Sales professionals tend to be lumped into one of two categories: you’re either a sales superstar or you’re not. As it turns out, most sales reps are not. They fall somewhere in the middle — that gray area between sales whisperer and weak link. And guess what? Those average performing “B players” are actually a company’s most valuable asset.

Don’t believe me? Take a look at the 20-60-20 theory. This concept of categorizing staff, notes that 20 percent of a sales force includes top performers and 20 percent are struggling, but that 60 percent are somewhere in the middle. Like any group of employees, a sales team is a set of individuals with varied skills, and therefore, varied levels of potential and motivation. Motivating only the top performers on a sales team is a flawed idea. It sounds obvious, but it’s a fact that sales managers all too often forget.

In fact according to research from Maritz, since the 60 percent core group is so large, by increasing performance by 5 percent from the middle, an organization can yield more than 70 percent more revenue than they can through a 5 percent performance boost among top performers.

We all know that when it comes to motivating sales reps, running contests around desired behaviors and results can enhance company sales by getting people focused and energized around a goal. Taking that one step further and tailoring those competitions to fit each performance level within an organization, especially those middle-of-the-road performers, is a strategy that can take a business to the next level.

Here are three easy ways to motivate the middle, which can be especially useful when paired with sales motivation tools:

1) Don’t keep your eyes only on the prize.

The prize is not what motivates. Of course incentives and perks help spark interest in employee participation. But the experience of the competition, and sales reps being able to see their rankings on a leaderboard via either a mobile app, computer screen or big screen monitors up around the office, creates an immediate call to action. Competition and the buzz in the office are what truly energize the team.

2) Create thoughtful competitions.

Managers can’t just throw a few competitions together, slap on badges here and there and expect to incentivize general sales performance. To run a gamification program that works, identify problem areas for each tier of the sales team. If a manager can measure it, they can motivate it. This is one of the grand visions of using CRM software; managers can measure their sales teams’ actions throughout the entire sales process. But what are you doing once you have those metrics?

Take advantage of the insight your CRM offers, and focus competitions on the activities that lead to sales. For example, trigger contest points for converting leads, or making calls, having face-to-face meetings, or advancing opportunities to key sales stages. But be particular about which areas you choose to motivate and careful not to reward too many things at once — oftentimes, the simpler the better.

3) Most importantly, remember: One size doesn’t fit all.

The beauty of sales motivation software is that managers can run multiple competitions simultaneously. Take advantage of that flexibility and create three separate contests, customized for each peer group (low performers, average performers, top performers).

This way sales reps are matched up against others with similar skill sets, which ends up raising everyone’s performance. No more contests where people at the bottom of the leaderboard just feel frustrated.


When it comes down to it, this is all about running competitions within groups of individuals with similar skill sets and performance histories. The types of sales behaviors that managers should motivate by performance group are as unique as each sales rep. So, figure out what that behavior should be for your middle-level performers and start motivating. They’re likely your most valuable asset.