by David Bernard | June 10, 2019

Motivating sales teams is a strategic issue for the growth of most organizations. With employee engagement levels at an all-time low, motivating salespeople and acknowledging their efforts is critical to the success of any organization. For most employees, there are three instinctive motivations that influence engagement: 

  1. Remuneration and rewards 
  2. Achieving successes and exceeding goals 
  3. Recognition and security

Providing Remuneration and Rewards to Salespeople

Well yes, this seems obvious, and the argument that remuneration and rewards are important for any employee is certainly true. But for salespeople this is a real factor. It is therefore essential that rewards and compensation are strongly linked to performance. 

Despite this, there are still a large number of companies who operate with small commissions, or with rewards that are poorly linked to the employees' accomplishments. These companies are then surprised by the poor performance of their salespeople or by seeing the best of them move on. Understand that no matter what sector a company is in, the remuneration structure is a decisive element for improving the performance of sales teams. When designing that system, it's critical for companies to have a real gap between the excellent, the good, the average and the people who struggle. The best won't be motivated to go above and beyond if there's little-to-no difference. 

Salespeople also respond well to employee rewards that are linked to the implementation of specific challenges over a quarter or a year. They should relate to a specific issue for the company, e.g., an action on a type of market segment, a challenge based on prospecting, sales of a new feature, etc. Organizations don't necessarily need to put a cash bonus into place, it's the reward that's important whether it be gift cards, travel incentives, paid time off, or even a prime parking spot.

Reaching Goals and Achieving Success

Sales staff are generally driven by success. They need victories to move forward. It is therefore important to start them off on the right foot. When hiring new executives, companies need to first build their confidence. For example, it helps to increase difficulty over time, along with the objectives. Instead of challenging salespeople with selling contracts straight off the bat, put in place objectives around the different steps before closing; demonstrating solutions, argumentation and setting up meetings. A Gallup study showed that strength-based development leads from 10 percent to 19 percent in increased sales.

We've also noted in our studies that salespeople like to evolve in challenging environments. The idea here isn't to set impossible objectives, but to set ambitious targets. It's important to create an atmosphere conducive to the growth of every member of the team. Organizations can motivate teams to produce sales, but they should also focus on the quality of their arguments, their listening skills and questions during meetings, or even their attitude during trade shows and conferences.

Recognition and Security for Salespeople

Surprisingly, salespeople seem less concerned by recognition and security than the general population. As far as recognition is concerned, this can easily be explained. Generally, each individual has precise indicators and numbers available based on their results compared to their objectives. It is therefore easy for each salesperson to measure their real contribution to the company. 

However, this doesn't mean that managers shouldn't congratulate or celebrate successes. Salespeople are also less concerned with job security. They can take risks more easily than the general population. This allows them not only to be at ease in a job where the activity is clearly driven by performance, but also to change jobs if a more interesting offer comes along in another company.

The question of motivation is a subject that's always difficult to manage no matter what the position - since motivation is often something very personal for everyone. Despite this, organizations need to set up a strong system that will motivate the largest number of people. This has to take into account the perks and benefits offered by the company and also the tendencies of the market.

David Bernard is CEO of AssessFirst, a predictive recruitment firm used by more than 10,000 recruiters to help them find the right candidates and optimize organizations' HR strategies.