Practical Sales Team Motivation Ideas

Written by Sean McPheat | Linkedin thumb

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“How do I motivate my sales team who are remote, or field based?”

It’s a question our trainers get asked a lot and is a very popular topic in our Sales Management Training that we delivery.

I know many organisations that have salespeople out in the field or who are working from home, and they cannot meet them personally.

So, a few questions come up:

1. How do you keep them motivated?
2. How do you keep them focused?
3. How do you correct mistakes that they make remotely if you’re not there?

The key is that when you have a long-distance relationship with your salespeople, every moment of contact must be motivational but also educational.

You MUST also HELP them, not just pump them up.

The problem is that to help them you must correct problems; you must address negative issues. But if you address negative issues when you have salespeople that you may not see for a while, those negative feelings can linger. So, the question is how can you motivate and address negative issues at the same time and from afar?

We have a comprehensive Sales Manager’s Guidebook that you can work through and here are 3 sales motivation ideas to get you started.

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3 Must Have Sales Motivation Ideas

First, no matter what it is that your company sells, or how your organisation operates, you need to do three things:

1. Have regular contact with the sales force, if not in person, then either by telephone or virtually – taking in information and relaying only positive responses

2. Uplift and inspire during that regular contact

3. Have regular sales meetings, if not in person, then by teleconference or virtual and combine the information from #1 and #2.
Let me explain.

Sales Manager’s Must Have Regular Contact

No matter what your company circumstances or how spread out your sales force are, the best sales managers have periodic contact with every member of the team, either every day, once a week or once a month, based on your sales model.

If your sales model is such that salespeople can and should close a sale every day, then you should be in contact every day. If your sales cycle is much longer, then perhaps you contact each salesperson once a week.

Simply stress that at the end of each workday or at the end of each week, each salesperson MUST call you.

If you have salespeople who can work very late in the evening in the field, then you as the sales manager should NEVER be done with your workday until ALL your salespeople are finished. If they are working – so are you.

Then, during this call, all you want to do is draw out information as to what happened that day or week and inspire the salesperson. You just want information on what happened and then uplift the salesperson. The main thing you do not want to do is criticise or correct anything. You must present that you are not “looking over their shoulders,” or checking in on them. All you want is data on what happened.

Let me give you an example.

The Sales Manager has five salespeople who are spread out across a wide geographic area selling point of sale computerised cashier systems to small, independent businesses and restaurants. The sales model is to do five sales presentations every day and close one sale every day.

They have every salesperson call in at the end of their workday, every day and they have a weekly sales meeting every Monday morning to start the week, via teleconference or virtual.

Now with this set up, here is what you do:

As salespeople call in, the sales manager asks tons of questions, and does everything to get the salesperson to describe their day—but keeping it positive.

As the salesperson explains a bad day in the field, the sales manager takes note of those negative things that happened and of the mistakes the salesperson made, but they do NOT attempt to correct them or even inform the salesperson at that time.

In fact, if the salesperson begins to explain all the details of a big sale gone wrong, where they are aware of their mistakes, the sales manager tries to get off the subject.

The salesperson may say things that make the manager cringe, but the manager does not say, “Oh, no, you should not have done that!” Instead, the manager says, “Hey, you put in a hard day’s work, and you know the numbers are going to pay you back!”

Am I saying that this late-night phone call should be a rah-rah pep rally?

Yes, but much more. It must be a pep rally, but you must get information about what happened.

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Sales Manager’s Must Not Make Corrections At The Wrong Time

One of the most common mistakes sales managers make is to make corrections at the wrong time. A salesperson works hard all day and goes home with no sales. The salesperson knows that they made some major blunders and lost the sale and is glad the day is finally over. Later the sales manager checks in, and the salesperson first must relive this horrible day. The salesperson must recount every detail of this nightmare and voice their mistakes.

Then, when the story is over, the sales manager confirms it by telling the salesperson, yeah, you really did mess up! Finally, now feeling tired, broke, and dejected, the spouse comes over and tells the salesperson that they are screwing up and needs to get a “real” job.
You want to speak to your salespeople at the end of each day or week and pump them up and give them ammunition to fend for themselves against their spouse, parent, child, uncle, and their own conscience AND get valuable information.

Sales Manager Example Call – Uplift & Inspire

Using the example above, let’s say a salesperson calls in and they explain their demonstration of the computer cashier system, the sales manager hears that the salesperson does not know how to demonstrate the day’s end reconciliation correctly and that is why they lost that sale and others.

The instinct is to tell the salesperson right then, “No! Go back to page six of your sales manual!! You are not doing the reconciliation the right way!” This seems to make sense and it might if you could meet in person with these people every day. But since you cannot, then you cannot correct this, then.

Instead, the manager jots this down, complements the salesperson on their perseverance, and lets them know that they are now one step closer to the sale.

Now, after you get this type of information from all of your salespeople and only pumped them up during your call, you use those notes to form your next sales meeting.

In this case, if not doing the reconciliation is something that several of the salespeople seem to be having a problem with, or even if it is just one, the manager makes it a topic or the topic of the next sales meeting. The manager does not point out anyone nor does the manager even suggest that someone is not doing this part correctly. The sales manager simply informs the entire sales force that one of the topics they will cover in this week’s meeting is the best procedure to demonstrate the day’s end reconciliation.

Can you see what happens here?

With this strategy, your sales force knows that every time they call you, you only have good and positive words.

And at every sales meeting it seems they get Sales Training that seems to be exactly what they really need! And you did this without one negative word and without singling out any salesperson.

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3 Sales Motivation Ideas With A Big Impact

As a sales manager, you are not only responsible for doing your job well, but for making sure your sales team accomplish their tasks and meet their performance goals. It is important to allow your salespeople to concentrate solely on their responsibilities, meaning that you as a manager need to be accountable for your entire team.

One of the most effective ways to make sure your sales team meet or exceed the company’s expectations of them is to motivate them.
The following 3 top tips will help you to motivate your sales team more effectively:

Give Your Sales Team An Incentive

The majority of those in the workplace receive a set salary or an hourly rate to do their job. Therefore, an incentive or reward in addition to their wages truly motivates employees. As a sales manager you will know that there is always an opportunity for your group to perform better, and one way to achieve this is by offering them an incentive to achieve a certain goal.

For example, reward your employees with gift cards if they exceed a sales goal.

Treat them to lunch if they have secured repeat business from an existing client.

Or allow them to go home an hour early on Friday if they have finished a report ahead of deadline. Whatever it is you are trying to motivate your employees to do, an incentive, even a small one, will provide them with a reward to strive for and work hard to get.

Praise Your Sales Team For Good Performance

A kind word is often overlooked, but it can mean the world to a hard-working member of your team. Has a member of your team delivered exceptional customer service or managed to resolve a difficult issue for a client? Make sure to let them know that you recognise their accomplishment.

To take it a step further, praise them in front of others in the company. Get into the habit of announcing employee achievements at weekly sales meetings, no matter how small they are. This praise will likely make workers feel proud of themselves and encourage them to work hard to be praised more often.

Lead By Example

If you want to truly motivate your team to give 100% at work, make sure that you are giving 100%, and lead by example. If you are expecting members of your team to work long hours and come in on weekends, don’t stroll into your office at 10am and take a two-hour lunch.

If you expect them to respect you, show how respectful you are to your managers. Leading by example is crucial in the workplace so employees can feel like their manager is only asking of them what they do themselves.

As a manager, you answer for your team’s performance. Therefore, it is up to you to motivate your employees to perform their work duties to the best of their abilities, and these 3 top tips will help.

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Motivation Idea – Improve Your Communication

The adage, “It is not what you say, but how you say it,” is true and valid for all Sales Managers.

In today’s business environment, the wrong words or tone of those words can cause misunderstanding and resentment. Therefore, communication skills for sales managers are vital.

As today’s buyers are more educated and sophisticated, sales management must realise that today’s salespeople have evolved as well.

You Said One Thing, They Heard Something Else

When communicating with salespeople it is very easy to belittle or disrespect them inadvertently.

Your goal was to inspire and motivate; however, the conversation seems to have had the opposite effect and proved counterproductive.

When this happens, it is often because although your words may have been uplifting, the message the salesperson received was not.

Below are three effective techniques to help you communicate more effectively and positively with today’s modern sales professional.

Act As If You Have Never Heard “IT” Before

A member of your sales team comes to you with a question or problem that you have not only heard a thousand times but have also answered repeatedly.

In addition, the answer to this problem is on page six of your training manual!

Your first thought is, “What is wrong with this person?”

However, you maintain your professionalism and quickly blurt out the answer, which is the mistake.

In such a situation, you need to exercise a little more patience and give the question legitimacy and importance.

Should you quickly blurt out the answer, you minimise the importance of the question, which could be one of the reasons why salespeople cannot seem to remember it.

Likewise, should you abruptly command the salesperson go read the training manual, you also belittle the sale person.

Instead, lend value to the question and simultaneously uplift the salesperson.

Example illustration
Sales Manager:

“You know Steve that is an important question. In fact, if you are not solid on how to handle that issue, it is sure to cause you problems in the field. Let’s do this to make sure we get you over this problem: We have dedicated a few pages to this issue in the training manual. Go over that material—study it. Then come back to me and we will make sure you are clear on it, ok?”

Can You Help Me?

You can give commands and issue threats all day long.

However, you will find that people are much more inclined to help you than run errands for you.

You may have tedious tasks for someone, or you may need to improve processes in a particular area of the sales process.

In either case, instead of commanding or demanding improvement, ask for help.

Example illustration
Instead of…

“Listen Claire, your team has to get sales up this quarter. You have three new people assigned to you, and they have not been pulling their weight. You have to get them on target right now or I have to let them go.”


“Claire, I wonder if you can help me? We have a real problem. We must raise production this quarter, it is critical. Would you spend some more time with those three new people? We need to get them up to quota, quickly. Work with them and let me know what you think. I need to decide what to do with them and I need your help.”

Make it a sales training session rather than a point the finger sessions. You find you have a salesperson who is making a critical error in the field. It is costing them and consequently you a ton of money and lost sales.

You must correct the problem yet try to keep things positive.

How can you correct a negative without bringing up the negative issue?

Instead of singling out that salesperson and teaching or correcting in a one-on-one fashion or pointing to the salesperson as the one who is doing wrong in front of the group; make the issue a sales training topic.

First, it is likely that others are making this same mistake.

Secondly, for those not having a problem with the issue, it still cannot hurt for them to hear it again.

Bring the topic up as a positive and train everyone on the issue.

If possible, have salespeople demonstrate the issue during the sales training, including the salesperson in question.

With this approach, you correct the problem without communicating a negative message.

Also, the salesperson in question does not feel embarrassed.

Instead, he or she feels grateful for your incredibly on-time training sessions!

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Using A Sales Contest For Motivation

I’ve experienced contests like sales leader boards work very well. I’ve also seen them bomb and demotivate the sales team.

One of the worst I’ve seen was with a company of 50 salespeople. The salesperson’s incentive was to keep their job with the bottom 5 people on the leader board being sacked every quarter and the top 5 on the leader board receiving big bonuses. Sales targets were set and then everyone had to fight for the jobs.

If ever there was an example of a carrot and stick motivation idea it was that.

It is easy for a well-planned, highly financed, rigorously promoted and eagerly anticipated sales contest to end in fewer sales, less motivation, and an overall counterproductive result.

The following strategy will help you design sales and incentive contests that will motivate your sales team, increase sales, and promote a winning atmosphere.

Ideas For The Perfect Sales Contest

One of the problems with any sales contest is that there can be a point where your team feel they have lost well before the end of the contest period.

In a month-long contest, some who have had a bad first week or two, can feel that their chances for winning anything are over. With such a negative thought process, they produce less than if there was no contest in place.

In addition, there are those who believe they are not as skilled as others are. Therefore, before the contest begins, they feel they cannot compete with the sales superstars and take on a defeatist attitude from the beginning. This results in a negative sales mindset.

One way to avoid this is to include a method where everyone could have the chance to win at least some kind of prize and recognition regardless of skill level or how late it is into the contest.

These could be:

  • On the spot prizes for a job well done
  • Activity based prizes i.e., most appointments set or most follow ups
  • Overcoming a specific challenge
  • Great progress made
  • For a good idea put forward to improve process or sales
  • For maintaining a positive attitude
  • For being a good team player

For instance, the grand prizes may go to the salespeople with the highest total production and most sales but all the above could be awarded in some way, shape or form either as regular prizes or just as and when. In this way, your sales team can win awards and never feel as though it is too late. They will concentrate on completing more sales tasks, such as making calls and appointments.

Create a way to level the playing ground and give all salespeople an opportunity to compete.

I hope these sales motivation ideas are helpful. Please also check out our Advanced Sales Training and Account Management Training courses for more tips, techniques and strategies.

Happy Selling


Sean McPheat

Sean McPheat
Managing Director
MTD Sales Training

Sales DNA

Originally published: 25 November, 2021

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