I plead guilty to enjoying a cold beer or two, and I’ve watched with amazement as the decade-long bull market in the craft beer industry shows no signs of abating.
Absolutely nothing impacts revenue streams more intensely in the B2B space than the effectiveness of a powerful inside sales team. Regardless of how experienced or driven your salespeople are, motivation is a key factor in driving the best results. That might come in the form of keeping low performers engaged or driving overachievers to excel even further, but pulling the best out of each member of a sales team can’t be done on autopilot; it requires a robust program of recognition and engagement.
Formal and informal reward systems make up a large part of a company’s culture, which also includes things like values, mission, and rules. According to SiriusDecisions, culture informs “decisions sales reps make when the rules and training don’t apply and what sales reps do when they know no one is looking.” Culture is a self-fulfilling and evolving prophecy influenced by behaviors, which are in turn influenced by policy.
It is, therefore, nearly impossible to overestimate the importance of implementing an effective motivation program for sales teams. The short-term boost to results is easily measurable, and the enhancement to culture that improves big picture performance and job satisfaction is seen for many years. While the specific motivating factors that optimize any particular sales team vary from organization to organization, these strategies can help boost results and create a great culture for just about any sales force.
Offer 360 degree training. Product training is part of nearly every onboarding process as most sales professionals are hired on the basis of sales prowess. However, sales training is extremely valuable as the market and effective techniques evolve over time, even for senior team members. Upselling, cross-selling, and product expertise should be in every representative’s repertoire, and providing the training to get them there is the mark of a smart organization.
Set simple and visible financial incentives with defined paths. Careers in sales often draw people who are motivated to succeed by monetary rewards—there’s no sense in denying that. Benchmarks and checkpoints that define these rewards should be organized in a logical way that makes sense, so there is no question to how to succeed and the system is regarded as fair. Keep team members motivated by offering base pay that is reasonable and does not encourage giving up at the first stumbling block.
Put the right rewards in the right places. The 80/20 rule definitely applies to sales, where at least 80% of revenue originates from the top 20%. Incentives should be structured to encourage everyone to join the elite group of overachievers, offering increasing benefit the closer they get. Don’t forget to motivate overachievers to go even further, offering higher rewards for achieving even bigger results in the top category.
Encourage rejection. Top performers have the best success ratios, but sales is largely a numbers game and the law of averages can’t be overlooked. Research from SiriusDecisions indicates that 94.6% of all sales calls end with negative results, but those failures all have much to offer. The consumer insights, competitive intelligence, pain points, and other knowledge acquired through rejection can all power the next round of success—so encourage rejection and more revenue will follow.
Teach investigative probing skills. Failing is the path to succeeding, but all the failures in the world don’t help when nothing is learned. Give team members the green light to engage in conversations that dig for answers. If a prospect is not interested, there is tremendous value in discovering why not. Every sales representative should be armed with strategies for pivoting conversations to refocus them onto pain points and desired solution features so gleaned intelligence can guide subsequent outreach.
Foster the all-powerful relationship. No matter how brief a conversation, a rapport is established that serves as the foundation of relationship building. The strength of that relationship is what will determine the likelihood of a conversion more than any other single factor, so encourage sales reps to cultivate it. Relationship roadblocks like defined scripts or time limits for meetings should be eliminated as they are no substitute for emotional intelligence.
Get your metrics in order. One of the largest inhibitors to long-term success is focusing too heavily on short-term metrics. The number of dials per day can be an inaccurate predictor of big-picture winning. Reviewing call recordings and focusing on the quality of conversations over quantity provide more value. Every meaningful insight extracted from a call should be noted and rewarded, as well as quality leads, even if they don’t ultimately convert.
Stop fearing fear. Rejection goes with sales. That’s easy enough to say, but the reality is rejection can quickly turn into fear when left unchecked. Weather it is fear of annoying people, fear of getting yelled at, or fear of making a mistake, fear can bring progress to a grinding halt in short order. Give your team members permission to admit their fears and provide channels for them to talk through them. The best sales leaders are all part therapist.
Build the right spirit of competition. Careers in sales naturally attract competitive people and many leaders take advantage of this to try to generate sales, however, competition only works when it is healthy. Teams always achieve more than individuals, so best practices and learned tricks should be actively shared across the full sales force. Top performers should feel more like coaches than victors, encouraged to share what they know without fear of being usurped. The cream will always rise to the top, but bad dairy curdles quickly.
Your sales family includes spouses, children, and other loved ones. Do your team members often need to work extra hours, take business trips, or engage in other activities that take them away from their families? Nothing kills productivity faster than a salesperson facing personal issues, but involving family members in as many activities as possible can be a key to easing friction caused by work stress. If sales reps are working extra hours to earn an incentivized trip, it makes it much easier for family members to support that endeavor if they get to go too.
Selecting and implementing strategies to best motivate your team draw heavily on the personalities involved, markets served, and nature of the products or services offered. They are all rooted in human psychology and typical business success, so the right combination of them served in the proper proportions should result in revenue growth that is both measurable and sustainable.
Marcel Florez is Senior Vice President at leading sales execution firm N3, where he serves as the worldwide lead in managing sales generation for Microsoft cloud solutions.