Guest post by Bob Marsh, SVP Sales Strategy at ePrize and Head of Sales Contest Builder an ePrize company.
This was a question I posed to sales managers via a few different LinkedIn Groups over the last month. It became a lively conversation with over 50 comments made across the groups. While it’s not a statistically significant study, it does provide insight from some experienced sales managers on how to motivate salespeople.
I personally believe, which was well validated from the responses, that there are some fundamental things you need to do in order to effectively motivate salespeople. For example, while sales contests and spiff programs were the most common response (which I was happy to see as that’s my business), a spiff program won’t solve for a larger root issue of having the wrong people, a flawed compensation plan, or ineffective sales management. A sales contest is best when it’s bolted on top of a strong foundation. As the old saying goes, “You can’t put lipstick on a pig!”
Find the Right Sales Reps in the First Place
As a sales manager you need to take a look at the culture, values, and goals of your company (and for you and your sales team), and then find people who align and buy-in. It’s very tempting as a sales manager to be wooed by candidates who claim to have lots of contacts or has successfully sold in your industry. But, if they don’t match your culture and values they won’t succeed or be fulfilled.
Once you do that, you then need to provide autonomy and the tools to succeed. Tools include things like ongoing industry training, a well-organized sales process and CRM system, and marketing collateral. The right people will be self-motivated to win – your role is to support them to be successful.
An Effective Sales Compensation Plan
Even if you have the right people, a flawed compensation plan can misdirect the team, frustrate them, and lead to turnover. A comp plan should be easy to understand and get the salespeople focused on no more than three things at the absolute most, e.g., bookings, recognized revenue, and/or profit. Some plans categorize those by product line, which can make sense but just be careful not to overcomplicate it. A salesperson should be able to easily articulate the specifics of their compensation plan, or at least an understanding of what the compensation plan is motivating them to be selling.
A salesperson will internalize how the plan works, and then aim their efforts based on what you’ve designed. This could be simply signing deals, focusing only on projects that have maximum profitability, or putting extra attention on certain product lines. This doesn’t mean they will push things a client doesn’t want, because strong salespeople know that long term success is based on trust and referrals. But, your comp plan will naturally aim them in a certain direction.
Ongoing Sales Coaching
There has been countless research on the benefits of coaching – in the moment coaching, and ongoing coaching sessions. People crave to be coached to get better, and want their manager to play that role. Once you have the right people on board, and you have a way to measure what you want them focused on, you have a foundation to coach against. Your coaching sessions can be used to discuss how they are doing against their goals, what will help them improve, where they need help or support, and to celebrate what’s going well.
Want to know what motivates each person individually? Ask them and they’ll tell you! Every person is motivated by something a little different and part of your responsibility as a manager is to help them be successful. Coaching sessions should be focused on the items above, and how they support helping the salesperson achieve their own individual goals. If what you are asking them to be focused on is not personally fulfilling or motivating, both of you will have a hard time being successful unless you can change things up.
Sales Competitions and Spiff Programs
Sales contests and special incentives should be “bolt-ons” to a sales compensation plan, as they are generally used to address a specific and unique need for the business. For example, creating some extra focus around a new product, to address the fact that your pipeline for next month is looking light (run a contest this month to build more pipeline for next month), driving new business, or following-up on leads you just collected from a trade show.
Sales contests are a great way to create some energy, get people focused on sales reports (which get reframed as a “contest leaderboard”), and creates a reason for the sales manager to regularly communicate how people are performing with some positive reinforcement. Also, many commented on the often surprising fact that while the prize or incentive is important, ongoing status updates are even more critical. Make sure people always know where they stand which motivates them to continue climbing up the leaderboard.
What motivates you to succeed in sales?
Like anything, there is no single answer to how to motivate salespeople, and it requires a healthy combination of many factors. Above is a very brief overview, but would like to hear other thoughts people below. If you’re a salesperson, what do you think of the points above? What else motivates you? If you’re a sales manager, what other tips can you share?
Chad Levitt: Thanks Bob, really great perspective.
Bob Marsh is SVP Sales Strategy at ePrize and Head of Sales Contest Builder an ePrize company. Sales Contest Builder is a innovative app in Salesforce.com’s AppExchange that allows you to build Sales Contests in a snap. Motivate your sales team. Increase sales performance. Make it fun and energize your team with high impact sales competitions right inside Salesforce.com. You can get your sales contests on Twitter @contestbuilder