How to Motivate a Sales Team to Improve Each Rep’s Performance (3 “Types” and 12 Tips)
By: Mary Grothe
Do all the research you want…
Implement all the bright-shiny strategies you can think of to get sales reps excited about their roles and success…
And more than likely, they’ll still fall short of reaching their goals. Clearly, new strategies alone aren’t enough to motivate a sales team.
So what’s the missing link?
According to behavioral intelligence (BQ), it’s all about how you motivate your team. You see, BQ has found that motivation is a trigger for thoughts… which cause feelings… which yield action.
In other words, sales reps turn their thoughts and feelings into actions –– and that’s what determines their performance.
Motivation, as it turns out, is the #1 key to helping your salespeople reach their goals.
Now, before you invest in a dozen inspirational posters or dash off an encouraging message from management, understand: Motivation comes from something deeper.
Is it money? Praise? Recognition? Rewards? Awards? Self-competition? Helping others? Sure, these are all key motivators for your sales reps. But it’s important to understand that each sales rep will respond differently to each of them –– depending on their personal motivational “style.”
What Are Motivational Styles?
People are motivated in one of three ways:
Your challenge, then, is to determine how each rep is motivated, so you can tap into the language and drivers that get them excited and energized.
With this approach, you won’t need to develop creative ways to get them to want to sell more. They just will. And when that happens, you’ll easily see profitable results.
Keep reading, and I’ll lay out the three distinct ways your salespeople are motivated, then list strategic ways you can motivate each “type.”
Intrinsically Motivated Salespeople
Intrinsic motivation stems from feeling accomplished through personal reward rather than rewarded through external means, like money. Intrinsics are motivated by their internal desire for purpose, growth, learning, self-competition, and are fed through acknowledgement and praise.
How to Recognize Intrinsically Motivated Sales Reps
The behaviors of intrinsically motivated sales reps stem from their emotions and how they feel. They are more successful when they feel appreciated and valued and become more motivated to succeed after a positive and reinforcing meeting.
That said, giving them higher comp plans and other monetary rewards won’t make a positive difference in their performance. In fact, it might hinder performance if they don’t also feel heard, respected, or valued.
The intrinsically motivated sales rep wants (and needs) feedback, and because of that, they’ll seek it out. When you praise them, you’ll see them smile and “light up.”
Wins are addictive for this group. After a win––whether it’s big or small––they’ll double down on the tasks that will give them another win. As a result, they’ll hit the phones willingly and excitedly.
This type of person is naturally self-competitive and seeks to win. They want to be #1 and aren’t afraid to put in the work to achieve that status.
One of our sales reps thrives off recognition and feeling valued. She loves winning new clients for the pure enjoyment and self-satisfaction of winning. Her close rate and average revenue per sale are high, but she doesn’t prospect enough.
To stay motivated, she needs positive feedback on the small wins and big wins. She admitted she didn’t enjoy prospecting and had a hard time sitting down to do it.
To solve this problem, we removed prospecting from her role and gave it to someone who loves it. This let her focus on her sales meetings and her productivity increased and close rates skyrocketed.
Bottom line, she felt heard and appreciated, and as a result, the entire team increased profitability.
How to Motivate an Intrinsically Motivated Person
- Recognize their accomplishments and efforts through a public announcement or callout during a team meeting.
- Let them compete.
- Post rankings and sales numbers in visible sight of everyone.
- Get excited with them and celebrate all wins.
Extrinsically Motivated Salespeople
Extrinsically motivated sales reps are driven by external rewards, such as money. They are motivated to do things by what they will get out of it, rather than doing it for self-satisfaction. They want to know that their efforts are going to show through monetary value.
How to Recognize Extrinsically Motivated Sales Reps
Extrinsically motivated sales reps work for the money. In fact, they mentally correlate every ounce of effort to the potential dollars earned.
This sales rep talks about money, commissions, bonuses, comp plans, incentives, and their numbers start to drop when they feel like something may affect their compensation negatively.
This sales rep may get nervous and frustrated when management talks about cutting territories, making changes to alliances, strategic partners, the inbound lead system, or anything that affects their current opportunity to make money.
They compare themselves to friends, family, and colleagues by status markers –– things like cars, houses, and annual earnings.
They work hard for their earnings and enjoy spending their hard-earned money. They like “having something to show for their hard work.” Extrinsics love the external reward.
When interviewing extrinsics, they may ask about compensation early and negotiate heavily to ensure the compensation matches their expensive lifestyle.
Be aware, the majority of top sales performers are not extrinsically motivated, contrary to popular belief.
One of our client’s sales reps is extrinsically motivated. For her, it is all about the numbers. She watches how the company spends money on the sales team (i.e., technology, travel, marketing, enablement, award money, etc.) and always shares her opinion on how the money would be better spent in direct compensation to the reps.
To increase motivation, we sat down and renegotiated her comp plan. We created a compensation plan that is exciting to her, drives high work ethic, productivity, and allows her to clearly understand how her hard work translates into higher income.
We created an external reward system for the team that included options for each team member like monetary bonuses (straight cash), a PTO day, a gift card to a spa, and an overnight stay at a resort.
How to Motivate Extrinsically Motivated Person
- Develop compensation plans that appeal to extrinsics and reward higher work performance by increasing their income based on performance.
- Don’t change anything mid-year that will lead them to believe their compensation may be affected negatively, such as a territory or role change.
- Verbally encourage them during 1:1s and coaching sessions by translating deals sold into commission earned and have them tell you what they’ll spend the money on, like a new boat, house, or college tuition for their children.
- Create a personal annual budget worksheet with them at the beginning of the sales year and have them self-report their financial goals and future desired purchases. Use this data as an indicator of how much they need to sell to reach their financial goals. Typically, the revenue goal will be much higher than their quota, which works in your favor to build a profitable sales team.
Altruistically Motivated Salespeople
Altruistic sales reps find motivation through supporting and serving others. They want to know their efforts are going to help and benefit the people around them. They are not in it for themselves, or for the money. They go to sleep at night feeling accomplished when someone else’s day was better because they were in it.
How to Recognize Altruistically Motivated Sales Reps
You will find very few altruistic people in sales roles as they’re a better fit for customer success teams. If you do end up with a successful altruistic sales rep, they’re probably in account management and not a true sales role.
These reps want what is best for the people around them and will stop their selling activities to help a needy customer.
As a sales manager, you consistently tell this person to get back on the phones, stop getting caught up in operations or customer service problems, and remind them they have a quota.
An altruistic sales rep may fight you on their priorities and argue they can’t let service issues fall to the wayside, that they must fix them because that client could mention them to other clients.
They may argue their efforts in rescuing clients leads to referrals; therefore, it is revenue-generating, and you should let them spend time putting out fires.
One of our clients has an altruistic account manager. We set clear boundaries on time management and created a weekly scorecard to ensure his desire to serve did not affect his sales outcomes. Creating this mindset with the rep allowed him to serve without compromising his sales numbers.
His need to help others has a tendency to creep in and overshadow other responsibilities, but his manager watches the metrics and coaches him to success.
This altruistic sales rep can be draining on his manager, but because both are aware of his priorities, they have a baseline understanding of agreed-upon expectations.
How to Motivate Altruistically Motivated Person
- Move them into an account management role with clearly defined metrics.
- Allow them to care for their clients and go above and beyond (within boundaries).
- Ask them to share success stories of saving/retaining clients and solving problems in a team meeting or team communication environment like Slack.
- Listen to them. Give them space to share how they solved client problems in your 1:1 or coaching before you start with your agenda of pipeline management and revenue reporting.
It’s All About Personalization
Have personal conversations with your sales reps and learn what makes them wake up in the morning excited and ready to win!
Motivation is what fuels people to get anything done. To motivate a sales team, then, you need to create an environment that fuels each motivational type.
And remember, it is possible to create an environment including all three motivators. You simply need to recognize the intrinsic with compliments, reward the extrinsic with the right comp plan, and allow service opportunities for the altruistic.
Experience, knowledge, and skills are all important factors in your sales rep’s performance, but feeding their BQ motivators will drive higher productivity and sales.