If you’re leading a sales team – whether in a Fortune 500 company or a small startup or at a family-owned restaurant – one of the constant challenges is keeping your team motivated and working together and staying on the same page. Some people who are really great sales people struggle to be good sales managers – it’s a different set of skills. Also, some great entrepreneurs who are wonderful at founding companies tend to struggle with coaching and mentoring sales people – founders tend to be high-level visionaries who don’t always have the front-line presence or the patience to coach sales people on a day-to-day basis.
Whatever you sell, whatever industry you’re in, whatever the size of your sales team might be, here are a few key concepts and strategies to keep your sales team energized and motivated to sell, sell, sell!
Make Everyone an Owner
Sales people tend to be more motivated when they have a sense of ownership and see a strong connection between their efforts and their rewards. Make sure your sales people are being compensated with significant upside potential where they make more money when the business makes more money. The best sales people will often want to work in an environment with lower fixed salaries but higher potential commissions – they will want to bet on their own ability to be successful sellers so they can capture more of their upside.
Collaborate Internally, Compete Externally
Sales people are sometimes pulled to two different extremes that can make it challenging to maintain effective teamwork: competitiveness and complacency. Some sales people are hyper-competitive and are driven to hit their own individual metrics, no matter what happens to the rest of the team. Other lower-performing sales people tend to get complacent – they get too comfortable with just barely meeting expectations and tend to shy away from pushing themselves harder.
To bridge the gap between these two extremes, try to create a sales team culture where everyone understands that they are not technically “competing” against each other – they are competing against your competitors. Sales people should want to collaborate with each other and see each other succeed – if your company is doing well, there should be enough success for everyone. With the right spirit of internal collaboration, your top-performing sales people will be more likely to support and mentor the other sales people on your team, and your lower-performers will be less likely to get complacent and fall behind.
The best sales people are entrepreneurial, and will often have good ideas on how your business can expand your market share and get new customers. Listen to your sales team and reward them for having initiative and bringing new ideas to you. The best sales people want to work independently and will often “manage” themselves, if you give them a lot of trust and leeway to operate in the way they feel is best, based on the customers’ demands. This doesn’t mean you should give your sales team hands-off treatment – definitely stay in communication with them and make sure everyone is making progress with regular benchmarks and updates. But give your sales people lots of leeway, especially the top performers. Sales people don’t want to be micromanaged. If you treat them as partners and experts who have the power to drive your business forward, they will reward your trust.
Give Them a “Why”
Today’s younger generation in the workforce, the Millennials, tends to be highly idealistic and they want to have a clear sense of mission for the companies that they work for. Sales people, of course, want to make money – but if you’re trying to recruit and retain top sales performers today, you might also need to clarify and emphasize what it is about your company that is truly special from a “mission” and societal-impact standpoint. What is the idealistic purpose behind your company? What important social purpose does your product or service support? If you can answer those questions, your sales people will have an even more powerful reason to stay motivated.
Working in sales shouldn’t feel like a slog – it should be fun! Keep your sales people motivated by celebrating their successes, big and small. Compensation is a big part of this, but there are other ways to reward and encourage your sales team that go beyond money. Get creative with your celebrations – have a bowling party, bring in cupcakes or an ice cream sundae buffet, get a fake ceremonial “best seller sword” or “sales championship belt” for the best sales performer to carry around or wear like a trophy. There are lots of humorous and heartfelt ways to drive engagement among your team.
Coaching and motivating your sales team is not just about daily activities of calling and building relationships with customers, it’s about building relationships among the members of the team. When the sales team is feeling energized, motivated, and collaborating openly together, they’ll be more likely to get big sales results!