The best way to motivate salespeople is nearly free

The best way to motivate salespeople is nearly free

don't motivate salespeople with gifts
Small or even large gifts won’t motivate salespeople long-term

How do you motivate salespeople? Is it incentives? Uncapped commission? A vacation to Mexico? Those types of spiffs are great for creating short-term motivation.

Salespeople that are consistently motivated care about the company and it’s success. You should strive to create a company that they want to work for long-term.

The blueprint is out there, however, and it can be ‘hacked’…  so to speak. Hacking the sales motivation playbook requires two things:

1: An understanding of what actually motivates sales professionals

2: A strategy to check-off multiple employee engagement criteria with one initiative

The best part of our strategy to motivate salespeople is that it’s nearly free besides your normal commission, and some benefits you already give to staff. We’ll just be ramping up the frequency.

What motivates salespeople?

That’s a trick question.

Salespeople aren’t some kind of mythical beast. They care about the same things the rest of your employees do… with a bit higher emphasis on compensation.

That means most of your incentives haven’t been working like you’ve hoped. Top performers rarely care about winning an IPad or a steak dinner. They like those things, but have a higher bar for a business they’re going to invest a significant portion of their life into.

So lets dig deeper and look at things that motivate any employee.

It’s important that we’re not making assumptions, but instead using tangible proof. We want the engagement items that we strive for to be backed up by research.

The best research I’ve seen has come from Gallup, a management consulting company.

Their Q12 project is awesome.  It summarizes the 12 things employees care most about from management. The more of these 12 criteria a company has, the more engaged their employees will be.

Q12 is backed by research and trusted by large companies across the world. We’ll use it as a baseline of how to motivate salespeople.

Gallup’s Q12 criteria:

Gallup poll Q12 criteria can help you motivate salespeople
Gallup’s Q12 criteria.

If you’re interested in where you rank, I would suggest learning more about their Q12 program. They administer polls to staff, do research, and can help remedy issues they find.

Which of the Q12 criteria apply to salespeople?

All of them.

Some companies think that salespeople who make commission and lead rankings are happy. That’s far from the case.

We’ve all seen top performers leave, and weaker reps stick around forever. 

There’s something more than commission that drives employee engagement and retention.

The salespeople that stay must have a big portion of their Q12 criteria fulfilled.

Which of the Q12 criteria matter the most?

The 12 criteria won’t have the same weight for everyone. I might care about number 12 (opportunities for growth) more than you, and you might care about number 10 (you have a work best friend) more than me.

Which  items are the most important to focus on if the weighting is different for everyone?

Just like cold calling and emailing, take the shotgun approach.

We know these are 12 items employees care about. Aim to fulfill most of the Q12, and you’re likely to have an engaged sales team.

How to create an effective sales incentive

You get sales motivation from having a good program strategy
A good strategy is the key to any successful program

12 criteria for engaged salespeople is not a lot, but running a program for each one could spread resources thin. It’s tough to implement new programs. Find programs that require minimal time and effort.

The aim is to be efficient. Here are the criteria your new programs should adhere to:

a) Easy to implement – A short and simple road map will ensure any program you run is implemented effectively.

b) Easy to understand – Complicated formulas and qualifications for incentives lead to confusion, and disengagement from reps.

c) Repeatable – Will the ‘buzz’ generated by your program wear off once it’s been run a few times? Run initiatives that have staying power

d) Easy to manage – Creating complicated SalesForce (or whatever CRM you use) reports won’t improve your success. It will confuse the process by adding another place salespeople have to remember to monitor. Give them less to think about.

e) Pride inspiring – Your program should create results salespeople feel good talking about.

D) Checks off multiple Q12 items – Why run an incentive targeted towards one criteria for engaged employees when you can hit multiple points?

Most incentives don’t motivate salespeople because they don’t inspire pride

sales motivation doesn't come from tablets
This young sales rep is upset because there’s another tablet contest and his company isn’t listening to what he really wants

When was the last time a salesperson put “won IPad contest” on their LinkedIn profile as an accomplishment? Never.

For some reason companies think that giving away gadgets and knick-knacks will consistently boost sales.

If you’re not giving salespeople something that will make them proud, why are you giving it at all?

Short-term incentives might motivate some of your salespeople, but short-term is exactly what it will be. Scroll back up to the top of this article and tell me which of the Q12 items an IPad contest (for example) will fulfill.

You probably realized that none of the Q12 criteria are affected by short-term contests.

Short-term contests work, but only in the short-term.

You’ll have to constantly run contests to keep sales motivation at a high level. Run a bad contest that saleseople don’t care about, and kiss your motivated salespeople goodbye until the next contest.

Having a floor with constantly motivated salespeople will require a focus on Q12 criteria, with a goal of checking off as many boxes as possible.

Raise sales motivation levels and get more value out of the people you already have. It will cost less than trying to hire to get better talent. Some salespeople take longer to develop.

The goal of the nearly free method to motivate salespeople

The goal with this method is to check off as many Q12 criteria with one free incentive.

Here are the criteria we’re going to try and fulfill:

#1: I know what is expected of me at work

#3: At work I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day

#4: In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work

#9: My associates or fellow employees are committed to doing quality work

#11: In the last six months, someone has talked to me about my progress

#12: This last year, I have had opportunities at work to learn and grow

The method we’re going into will check of about 50% of the Q12 with one program. We’ll try to stretch the program as far as possible.

The goal is to check lots of boxes because everyone has different motivations. We don’t know which reps care about which criteria the most.

The nearly free method to motivate salespeople

Step 1:

Create a club for hitting quota, or whatever the main target your care about is each month. It has to be monthly, regardless of how long your sales cycle is.

Step 2:

Give out a physical award with their name on it to everyone who hits that goal.

Step 3:

Create a wall for this award, and put the name of everyone who is currently in the club on a wall where the whole company can see. Next to each name, put the number of consecutive months in the club, and rank the names based on consecutive success.

Step 4:

Hold a dinner or lunch each month with everyone who hit the club to recognize the accomplishment. Note: Make sure that top executives always attend, and recognize each member in some sort of way.

Total cost:

A meal, a plastic trophy, and a few printouts of names to be placed on a wall.

You’ll spend a few hundred dollars. For most sales floors this might as well be free.

I guarantee you’re probably sitting behind your computer thinking ‘that’s it‘? After a long article and reveal, the method is to ‘recognize employees monthly’? Most of you probably already do in some way, but the difference is in the details.

Here are the main differences with this plan:

1: It’s a club: 

Clubs are exclusive, and everyone wants membership. It attaches status to sales reps, and recognizes top performers. It also excludes the ones who don’t make it. They feel left out. You can bet that next month you’ll get much more out of those employees.

2: It has a trophy reps get to keep:

Trophies make accomplishments real. Trophies inspire pride. Inspiring pride for accomplishments is exactly what sales incentives should do.

Your teams will put their awards on LinkedIn. This is an indication that they are proud of their success and want to share it.

An added benefit is that your sales floor will start to fill with trophies. Trophies indicate winning, and will help create a culture of people who feel victorious.

3: It creates company-wide recognition:

Recognizing salespeople in front of only salespeople can imply that what they do is only important to them. Show the whole company who the best reps are. This creates more pride in the salespeople and they will feel more involved in the company mission.

4: It has an event:

The event lets the team celebrate their victory together. This create much more recognition than a simple knick-knack.

5: It gives salespeople face time with executives:

Employees feel like they’re being heard when they get face time with the people who make decisions.

How this plan addresses 50% of Q12 criteria

#1: I know what is expected of me at work

Your club lays out exactly what each rep needs to do each month. Make sure that their goals are in line with the company goals. The expectation is that they make the club each month, simple.

#3: At work I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day

The opportunity to make a club that gives recognition monthly will make salespeople feel like they have the chance to do what they do best.

If it doesn’t make them feel like that, you might not have the right employee. Transitioning on from them is the only move.

#4: In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work

Display pace to monthly goal on your board and have management update it daily. Each week, recognize who is on pace to goal. This is a simple way to give praise for doing good work every 7 days.

#9: My associates or fellow employees are committed to doing quality work

When you get buy-in to your club, you ensure that everyone is committed to hitting company goals. A desire to hit goals = a commitment to doing quality work.

#11: In the last six months, someone has talked to me about my progress

In 1:1’s with reps talk to them about how they’re progressing to achieving club each month. You can show them their hit % – the number of months they are on pace.

If you show them a rolling average (the previous 6 months to the current month), you can show them how they’re either improving or stagnating.

If you have a longer sales cycle, the club will serve as an indicator of progress outside of quota attainment.

#12: This last year, I have had opportunities at work to learn and grow

The best way to show growth is to track accomplishment and display the results. Salespeople must learn in order to improve. Your club will provide both of these to your sales professionals.

Making sure salespeople are motivated by company goals

The main goal of this sales motivation method is to ensure that the reps goals are in line with the company’s goals. It’s short-term enough (monthly) that it will keep motivation consistent. This will create a culture of appreciation, and achievement.

You don’t have to make this about quota attainment.

If research shows you that every rep that books 50 meetings hits quota, then make the target about booking 50 meetings. If research says that each rep needs a $10m rolling pipeline, make the goal to have a $10m rolling pipeline.

Make sure that the number you choose to incentivize on is either revenue, or the #1 most important statistic for the sales floor. The individual goals need to be the same as company goals. What’s most important to you should be most important to them.

Your new club will become something that reps strive for. Engagement will remain high if you let them know often that their work is appreciated.

When they have success, encourage them to keep their streaks alive. Don’t just reward the attainment of quota, recognize when reps continue to hit quotaYou’re trying to build an expectation that everyone hits their goals every month.

Appreciation and gratitude will motivate salespeople

The method isn’t rocket science, and you don’t have to do it exactly the way that I’ve outlined.

What you should take from this article is that doing things the right way matters. Appealing to your team with genuine gratitude and appreciation will create results. Long-term results.

Creating a productive sales floor is tough. Fulfilling all of the Q12 criteria (especially on a budget) is not easy.

This is one way to motivate salespeople, and make them feel appreciated.

The right sales mentality is tough to develop. I’d encourage you to read how I believe people should think about sales, but in the meantime show gratitude. Better results are on the horizon if you implement a system to do it consistently.

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