Sales is relentless. Sales cycles are getting longer. Customers have greater access to knowledge than ever before, meaning that salespeople really have to up their game if they’re going to add value to the buying process. Competition is stiff. Budgets are tight. And though the rewards may be high, they can sometimes seem a long way off.
Taking all of this into account, it’s no surprise that salespeople may reach a point where they lack the motivation to do their jobs. So what do you do to really encourage your sales team to perform? Carrot? Stick? A little of both? Or perhaps something else?
How Do You Engage Your Sales Team?
“Engage” is one of those trendy words prevalent in sales vocabulary. We’re always trying to engage customers; we try to be engaging — but what does it really mean?
When we feel engaged, we feel like participating; we want to join in. We listen, we interact, and we want more information — we feel interested. These are all good things in the context of a sales conversation — an engaged customer is much more likely to buy from you.
Applying the Lessons of Customer Engagement to Leadership
The thing to remember is that many of the lessons we learn about building good customer relationships actually apply to all good relationships. Actively listening, building trust, being transparent — these qualities are never going to steer you wrong, whether you apply them to a customer relationship, a romantic relationship, or a working relationship.
We know that we are more engaged as salespeople when we are active, rather than passive, such as when we try to understand our customer’s challenges and we speak with enthusiasm.
As a sales leader, you can use these same techniques to engage your sales team. Spend time getting to know your salespeople — listen to them, ask great questions, and help them discover their ambitions and goals and how they plan to get there. Whether you’re discussing a particular prospect, a recent deal, their career goals, or something outside of work, you are more likely to win their engagement by showing that you’re interested in them.
Engagement also comes as a result of feeling like part of the process. That means creating a team environment where people feel free to share ideas, provide their input, and discuss strategy as equals, rather than always being dictated to.
Motivational Tools to Keep your Salespeople Pushing Forward
Positive team dynamics is also a motivational tool. We are lifted by the performance of our peers, and when sharing techniques, stories, and ideas, there’s no doubt that we do better in a team than when we’re working in isolation. Of course, salespeople also tend to be naturally competitive, which makes it the perfect playing field for a little bit of gamification.
Gamification is simply the act of turning a task into a game in order to increase engagement and motivate performance. Salespeople already compete on quota — and they’re competing with your competitors — but a friendly amount of intra-office gamification can help motivate salespeople to undertake the more everyday tasks. Try to see:
- Who can qualify the most leads
- Who can make the most cold calls
- Who can provide the most content.
Keeping the score of these tasks is one way to increase motivation, particularly if coupled with the right incentive.
Yes, salespeople are motivated by money. But money isn’t always enough. Often, the goals are too big and the rewards too far away. There are better, more immediate ways to increase motivation when your sales team is in the doldrums.
- Time — Salespeople work long hours. Rewarding that hard work with some time off may be more appreciated than a financial bonus they have no time to spend.
- Treats — Consider offering a cake trolley or a company-sponsored happy hour, lunch out with the boss, or lunch in for the team. Small treats help celebrate successes and will always lift your sales team’s collective mood.
- Public acknowledgment — Whether you use a leaderboard, a mascot, or a trophy, publicly acknowledging the achievements of your star performers can be surprisingly effective.
In all cases, the incentive shouldn’t only be for big achievements — it should be a celebration of smaller successes as well. You might find it pays to mix things up, or else the fabulous cake trolley of week one might go totally ignored come week 10.
Every now and again, silliness is an appropriate motivational tool. Silliness might be getting the team on the go-kart track — burning off some tension and rubber. It might be that you, as their manager, agree to do something ridiculous if they reach their goal. (HubSpot suggests dressing up like a taco, among other things.) Introducing silliness lowers the stakes (which takes the pressure off in what is already a highly pressured job), but it increases engagement. It’s also the kind of thing — when done well — that could make an employee really love working with you and want to stay.
Encourage People to Set Personal Goals
As well as defining team goals, part of the work you do as a sales leader engaging your team should be finding out what each team member wants to achieve personally and helping them on their way. This should be their mission to achieve — not yours — but being able to come to you as a mentor, and having you check in with them from time to time to see how it’s going, will definitely result in a greater engagement with that goal, as well as create a better working relationship.
Sales cycles can feel like marathons. These ideas act as training and exercises that help you reach the peak physical fitness you need to achieve.