

The journey to realizing a championship sales team has to start with having a breakthrough or stretch goal – by which I mean a level of performance your team has never achieved before, something currently beyond its capability (or so everyone thinks).

For inspiration in setting your team’s breakthrough goal, think of Diana Nyad. Her personal breakthrough goal was to swim from The Bahamas to Florida! It took her years and five tries to achieve, but she succeeded in the end.

Make your breakthrough goal something that feels difficult, a number that is higher than what your company expects your team to sell. What’s the worst that can happen? A year from now, maybe you and your team won’t have achieved it, but I guarantee that you will have gone further than you previously thought possible.

As the sales manager, it’s your job to keep your top salespeople motivated. Without you striving to help your best salespeople to get better they’ll get stuck in ruts that are hard to get out of. Use these five keys to achieve continuous improvement from your top salespeople. That’s the best way to lead your sales team to greatness!

Kevin F. Davis is the author of “The Sales Manager’s Guide to Greatness,” which has been named the 2018 Axiom Business Book Award Winner, Silver Medal. Kevin is also the author of “Slow Down, Sell Faster!” Visit TopLine Leadership, Inc. for more information. 


Get our newsletter and digital focus reports

Stay current on learning and development trends, best practices, research, new products and technologies, case studies and much more.