How to Make Your Sales Team Happy (and the Cost of Not Doing So)

How to Make Your Sales Team Happy (and the Cost of Not Doing So)

May 18, 2022

As a sales leader, part of your job is to keep your team productive. But keeping them happy? That wasn’t in the job description… 

Well, it should be, and here’s why.

Having a happy sales team is critical to a business’s success. Your reps are the front lines of your company — literally repping your brand. If they’re miserable, customers will be able to tell. (And it’ll be a lot harder to convince people your product can serve them any better.)

Eighty-one percent of leaders who rate their sales as very happy report annual sales increases.

It’s like Albert Schweitzer said, “Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success.”

Keep reading to learn how to build a happy and productive sales team, including:

  • How sales leaders can help create the conditions for a happy sales team
  • The importance of a supportive sales culture
  • How technology can positively impact productivity and job satisfaction
  • The real costs of discontent sellers

What do happy sales teams have in common?

According to our Director of Sales, there are several signals indicating a healthy sales environment, including:

  • High rate of retention
  • High rate of promotion
  • High rate of referrals (friends or former colleagues who join the team)
  • Opportunities for career development
  • Open dialogue with peers and management
  • Regular recognition during all-company meetings
  • Team building activities
  • Clear role objectives and goals

And research supports this. A study from Harvard Business Review Analytic Services analyzed the relationship between sales team happiness and business metrics, factors contributing to this, and technology’s crucial role.

The research surveyed over 300 sales leaders worldwide and asked them to rate their team’s happiness on a scale of zero to ten. Ratings under eight were added to a “less happy” group, while ratings eight and above were added to the “very happy” group. 

There were three main things the sales teams in the “very happy” group had in common.

1. Know what a supportive and transparent sales culture looks like

Do you use mantras like “work hard, play hard” on the sales floor? As it turns out, they might be doing more harm than good. 

About 66% of sales leaders agreed that typical sales culture is counterproductive to sales team happiness. Using competitive, pressure-inducing sales language such as “goal-driven” can put people off. Instead, more nurturing words like “supportive,” “transparent,” and “social” correlate to healthier sales cultures.

Facilitating a workplace environment that sales teams crave doesn’t just impact their happiness — it plays a role in improving sales team productivity. The survey found a connection between happiness and sales performance: content salespeople close up to 37% more deals!

Pro Tip: Leverage payout transparency as a hiring and retention differentiator for sales teams. Your reps will always know the timing of payouts and can track their progress to target.

How sales leaders can help

  • Make the effort to understand and support each individual on your team. Meet with your direct reports at least once every week to swap best practices, discuss any challenges, and plan career development.
  • Reinforce company goals and show reps how their contributions are working toward these goals to make their work feel meaningful. Transparency is key to motivation!
  • Celebrate their successes (small and large) on a weekly cadence and provide continuous coaching, prioritizing skill development. 
  • Keep sellers motivated with full transparency into earnings, and take the time to educate your team about the compensation plan. 

2. Make happiness a strategic priority 

If you’re constantly thinking about the happiness of your sales team, you’re probably also thinking of new ways to improve it.

In other words, happiness should be a goal, not just something you hope happens. So treat it like you do the rest of your corporate goals, like hitting quotas and improving customer satisfaction scores.

How sales leaders can help

  • Encourage sales teams to be social and supportive of one another by setting aside a budget each month for team-building activities, such as lunch and learns.
  • Give reps a good reason to trust the company they work for, feel properly compensated, and enjoy coming to work by being clear about company goals, how they’re contributing, and compensation.
  • Prioritize sales team happiness and invest accordingly, leveraging technology that enables them rather than holds them back (more on this next).

3. Leverage technology to make reps’ jobs easier

About 36% of respondents of the less happy group said sales technology is more focused on managing sales than enabling them. And 71% agreed that a poor technology user experience can negatively impact salesperson happiness.

The problem is, all too often, sales technology is chosen for sales teams and not with them. This means that the technology selected might not actually benefit and be a good experience for the rep. Instead, it’s more of a tool that managers can use to track sales activities — and sometimes even micromanage them.

Only 30% of organizations that responded to the survey reported that running a piece of technology past their sales team is part of their decision-making process to purchase. So there’s definitely an opportunity to show your sales teams their opinions matter by getting their buy-in during the evaluation phase (prior to purchasing). 

Doing this can also up adoption rates during implementation as reps are more likely to accept a new piece of technology when they influence the decision (plus, early exposure can make adoption less of a daunting task). 

Take sales commission software, for example. Sales commission gives reps the chance to earn variable compensation that rewards attainment, offering both personal and professional gratification. But not all software is built equal. One that has a stellar experience for sales leaders may lack the transparency or functionality sales reps want and need. Running a couple of options past your team will ensure this is caught before signing a purchase agreement. 

How sales leaders can help

  • Seek input during the evaluation stage from your sales teams when shopping for new tools and technology. One way to do this is by including a couple of sales reps in demo calls with the potential vendors. They’ll be able to offer valuable front-line perspectives (and feel really valued).
  • Pay special attention to tools that are easy to use and enable — not just manage — salespeople.

The cost of unhappy sellers

Sellers who aren’t happy can cost your company a lot more damage than you might think. According to a Gallup report, unhappy employees cost the global economy $8.1 trillion in lost productivity each year.

And these costs can show up in multiple ways.

1. Customer loyalty

Unhappy sellers are a bad look for business. Their dissatisfaction could translate into a negative attitude and disinterest in wanting to help customers, which can be hugely detrimental to customer satisfaction scores and their likelihood to come back. 

2. Profit loss

Remember when we said happy salespeople close up to 37% more deals? That’s because happy sellers are motivated sellers. They drive growth and revenue by crushing company targets. Demotivated sellers are the opposite: missed targets, lower customer satisfaction scores, and of course less profit. 

3. Staff turnover

A company filled with unhappy, disengaged sales reps is usually also one with a lot of turnover. This could be because they don’t feel appreciated or recognized, aren’t being compensated enough, or are unhappy with the sales culture at your organization.  

4. Counterproductivity

Ever worked at a job you hated and took out your frustrations by taking extra-long breaks, calling in sick unnecessarily, or ditching “mandatory” training sessions? (No need to say it out loud.) Salespeople (and all workers, really) are more likely to do this if they’re unhappy or disengaged at work. 

5. Quality of work

Selling is a skill that requires drive. Unhappy sellers might struggle to tap into this drive if they’re demotivated, for example, because they’re doing the same thing day in and day out. This lack of motivation could also be caused by not knowing how their work is contributing to the company’s greater mission, making their work feel meaningless. And as a result, the quality of their work can suffer.

A happy sales team is an effective sales team

Clearly, sales team happiness isn’t just a nice-to-have, it’s a must-have for sales organizations to succeed. It doesn’t just affect salespeople on a personal level but on a professional level too — happy sellers perform better.

Prioritize the happiness of your sales teams. In return, they’ll deliver awesome performance, and together, you’ll consistently hit your revenue goals.  

And remember: “Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success.”

Want some tips on how to boost sales team morale when times are tough? We’ve got you.