How to Motivate Your Sales Team: Developing a Long-Term Strategy for Keeping Your Sales Team Engaged and On Board

One of the most important responsibilities you will have as a staffing leader is finding the right salespeople for your team. We addressed how you can solve that issue in our previous post. Finding the right person is only the first step in the process of transforming an organization and represents one small facet of a complex hiring system.

Once you have selected the right person, what then? How do you continually motivate your sales team? Unfortunately many firms approach this in a decidedly one-sided manner and end up in a constant cycle of peaks and valleys in employee performance. So what’s the right way to get out of this “boom and bust” cycle we often find ourselves in as staffing firm leaders?

Well, one thing I can tell you for sure is that sales contests are not the answer. In fact, this “one-size fits all” approach to motivating a sales team often does more harm than good. I’m sure many of you have incentive-based contests at your firms and yet many of you still struggle with keeping your team engaged and on board. The reality is, from both a research and practice perspective, sales contests have little to no positive impact on your overall performance in the long run. What is particularly interesting is that while you may get a slight short-term “bump” the long-term negative consequences far outweigh the slightly positive outcomes. The core problem with a contest-driven culture is that it relies on external stimuli to drive performance. When that stimuli is removed, the performance increases (if any) disappear.

If contests aren’t the answer, then what is? If you want to build a team of self-motivated, high performers, the process will be a decidedly long but simple one. First, you have to recognize that most of your people are not there simply because of the money. In fact, I would suspect most of your people are looking to make an impact and make a difference within your organization. Unfortunately, many of us in staffing don’t take the time to uncover the real reasons why people are with us and end up losing really talented people. The organization that can retain their best people in an industry where 30 to 75 percent turnover is the expectation will have a huge competitive advantage.

Second, leaders within staffing have to recognize that in order to fix the issue they must look at themselves as agents of change and consider the needs of each team member. That may seem like an abstract concept but what we’re really talking about how to lead our people. We in staffing need to get away from always managing by metrics and move towards leading through inspiration. This requires each staffing leader to understand what motivates each and every member of their sales team and manage to those things instead of arbitrary weekly metrics.

Third, leaders need to do a much better job of empowering their troops. The biggest challenge in making this shift in approach is that we all know how to get results. In fact, we could probably create a “paint by numbers” workflow and dictate that everyone else follow that process. Unfortunately, this approach may not be the most effective thing we can do. We need to learn to take our hands off the wheel and let others drive. At a certain point we have to recognize that our role has shifted from mapping out the steps to pointing the way. Workflows, as helpful as they can be, should offer guidance, as each customer relationship may be unique. The idea is to talk about the value of the mission and the goal and let your people get there on their own. In order to keep your sales team motivated and on board, your role needs to change from task manager to cultural leader.

The last and arguably the most important step is that we have to recognize that one-size-fits-all approaches don’t work. We have to take the time to meet with each of our people and talk to them about their vision for themselves. Furthermore, we have to create an environment where we can tell our troops our vision for them. The most critical aspect of building a long-term culture of self-motivation is to meet your people where they are and try to understand what is important to them. Only at that point can we move forward and build sustained performance and engagement within our organizations.

Finally, with a well-motivated sales team it becomes a necessity that they have the tools needed to produce results efficiently. That’s where Bond can help. Give us a call and let’s get started.

In a recent survey we asked nearly 80 staffing professionals to share insights into how they choose, train, and support sales teams. Read the results in the Bond US Sales Selection, Training and Development Report 2014.