Are You Motivating Your Sales Team?


As a manager of a sales team, your primary focus is motivating your team to get out and sell.

The best salespeople are highly self-motivated, but even they flag now and then, while your under performers need your help to raise the bar.



So, how to best motivate a sales team?

Motivation for selling often comes from two key sources: recognition and financial incentive. We’ll look at those two separately here.


  1. Give them the recognition they crave. Everybody likes to have their hard work recognised, so make sure you praise where praise is due.
  2. Don’t just stick to ‘good job on the sale’, but delve a little deeper and congratulate the actual aspects of what they did that you respect. For example, you might have noticed that their ability to put the client at ease is one of their greatest skills, or that their ability to share the credit when things go well is really important in bringing the team together. Any manager can say ‘well done’ when reps hit target as it’s an obvious benchmark, but it’s when you notice the way they do their job that you’ll be giving meaningful praise.
  3. Praise publicly. Whether it’s announcing successes in a meeting or getting the CEO to give the rep a call to congratulate them for a big achievement milestone, it’s important to make sure that the praise you’re giving is on a public platform as well as privately.
  4. Don’t forget to praise those that allow the others to achieve. Often there are those in a sales team that might not be as hungry for the sale or may be in a background role, but their knowledge and support plays a crucial role in keeping the team together. They are the support mechanism-whether it’s sharing their knowledge on a potential customer, or bringing down the tension level in a competitive team when things are stressful. Make sure you credit these supporting players in the same way as you do the sales people, by acknowledging exactly what it is that they do well.
  5. Reward those that achieve. Whether it’s a gift card or a membership to your highest sellers’ club, make sure that your star performers feel they are getting something tangible for their efforts.




Financial incentive

Compensating sales people can be rife with difficulty. It’s difficult to know how to compensate in a way that directly increases motivation, but there’s been some excellent research reported in the Harvard Business Review that has brought out some very useful points.

  1. Avoid caps on commission if you can, as upper limits on compensation have been proven to hurt motivation of your top sellers.
  2. Also avoid ‘ratcheting’ if budget allows, as raising a star employee’s target each year because they seem to find it easy to hit it is generally perceived by the employee as punishment for doing well. This employee may slack off towards the end of the year so they don’t get ratcheted again, or even worse, they may leave to a company that doesn’t raise targets yearly on high performers. Either way, the long-term cost probably isn’t worth the saving.
  3. Don’t worry unduly about your sales reps trying to ‘game the system’ by pushing deals over into the next quarter or month. It’s been proven that most won’t try to game the system as client’s purchase timing is largely out of the rep’s control. You can always avoid this by allowing your quotas to be cumulative over the year so that it evens out periods of ‘drought and plenty’.
  4. Set short-term bonuses as well as long term, as while your top performers will self-motivate for long periods quite easily, your less proficient sellers will respond better to frequent bonuses to maintain motivation.



Motivating your sales team is a science, and one that is receiving increasing amounts of research.  However, if you praise frequently and compensate fairly, your building sales team will remain motivated and perform at its best.

Best regards,