During job interviews, most sales reps are asked about what motivates them. The right answer, according to sales interview best practices, is “money”. For the most part, managers want to know that the company’s commission plan will drive their sales rep.
Salespeople and managers tend to regard financial motivators as the most important.
However, this assessment disregards other factors that motivate salespeople, such as the desire to contribute to the team, a sense of pride in their work, and a competitive spirit.
Yes, extrinsic incentives like cash bonuses are important. But, managers shouldn’t neglect these intrinsic motivators either, because sometimes, they are even more effective.
So, in this post, we will go over 13 of the non-financial ways to motivate yourself and your B2B sales team alike.
What Is a SPIF (Sales Performance Incentive Fund)?
A SPIF is a short-term, incentive-based initiative intended to motivate salespeople to achieve a certain goal.
Usually, they sound something like this: “If you book 20 meetings this month, you will receive a $1000 bonus.” The incentives are mostly financial, even if they are disguised as something other than money.
For example, the incentive could be a ticket to a baseball game, an all-expenses-paid trip to Florida, or a Rolex watch.
While SPIFs can be great short-term motivators, they come with some flaws. For one, they are difficult to set up correctly and tend to drain your budget if done erroneously. They also stem from the assumption that every rep is very motivated by financial gain, which isn’t always the case.
Money is far from the only motivator. In fact, 80% of Americans would pick a job with good benefits over an identical job with a 30% higher salary but no benefits.
People’s desire to do well goes beyond a chase for monetary rewards. We aren’t mice running for cheese.
Salespeople have other reasons for trying hard at their jobs. They might want to climb the corporate ladder, improve their sales skills, or gain recognition from higher-ups.
So, your motivation techniques should satisfy these other desires, using non-financial incentives. We can break these down into two categories: tangible and intangible rewards.
- Tangible rewards: Concrete perks that are clearly described and gifted. Think vacation time or remote workdays.
- Intangible rewards: Abstract perks that draw their success from your management strategy. Think sales leaderboards or a show of appreciation for hard work.
With that in mind, let’s start with tangible ways to motivate your sales team.
Tangible Ways to Motivate Your Sales Team
Let’s see what are the tangible rewards you can give to your sales team members for great performance.
1. Vacation Time
Vacation time increases the efficiency of your team in two ways. It improves motivation both before and after a vacation.
Sales reps will hustle to earn extra vacation time:
As many as 96% of employees say travel incentives are important to them. So, if you offer more vacation days to employees that hit a certain sales number, they will work hard to get there (visions of beaches and far away lands populating their minds).
Sales reps are recharged after they take a vacation:
A study by the Society for Human Resources Management found that employees who took vacations to be more productive. Time away from work gives employees the opportunity to relax, reflect, and re-energize for the upcoming weeks of work.
Plus, vacations and adventures bring happiness, which has always been a factor in productivity, and according to the University of Oxford, happy workers are 13% more productive.
With that said, it makes sense to reward your sales reps with extra vacation days.
But, just because you reward a sales rep a vacation day doesn’t mean they will feel comfortable taking it.
Since there is always work to do in sales (more calls to make, more deals to close), sales reps can get caught up in the hustler mindset and lose track of their mental health needs.
They feel a day off the job is a day forgoing possible sales.
So, as a manager, do your best to remind them that if they take a break, they will come back to the job more productive than when they left, leading to more sales.
Remind them that you want them to take these days off for their own good and the good of the company.
2. Remote Working Days
Sales can be mentally draining. Each day you put forth your best effort, having hard conversations with people who, for the most part, aren’t going to buy your solution.
The constant stress and rejection can build up and lead to burnout, even for the most experienced of salespeople.
One great way to combat burnout is by offering remote working days for your employees. What’s more, salespeople will work to earn them.
Such days are enticing because they are a chance for the sales rep to spend some time in their sweatpants doing the easier parts of their job, like updating a CRM or doing a little bit of research. Remote workdays can also be used to extend a vacation or weekend.
Of course, when they are working from their couch (or the beach), it is best not to check up on them constantly. Trust that they will get at least some work done. Incessant calls from upper management could hamper the intended calming effects.
Know that even if they do just 2 hours of work remotely, that is acceptable and probably beneficial in the long run, as they will come back recharged.
3. Public Acknowledgment for Good Performance
People are also motivated by getting recognition for their hard work. Stage performers often care more for the applause than the check.
Public acknowledgment is even more effective. There is something very ancient about the desire to be recognized as important in front of a group of peers.
It most likely comes from the deep-seated need to be seen as a contributor. Those who consistently provide for the group are thought to be indispensable. They are respected.
Even the most modest of prehistoric hunters did not drag their big score through darkness and out of sight from the rest of the camp. They made sure their tribesmen saw.
Anthropology aside, salespeople want to feel that they are doing a good job. If a sales rep receives praise for something they worked hard to achieve, they will want to do it again.
So, use this as a motivating factor and “be lavish in your praise and hearty in your approbation”, as Dale Carnegie, author of “How to Win Friends and Influence People” once said.
Ways to Publicly Acknowledge a Job Well Done
There are several ways you can give public recognition to your employees. For example, each quarter, host a company-wide meeting and give an award for “biggest contributor”.
Share the winner’s accomplishments and impressive sales numbers with the rest of the company. Continue doing this each quarter to build the award’s credibility.
If the same person wins every time, make it a two-person award. That way, salespeople will be less likely to find winning a futile endeavor. Or, try hosting more frequent award ceremonies. Even better, implement this public praise into your everyday management.
If you overheard your sales rep make a suave cold call, go over to their desk and congratulate them. If you see on your dashboard that a rep closed a huge deal, go show them your excitement. They won’t forget these little moments.
4. Team Social Events
Remember getting a pizza party as a kid when your class surpassed a certain combined project score or test grade?
Sales team social events are pretty similar, but instead of pizza parties, it’s fancy dinners, game nights, or trips to other cities. And, instead of test grades, it’s team sales numbers that matter.
Social events are great motivators because they amplify each individual’s desire to contribute to the team.
It just feels good to hear “Nice job, that sales got us closer to the trip!” from your team.
Additionally, if the team hits the goal and wins the social event, they will bond during it, making them even fiercer as a squad when they return.
To implement this technique, set a monthly or quarterly goal for your team. For BDR managers, this could be meetings booked. For other sales managers, it could be revenue closed/won.
Make the goal and reward visible in the office. Put it on a whiteboard or a TV screen. Then, when they surpass it, treat them to an amazing time.
Pro Tip: Try your best to pick an event that fits the tastes of each member of the group so no one feels alienated. Or, let your team members take turns choosing the event. Here are some event ideas.
5. Opportunities to Move up the Ladder
Many of your salespeople are working hard to move up the corporate ladder.
They come into the job thinking that if they put in the work as sales development representatives, they will soon be managing their own deals.
However, doubts set in when there is no defined path to promotion. Don’t let this happen.
Set a clear timeline and the accolades needed to reach the next tier in the company.
Motivate them by setting a number of total revenue booked that they need to hit before they get promoted.
That way, these career-motivated employees will know that, with each deal won, they are closer to their goals and that they aren’t just running on a hamster wheel.
Also, keep in mind that some of your salespeople might have taken the job for no other reason than not knowing what to do, especially if they are fresh out of college.
Let them know that success in a sales position opens up opportunities for them to work in other company departments.
For instance, maybe your best account executive wants to try out account management or has developed an interest in marketing. Instead of losing them to another company, inform them you will do your best to help them realize these newfound dreams.
Pro Management Tip: In the meantime, consider giving them some small responsibilities in their spheres of interest, such as writing blog posts or managing a few accounts. This will keep them excited and aware that they aren’t stuck on one track.
6. Custom Perks of Their Own Choice
People know what motivates them. Therefore, sometimes it makes sense to let sales reps choose their own rewards.
That way, you don’t have a sales rep who wears blue jeans and t-shirts working for a gift card to a designer clothing store.
Here is a list of some perks you can offer your sales reps.
- Book of the month – Bookworms will love this one.
- Charitable donations – Help your philanthropic members support their cause.
- Coffee memberships – That might motivate them in more ways than one.
- Company swag – A hoodie from your company is always nice.
You can use the perks system to support their ambitions, too.
- Online courses – Some reps have definitely thought of improving their copywriting, negotiation, or presentation skills.
- Conferences – Give them opportunities to network with others in the industry.
- Dinner with someone in the company – Give them a chance to talk with a higher-up.
- A session with a financial advisor – A chance for valuable knowledge that will help their financial future.
If you are looking for more fun and unique perk ideas, check out this post.
Intangible, Proactive Ways to Motivate Your Sales Team
Now, let’s move onto some not so tangible ways you can boost your sales team morale and motivation. These tactics are usually proactive, bringing results over a longer period of time.
1. Improve Your Hiring Process
Hiring the right people can influence the motivation of the whole team. If you hire those with positive and helpful attitudes, the rest of your team will find work more pleasant, and that happiness will lead to productivity.
Also, when you recruit top-performers, the standards set for your team are higher, meaning each individual will rise to the expectation. On the other hand, a few slackers could make your reps feel complacent or “good enough”, even if they are consistently missing quota.
A case study from Braveheart Sales has shown that improved hiring practices resulted in a 122% increase in average revenue per rep.
Even better, by the fifth month the new employees spent with the company, they were already generating 219% more average revenue than the reps hired in the previous two years, before the changes had been implemented.
An added benefit to improving the hiring process is the effect it has on team morale. When your current team sees how much you care about selecting the right candidate, they will feel more confident and proud to work for the company, knowing that they made it through the rigorous vetting process.
2. Set Clear, Achievable Daily, Weekly, and Monthly Goals
Human efforts need to be directed towards some goal, or else we lose our drive and feel lost. So, it is critical to set clear, achievable goals for your reps.
For example, if you manage outbound sales reps, set a daily goal for calls made and weekly/monthly goals for meetings booked.
These goals are more effective motivators if they come attached to a reward, such as an extra vacation day or a dinner out with a plus one.
For better results, make sure it is easy for your sales reps to track these goals, so they know where they stand. Consider developing a sales dashboard that incorporates each target.
Every couple of weeks or so, check in with your reps individually and ask about their current goals.
- Do they feel comfortable achieving these targets?
- Are the targets too high and demotivating?
- What changes to the targets would they propose?
- What are the main challenges?
This gives you a chance to understand where your team most needs your support. Maybe they need more sales enablement material, or the current incentives fail to motivate them.
Additionally, after these conversations, they will feel that their company supports and cares for them, which will make them want to work harder for it.
3. Share the Vision and Build Trust
A company’s vision defines what the company wants to achieve and whom it wants to help. It can even describe a change in the world that they are trying to bring about.
For instance, a B2B proptech company’s vision could be to “modernize the way real estate organizations run their buildings, thereby creating safer homes for their residents.”
Visions can also be bold.
When Microsoft was founded, its vision was: “A computer on every desk and in every home.” The non-profit Teach for America’s is: “One day, all children in this nation will have the opportunity to attain an excellent education.”
A solid vision statement is something greater to work towards—a goal other than profit.
It will help remind your sales reps that their team is doing something important.
So, make sure your sales reps remember this vision. Don’t just bring it up at quarterly town hall meetings. Integrate the vision into your company culture and convince your team that it’s not some cheap catchphrase, but a philosophy to sell by.
How to Keep the Vision on Top of Mind
You want your team’s work to be shaped by the company’s vision.
Here’s how to achieve that:
- Share stories of the profound changes your solution has brought to people’s lives.
- Tell your salespeople to inform potential clients of the vision.
- Ask salespeople where the company is lacking in its efforts to satisfy the vision.
- Hold strategy meetings with salespeople to go over your plan to achieve the goals.
The last bullet is very effective since it lets your salespeople know that you genuinely do have a plan to make the dream a reality, thereby building trust. Also, they can see how they fit into the overall mission.
4. Understand Your Team’s Personal and Professional Goals
If you are unsure what drives each individual, it’s difficult to boost their individual performance. So, you should spend adequate time speaking with each sales rep to learn about their personal and professional goals.
If the sales reps see that you can make these goals happen if they put in the work, they will be more likely to stick around and keep posting stellar numbers.
Also, don’t be afraid to ask direct questions about their goals and motivations. Salespeople welcome the straightforward question. They have probably asked their prospects the same thing many times.
Once you know what they want to achieve, set clear timelines and paths for them to follow so they can reach the next level in their careers.
Include milestones (learnings, sales numbers, number of shadow sessions) on the way, since these smaller wins can keep the momentum going until they reach that big promotion.
5. Use Sales Leaderboards, So They Know Where They Stand
Annual or mid-year reviews aren’t enough feedback for salespeople. Each day, they want to know where they stand on their progress towards promotion, higher earnings, or another career goal.
In fact, 96% of employees say they prefer to receive regular feedback and consider annual reviews insufficient. Being aware of how they are performing allows them to make the necessary adjustments, or plan the necessary celebration dinners.
So, how can you give sales reps more regular feedback?
Sales leaderboards are a great technique. These display individual performances side by side so that everyone knows where they stand in relation to the other reps.
Then, if sales reps are too low on the leaderboard, their competitive nature kicks in, and they step up their game. Conversely, if they hold the top spot, they will fight to maintain that position.
Sometimes, leaderboards just track the revenue brought in, or meetings booked, but it can be a good idea to add more categories.
That gives each rep a higher chance of taking the lead in a specific metric. This attainability increases motivation.
Here are some other metrics you can track:
- Demos held
- Calls made
- Steals from a competitor
- New accounts signed
You can also add some silly ones like “most happy-hours logged” or “coffees consumed” to boost the laughs per day or further cultivate your company culture.
6. Allow for Job Ownership
No salesperson wants to be a robot—or an employee who follows explicit instructions from their manager. They want a sense of autonomy in their position.
For example, if a manager writes all the cold email templates for the rep, the rep might start to feel like a cog.
If that email fails, your employee won’t care as much. On the other hand, even if the email brings in tons of new business, it won’t be as satisfying, since they didn’t write it. And that can be really demotivating.
So, give your employees job ownership, and allow them to make their own decisions—and mistakes, for that matter.
Let them create and carry out their own strategies and processes. Once you do, they will start to form their identity as a salesperson, and do things like test their emails against each other or attempt new closing techniques.
They will also feel a greater sense of enjoyment in their work, further boosting their enthusiasm.
Pro Tip: If you are using an email automation software like Salesloft or Outreach, let your sales reps design the email sequences. If they are inexperienced, at least have them draft the emails and bring them to you for notes. No one should be sending out emails they had no part in creating. That’s just boring.
7. Invest in the Right Tools
A true salesperson loves the act of selling. They feed off the energy that comes from a long, intense conversation with a prospect, or the beginnings of a new relationship with a decision-maker at a huge company.
Unfortunately, salespeople aren’t always doing what they love. In fact, on average, they spend just 35.2% of their time actually selling.
Sometimes they have to do administrative work, such as looking for leads or updating their CRMs. This tedious, often low-value work can be a real drag on their motivation.
No one wants to spend hours googling companies and digging through web pages to find the decision-maker and their contact information, especially when that person might never even answer their outreach that follows.
That’s why it’s so critical to invest in the right sales tools.
For example, a lead generation tool like Soleadify will supply your sales reps with thousands of qualified leads. That way, they won’t have to spend hours searching for and researching the right companies on their own.
They can just scroll through the leads, glance at the important intel, and hit the dial button.
The right tools make the job more fun. Your reps get to do what they do best: sell. Therefore, their motivation won’t wither.
It is easy to stay motivated when you are doing well. The thrill of closing deals and generating revenue is usually enough to keep the fire burning.
The hard part is staying motivated when things aren’t going your way. Enough struggle and failure can turn the sales rep’s raging fire into a dwindling flame that is begging for fuel.
As the manager, it is your responsibility to keep that fire going, even when your sales reps are upset about their performance or tired of trying.
To keep up motivation, you can use the incentives we went over in the post.
And most importantly, develop a management style that includes the intangible motivating factors we discussed. Share your vision with the team, try to understand what motivates them, and help them reach their goals.
That caring and proactive management style will do more for your sales team performance and culture than a thousand extra dollars to the top sales rep at the end of each quarter.
Challenge: Tomorrow, think of one thing you appreciate about each sales rep. Then, share it with them. Their eyes should light up, along with their performance.