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How to Motivate Sales Teams When Selling is Tough

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Sales teams are feeling the heat, the pinch, and the pressure due to hiring freezes, budget cuts, and longer sales cycles.

Now more than ever is the time to keep spirits high and motivation burning, if you want sales reps to attain – and blow through – their targets.

But how? Top-notch sales managers have the answers: 

  1. Individual incentives
  2. Trust
  3. A path forward

The best-of-the-best managers are not only familiar with these proven ways to keep the sales team on track, but also know how to apply them even during tough times.

This article shares three tried and tested methods to keep your sales team energized and unstoppable. Hungry for a few more? Check out our six tips to motivate sellers during a recession.

Tip #1: Use incentives to motivate sales on an individual level

Nearly 46% of all sales reps report feeling less secure in their jobs than in the previous year due to economic uncertainty, according to our State of Sales Compensation Report

Yikes. Almost half of sales reps fear losing their jobs.

So how do we help collectively to reduce that percentage and take some stress and pressure off sales teams? In today’s selling market, sales incentives are a powerful method to reward and motivate top performers.

As Bill Parry, Director of Sales Enablement at Privita, said:

A good manager will find out what their direct reports like to do with their variable pay and why it is important to them. Just a couple more questions, and you can really find out what's motivating somebody to get that commission.

Ask more questions. Go past the first layer. Peel back the onion a bit.

For example, if you want to encourage reps to focus on a particular area of the business and bring in new customers, offer incentives for hitting specific targets related to that goal.

Further, pairing incentives with coaching and mentoring can maximize impact. Knowing what motivates reps — and using that information while building your sales compensation plans — can help ensure your team is laser-focused on achieving your business goals while staying motivated and engaged.

Bonus Tip: Consider leveraging the Expectancy Theory to better understand motivation and how it can work for sales teams.

In short, the Expectancy Theory is a psychological and motivational theory that seeks to explain how individuals make decisions about their behaviors and actions in relation to the outcomes they expect. Developed by Victor H. Vroom in the 1960s, this theory is primarily concerned with understanding the processes that underlie individuals' choices and motivations in work and organizational settings.

Tip #2: Build and maintain trust

When trust is fostered within a sales team, each member is empowered to reach their highest potential and share valuable knowledge with each other — resulting in greater job satisfaction and sustained high performance.

But high-performing teams, fueled by trust and transparency, rely on strong leaders and reliable systems that enable:

  • Transparency about what's going well (and what needs improvement)
  • Understanding of why certain decisions were made and how these decisions can have a short- or long-term impact
  • Clear communications throughout the year, so reps remember the big picture and the individual roles they play
  • Clear visibility into compensation at all times — 92% of reps believe real-time visibility into earnings is a strong motivator, yet only a quarter have access to these insights

For sales teams, compensation is a critical component of job satisfaction. And when pay calculations are unclear or incorrect, distrust and frustration can seep in further steering the focus away from landing deals and crushing targets. 

Reps shouldn’t have to wonder if their hard work will be properly compensated — commission software like CaptivateIQ can help improve payout accuracy, provide visibility into earnings, and give reps real-time insights that fuel motivation.

Tip #3: Provide sales reps a path forward

Sales reps often face the challenge of finding their next step within their career path. 

There are two main methods that employers can use to help provide a clear path forward for reps to thrive and reach their full potential:

  1. Learning and development opportunities that can help sales reps grow both personally and professionally
  2. Providing sales reps with the ability to forecast their earnings, which allows them to better understand their financial future and plan accordingly

Learning & Development (L&D) opportunities

From attending industry conferences to one-on-one coaching sessions, L&D opportunities help sales reps sharpen their skills and gain a competitive edge.

When team members are learning and growing within their roles — or even learning a skill outside of their current job description — they are more likely to stay engaged and motivated to achieve their targets. This, in turn, helps to boost overall sales performance. 

Bonus: a well-trained salesforce is better equipped to adapt to new technologies and tools, which can be used as an advantage over competitors in today’s ever-changing market landscape.

Forecast future earnings

Nearly all sales people  are driven and motivated by potential earnings.

However, our research shows that only a quarter of reps (28%) have the ability to forecast their potential earnings yet nearly three-quarters (71%) who were surveyed claim that having the ability to forecast earnings would significantly improve their motivation. This makes sense, as the expectancy theory suggests people are more motivated when they believe their efforts will lead to a desirable outcome. 

By creating a realistic model of their earning potential, sales reps can be more confident in their goals, and therefore, more motivated to achieve them.

Lean into sales motivators when times are tough

As the saying goes, "teamwork makes the dream work," and in the world of sales, this couldn't be more true.

When organizations face inevitable challenges, it's the people on the ground who make all the difference. If you're a sales leader, retaining your top performers is critical to that success.

So how do you keep your team motivated and engaged when times are tough? The key is to give them a clear understanding of where they stand, what they will gain, and where they will go next. 

With these tips in your toolkit, you'll be better equipped to navigate the waters of uncertainty and drive optimal results for your sales organization.

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