How to Use Experiences to Motivate and Unite Your Sales Team

Author: 
Walter Kinzie

If you don't have problems controlling your salespeople, then you probably don't have top sales talent on your team.

I should know – before I learned how to manage sales teams, I was a salesman. We’re a special breed: difficult, stubborn and completely consumed by our own goals and results. If you don’t know how to guide them, top salespeople will chase their definitions of success, which can come at the expense of the team’s goals.

So how do great sales leaders get their teams moving in the same direction? To motivate and unite your sales team, you must create lasting, memorable and influential experiences that encourage them to believe in the goals you set before them.

Experience is the most underrated problem-solving asset in business. Think about it: Our most deeply held beliefs are the ones we develop ourselves. Our parents can tell us a thousand times not to touch a hot stove, but we don’t believe them until we get burned. Experiences are the most effective way to get people to arrive at your desired behaviors and beliefs.

Bring your sales team together regularly and provide experiences that build community. Recognize and celebrate achievement, making sure your salespeople understand and are inspired by your company's mission, to create a community capable of winning together.

Motivating Sales Staff With Face-to-Face Experiences

My company’s collaboration with Mattress Firm provides a great model for how modern organizations can use the power of experience to motivate staff members and drive higher sales. The mattress business typically picks up after Memorial Day, but Mattress Firm noticed its sales were lagging at a time when they usually skyrocketed.

The CEO needed help motivating salespeople to do their best. The higher-ups could have told each salesperson that they worked for a great company and should feel inspired to get out there and sell – but the sales team wouldn’t believe it without experiencing it themselves.

That summer, BEDTalks, the annual Mattress Firm conference, became a sort of roadshow. Instead of the typical corporate conference held in hotel ballrooms with catered buffet lines, the CEO and the executive team drove around the country on a charter bus to connect with the retail employees focused on day-to-day sales. The executives spent at least two hours with sales employees at each location they visited, making presentations and holding a town hall to gather feedback.

Employees from the East Coast to the West Coast were able to interact with the executives in person, providing feedback and asking questions. And the best part was that the leadership team truly listened. They made changes in real time, and the executive team renewed its enthusiasm for the organization as a whole. Mattress Firm increased its sales in the markets the tour bus visited and gained plenty of positive feedback about the company’s culture.

That roadshow turned thousands of high-performing individuals into a single team, united by a shared mission. Employees had heard it directly from the top and had the opportunity to share their feedback with the leadership team. They felt heard, led and inspired. It was the beginning of Mattress Firm’s years-long commitment to a new approach to motivating salespeople.

How to Plan Better Experiences to Motivate Sales

If you want to motivate and unify a team of highly competitive salespeople, unique experiences go a long way. It's not enough to have an executive speak to a crowd, though. You'll need to plan face-to-face interactions, inspiring experiences and engagement that your team will truly remember. Here are a few ways to shake things up at your next sales meetup:

1. Skip the celebrity; give salespeople the microphone.
I’ve seen company after company waste money on keynote speakers who promise to motivate sales teams to reach goals. It’s certainly cool to have a celebrity visit your team, and it’s fun to hear about someone's experience climbing Mount Everest. But the salespeople in the audience are probably wondering what climbing mountains has to do with selling mattresses.

Expecting a hired keynote speaker to motivate, excite or inform your team is passing the buck; it’s lazy and a waste of money. There’s a time and place for celebrity speakers, but you should reserve those for feel-good moments rather than times when you want people to learn, grow and get stronger.

Are you unsure who actually knows about achieving results? Turn to the folks who know your company and your sales cycle best – your sales staff. If your goal for a sales event is to encourage results, it’s much more effective to have a junior salesperson on the main stage than a random celebrity.

2. Rethink giveaways.
In the mid-2000s, I attended a large corporate event where everyone received an iPod. The plan was to encourage employees to listen to the company’s corporate podcast. That might sound like a great idea, but this was back when iPods were relatively new. None of us knew how to operate the devices, so almost nobody listened to the podcast. Instead, we got free iPods that we could use to tune out the boring PowerPoint slides. It was a complete waste.

Stop hosting cheap giveaways that fail to engage your team. Gadgets branded with your company logo are a waste of money – apply those resources in a productive way. We host co-branded product auctions with the proceeds going to charities. In our work with Mattress Firm, for instance, we raised $200,000 for local charities on behalf of the organization’s employees without wasting money on pointless merchandise. In the end, the salespeople were proud to have been part of such effective fundraising efforts.

3. Consolidate your programming.
Companies often rely on breakout sessions to make conferences feel more intimate (and to break up the day). It's a worthwhile goal, but these sessions fail to solve those problems. A well-planned, interactive schedule that is based on creating the best experience doesn't require breakout sessions.

Plan activities that get people up and moving while engaging all five senses. If a session is valuable, it’s worth doing with the whole group. Forcing a speaker to give the same presentation 10 times in a day is a great way to drain their energy. Only a few people will get the information the right way – the rest will hear a tired, watered-down version.

Experience is the most powerful way to unite and inspire your sales organization, but you can't expect the same old conferences to motivate your team. Keep these tips in mind to get the most out of every salesperson and spur incredible results.

Walter Kinzie is the CEO of Encore Live, an experiential marketing and organizational culture company in Fort Worth, Texas.