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Making Motivation Last

Making Motivation Last

As all sales managers know, motivation can be a fleeting thing. Some days, your reps are inspired to achieve more. They are engaged, laughing on sales calls, and there’s a spring in their step as they traverse the office, guiding meetings with insight and outlining new processes for the betterment of the team. If only you could bottle this exuberance! However, motivation, like inspiration, is a fickle muse; it’s here today but gone tomorrow. With time, most reps will pick themselves up, eventually. But organizations cannot wait for that mysterious spark to return. Sales success is based on consistency, and the best sales managers must guard against the lack of motivation that can arise after lost deals, economic downturns, or even rainy Monday mornings. Here are a few tips for how sales managers can make motivation last:

Competitive Compensation

While it’s a fallacy that all sales pros are only out to make a buck, the reality is all professionals want to be fairly compensated for their expertise. As the sales environment continues to evolve, it’s essential your commission plan is updated regularly and based on company objectives and priorities to reflect these changes. Keep your compensation and commission structure competitive, but explain any updates and adjustments to your team so you’re not creating confusion or animosity.

Incentivize Performance

While commissions and bonuses are important, they’re not the only tool in the arsenal to drive performance. Sales managers should get to know the things that inspire their team members. A golf lover may be motivated by a gift certificate to a favorite sporting goods store or, even better, a weekend outing on an exclusive course. A prize that reaches a rep’s prime motivators not only provides the incentive to pick up the pace, but it also makes the work more enjoyable. The same holds true for reps who love taking classes or working out at their gym. The trick is to know your reps as individuals and tailor your prizes and motivators to their interests as well of those of their families, including spouses, kids, and even pets.

Challenge Your Sales Reps

To boost motivation, managers should issue periodic challenges to their team. According to a study by Harvard Business Review, cited in the, setting multi-tier targets helps increase performance. In the study, reps were split into two teams, top performers versus core performers. The core performers were given a three-tier target: a number previously achieved by most reps, a number achieved by a small number, and a third that was only achieved by the elite. The top performers were only given two tiers: the first and third. With the increased motivation, the core performers outperformed their top teammates who were not as motivated by their reduced challenge.

In addition, setting daily, weekly, monthly, and/or quarterly goals, is another way to keep a team motivated. The more managers challenge their reps, the more they will feel inspired.

Encourage Friendly Competition Among the Team

For many, competition can be a prime motivator. From the time we were in grade school, nothing can ignite one’s inner “I’ll-show-you” like competing against an equal or even superior player. This is probably even more true with sales reps, many of whom pride themselves on outperforming their competition at other organizations. A healthy competition between teammates can bring out the best in everyone, especially if the emphasis is always on fun. Set up a sales contest and track the results on a whiteboard or electronically so everyone can see the progress. In addition to the camaraderie, your sales reps will most likely rise to the occasion, just for the bragging rights alone.

Be Creative

Like any profession, sales can become mundane. Barring a new product roll out, which doesn’t happen every day, many reps are faced with selling the same products to similar clients day in and day out. To keep them motivated, successful sales managers should strive to inject a little creativity into their reps’ routines. Whether it’s a new prospecting strategy or a new way of connecting with clients, managers should look for ways to experiment with the tried and true. Encourage reps to take chances and try new things. Anything you do to keep things fresh can motivate reps for the next challenge.

Foster Teamwork

Some reps are motivated by working alone, but more are probably motived by teamwork. The give and take of collaboration can be inspiring and open new ideas and ways of doing things that reps may not have considered. While many teams will be limited by working remotely, schedule as many team exercises as you can without interrupting your workflow. A healthy mix of formal and informal meetings can keep your team engaged and motivate them to share new ideas. Work with a colleague on an important account in which you share responsibilities, knowledge/experience, and workload. Encourage teamwork with flexibility when it comes to landing contracts or splitting commission. On a basic level, teamwork can simply be sales reps helping each other out, sharing ideas, having an open-door policy. Managers should look for ways to use teamwork to boost morale and keep reps motivated.


As sales teams are a mix of personality types, managers must be aware what level of supervision and management each team member requires and desires. Some sales reps prefer to work with greater autonomy whereas others prefer their sales manager’s input each step of the way. Wherever your sales reps rank on the independence scale, give them the opportunity to work out their own best practices as long as they follow your organization’s sales process. Whether they work in the office or remotely, the trust you extend can be motivator. More important than constant check-ins and being an intrusive need-to-know manager, your reps should see you as someone with an open-door policy who is ready and willing to offer the support they need.

Show Recognition

Nothing motivates like rewards and recognition. Even the smallest accolades can help reps feel appreciated and inspire them to achieve more. Create a system that recognizes reps for all their wins, both big and small. In team meetings, highlight their accomplishments and point out all that they do, but don’t just limit it to sales success alone. Call out reps for being great team players, the helpful ones who fix the coffeemaker or change the toner cartridge or the giant jug of water. Let them know they are visible, and they matter. This can be especially important during a slow sales cycle when it’s easy to feel they’re not achieving enough.

Of course, for many sales reps, success is the greatest motivator. The more your reps achieve, the more they will strive to repeat or exceed their accomplishments. However, the sad truth of sales is there will always be slumps, there will always be downtime, and there will always be rainy Monday mornings. Some days, sales reps, like all professionals, simply do not feel it. During these times, it’s easy for managers to know a rep needs a pick-me-up, a motivator to keep them going. The trick, though, is to do more before these times strike to keep your sales team inspired and motivated to push through to the goal, whatever it is. To be most effective, motivation should not be dispensed on an as-needed basis. Instead, it should be an ongoing process that is built to last through the good and bad cycles.