Sales managers are responsible for keeping team morale high in a pressured environment, which regularly sees colleagues having to deal with knockbacks and disappointments. Negativity can spread, so the best managers must learn how to preempt a loss of motivation when things are not going as well as they could. In the words of Dwight D. Eisenhower,
“The best morale exists when you never hear the word mentioned. When you hear a lot of talk about it, it’s usually lousy.”
But would you know how to motivate your sales team when sales are down?
The Motivation Challenge In Sales
The nature of sales means that you make a lot of calls and give a large number of pitches, and many of those will lead nowhere. To be able to pick up the phone or enter the meeting room again straight away takes a large dose of courage and belief. Motivation can easily drop and, when this leads to lower sales numbers, it becomes more difficult to continue with the necessary enthusiasm.
If the sales rep is feeling down because sales are down, their results could enter a downward spiral. This risks the whole team missing its targets and feeling similarly abject. It can also lead to you losing key talent if they feel that the environment is not conducive to their success. That’s why it’s important to learn how to motivate your sales team when sales are down.
How to Know if Your Sales Team is Down
There are some indicators that your sales team is down. Here are some examples:
Have you noticed a talented salesperson has suddenly started missing targets? Perhaps the sales team’s performance as a whole has dropped. These results do not happen for no reason. It could be due to an external factor that is out of your control, such as an economic downturn. In any case, your job is to motivate the team to help them overcome the adversity in their way.
Longer sales cycle
Valencia Higuera says in the Houston Chronicle that demotivated staff “may miss deadlines, turn in poor quality work, or work at a slower pace.” If this occurs, even the most efficient and established sales cycle can take much longer to complete as enthusiasm wanes. You will see the efficiency of the team reduce because they are not approaching the sales process with their usual vigor.
The atmosphere of a work environment has a great impact on how successful it is, as recent studies have shown:
- According to recent research by Oxford University, happy workforces are 13% more productive.
- The University of Warwick reported that unhappy employees were 10% less productive.
It only takes one disgruntled salesperson to sour the atmosphere, complaining about clients, management, the company’s systems, their performance or any other gripe, and bring everyone down. If you notice a reduction in conversation and laughter amongst the team, it could be that negativity is taking hold.
Lack of punctuality
If your sales reps are arriving late for work, or simply taking longer to start their work after sitting at their desks, it may be a sign that they are demotivated. They do not display a zest for their work, so it is likely that something is wrong.
Unusual levels of absenteeism
Everyone has to take a sick day once in a while. This should be encouraged when employees are genuinely ill, not only for their health but also for the health of others. However, when colleagues begin to take more of those days off, sometimes without being ill at all, it can be a sign that they are unhappy with one or more aspects of the job.
Before you continue: Check your KPIs
At this point, it is worth looking at your systems and working out if something is wrong there. One aspect that could demotivate staff members could be that your key performance indicators (KPIs) are unrealistic. If your team struggles to hit these KPIs, no matter how hard they try, it could be that they are set too high and this will result in them giving up. They might even start looking for work elsewhere.
Why do sales KPIs become a problem? As the only indicator of success for a salesperson, they might not tell the whole story and that can be frustrating for a sales professional.
Jim Dries, CEO at piLYTIX, says “KPIs are usually created from team averages without a detailed understanding of individual rep strengths or nuanced attributes of individual deals. Too many sales leaders overlook these differences and instead see the KPIs as black and white predictors of success. This becomes management by numbers and these leaders have teed themselves up for disappointing surprises.”
If you suspect KPIs might be the problem, try talking to your sales team about their view of the metrics and how you could improve your evaluations to increase their fairness.
How to motivate a sales team when sales are down
Here are some remedies on how to motivate your sales team when sales are down:
Provide recognition for a job well done
As a manager, it is very easy to flag up faults in people’s performance. After all, we all want people to eliminate their errors in order to succeed. But so many managers also forget to praise their employees when they do well.
Public recognition of good work coming from management is incredibly motivating and shows that the employee is valued. It also allows managers to provide constructive criticism when needed because the salesperson knows that they will also gain praise when deserved.
Celebrate small wins
Part of this idea of giving recognition is to celebrate small wins as well as big ones. Your newer sales reps might not get the big results of established salespeople, but when they claim that first client or hit other milestones, you should make a point of showing your appreciation. Recognising any sales success helps you motivate them to work on meeting even bigger targets.
Entrepreneur Dominique Mangiatordi advocates celebrating small wins, saying,
“Celebrating has to be linked to achievements that can be different from just hitting the highest revenue targets. A sales manager’s responsibility is to create an environment that gives everyone the opportunity to perform while driving corporate objectives.”
Give work deeper meaning
When sales are not going as well as hoped or expected, there needs to be another element to keep people motivated and prevent them from losing interest completely. Employees spend a third of their life carrying out their work, so they need to be bonded to it. Work needs to have a deeper meaning as opposed to being simply a place to earn the money to pay the mortgage.
You need to understand what drives people and how they see their future. If you can align their aspirations with their journey at the company, it becomes a more meaningful experience for them than simply a job.
Joanne Trotta at Leaders Edge says that “employees want to feel able to self-manage”, and that “a sense of freedom is also important to today’s workers. The feeling of freedom is closely related to meaning and purpose, as well. When people feel like they are in charge of their schedules and have the ability to maintain work-life balance, there is a much more significant ‘buy in’.”
If you can harness your sales reps’ aspirations, you can add more meaning to their position and foster a boost in sales productivity.
Sales is a traditionally competitive area, but within your team, you also need to encourage collaboration. This fosters that sense of belonging to a shared cause that is more than the sum of its parts, and also plays into the point about giving work deeper meaning.
The sense of working together as a team against the odds provides additional motivation, even when times are tough in the marketplace. It also encourages those who are struggling individually to ask for support in order to help the team. You are all working together for the good of the company, and that provides a solid goal to work towards.
Use hard data to eliminate speculation
When things are not going well, there is a temptation to look for something to blame. Some could lash out at the systems you have in place, so make sure you use hard data to really analyse whether that is the root of the problem. By investigating and backing up your findings, you can all work together to find solutions to the situation.
A good sales leader should look for insights on the number of leads generated, the ratio of leads to sales, average sale amount, ratio of revenue split between new and existing customers and other useful data. This information can point to areas where improvement is evidently needed, eliminating the chance of making knee-jerk decisions based on assumption.
This allows the entire sales team to better focus, pull together and motivate to achieve more.
Adjust comp plans
Kristen Baker from Hubspot says “compensation is an important factor when attracting and retaining talent on your sales team. That’s why getting your organisation’s sales compensation right is crucial to your success.”
If your sales talent is demotivated, it might be that the compensation plans are not adequate. You need to strike the right balance between basic salary, commission, bonuses and other benefits that come as part of the job. This should encourage stellar performance and reward those reps who bring in great business accordingly.
You could try to create tiers of compensation plans, from junior, through mid-level to senior plans that show the progression salespeople can make through the business. This keeps them focused on the next goal and engaged with the organisation thanks to the promise of professional development.
Automate mundane work
We all know it is easier to throw yourself into work when you enjoy what you do. How often have you put off tedious admin jobs because you can’t find the motivation to start? That is the same for your sales team. Yes, they love when they are in front of a customer, delivering their pitch. But trawling databases looking for contact details of prospects at various companies seems like a real chore.
Automate these dull tasks so that your staff know they will spend more time doing what they love during the working day. fullInfo provides key contact details for you automatically, taking the task off your hands and freeing up your sales team’s time to do more of what they do best.
Tips to better manage your sales team during a slump
- Understand the individuals in your team. Although you may be looking at collective success, your team is a group of individuals, with a varying array of talents and different motivations. There is no one way to stimulate a team. You have to understand what makes each different character tick.
- Evaluate their priorities. In order to create the package that will really speak to the team member, you should understand their priorities and play to them to inspire them.
- Discuss your sales goals throughout the day to keep them in the front of the team’s minds. Remind them of their sales targets at the start of the shift, discuss how they are doing and what they can do to meet their targets. Then, check in with them occasionally to keep them accountable for their daily targets and on track for their monthly goals.
- Make the sales targets visible on a board so the team can track the progress of both their personal goals and team achievements. Make sure you update it regularly so that they can see their achievements over time.
- Give feedback regularly so that team members feel valued. A culture of feedback also aids continuous improvement to stimulate growth in the sales department.
How to keep your sales team going when someone takes personal time off?
Encourage sales team members to plan ahead for their annual leave. This involves preparing their leads for their absence. They should provide leads in the sales process with all the information they need to progress to the next stage of their buying journey on the sales funnel. They shouldn’t leave a lead hanging in limbo, as they will not be around to answer questions for a week or two and may lose the sale. This also helps the rep pick up again after they return.
How do you motivate employees to sell more?
While monitoring the performance of your sales staff, pay attention to the needs, requirements, motivating factors and other individual characteristics of each sales rep. It makes people feel valued and heard, which in turn motivates them to want to sell more for the business. Providing the correct compensation package and creating an environment in which they want to work are also ways to encourage sales.
Does a sales commission cap demotivate people?
When you limit the amount of compensation a rep can earn, you give them no reason to keep selling once they have hit the cap. Yes, your company saves money on pay, but you can lose out on revenue, too. If you worry about paying more out in compensation than you take in revenue, that means there is something wrong with your comp structure.
Knowing how to motivate your sales team when sales are down is about talking to each individual and showing that you value them and their individual characteristics. As a sales leader, you can prevent slumps in motivation by fostering a culture of feedback and encouragement, where reps are rewarded for their successes. This will help keep your sales team engaged and loyal in a world where employee churn is common.
If you want help making your reps’ lives easier, find out more about fullinfo’s online platform.
References & Further Reading
- The Seven Defining Qualities Of A Good Sales Team Leader
- How To Build A Lead List That Brings Results
- The Essential Sales Team Performance Metrics To Track
- 9 B2B Sales Time Management Techniques Of Top Salespeople
- What is motivation?
- HBR on motivating salespeople
- Psychology of closing more deals
- [Ultimate Guide] How To Monitor The Performance Of Sales Staff