When setting long-term goals, it’s easy to lose sight of progress when faced with adversity or setbacks. Adversity is common in sales, which means figuring out how to motivate sales reps can be a daily struggle sales leaders face.
In fact, when I analyzed sales leader responses in this data – 48% of sales leaders listed “working with unmotivated colleagues” in their top three Mental Health triggers.
Lack of motivation in sales usually occurs when work is perceived as meaningless. This means sales reps no longer feel emotionally connected to the company vision and its purpose. Think about it:
When was the last time you pushed through adversity for something you did not care about emotionally?
Probably never… And if you did, it probably felt like a slog to get through.
When motivating sales reps becomes difficult, try asking them these three questions. The answers will help them find meaning and purpose in their work again.
1 – When you first joined this company, WHY were you excited to work here?
Working in the sales trenches and facing adversity makes it easy to lose perspective. I love this question because it forces sales reps to reflect on why they got into the trench in the first place.
Did they have a personal goal of buying a new house? Are they supporting a loved one? Or are they emotionally connected to helping the customers they are working with everyday?
As a sales leader – your goal is to understand these unique drivers of each sales rep on your team. Remind them of the reasons that excited them about the role to help them rediscover their motivation. Hammering down on metrics will do nothing and simply accelerate the perception of meaningless work.
But don’t stop there. Figuring out how to motivate sales reps requires you to deepen their connection to work.
2 – Why is X Important to you?
Depending on the sales rep’s response to the first question there could be an infinite list of reasons and motivators that show up. Some will be materialistic, status driven or even survival driven in which they need a job to pay the bills. Others will be more meaningful and rooted in personal growth, career growth or wanting to help/serve others.
After you ask the first question you have to dig in. Here are some examples:
Sales Manager: “Why were you excited to work here when you started?”
Rep: “My wife and I are trying to buy a house and the money is good.”
Sales Manager: “Why is buying a house important to you right now?”
Rep: “We’re trying to start a family.” (More Meaningful Driver)
Sales Manager: “Why were you excited to work here when you started?”
Rep: “I believe in the company mission and the problem we’re solving is important”
Sales Manager: “Why are the problems we’re solving important to you specifically?”
Rep: “Because my father struggled with X and I think our product can help others like him.” (More Meaningful Driver)
In both examples above, you can see how simply asking one additional follow-up question can help you find out how to motivate sales reps on a deeper level.
Now that you know WHY work is meaningful to each sales rep on your team – step two is building a cohesive team. This is done by connecting each meaningful driver back to a value system, shared by the team and centered on the customer.
This is where a meaningful vision with a strong purpose becomes extremely important to embrace as a leader. It’s how you inspire sales reps to sell because they want to – rather than feeling forced to do so.
How to Motivate Sales Reps With a Strong Vision
The best companies in the world have a strong vision that keeps everyone in the company aligned. As a sales leader, your mission is to embrace this vision and regularly share why the work your team is doing is important. You need to regularly explain how their work contributes to the success of the overall vision.
Not only will this help make your sales reps be more resilient and more productive – but it will also make your life easier. Trying to motivate a team of 10 sales reps with 10 different motivators is challenging. Your goal should be to align every sales rep on your team towards the same primary motivator of helping clients succeed.
This will never be 100% perfect – but this is the difference between having “engaged” employees and “inspired” employees. Developing a shared belief and value system that everyone has bought into, unifies the team around the same “Personal Why.”
When each sales rep on a team perceives work as meaningful for the same reason – that’s when the magic happens. If one rep is showing up to genuinely serve/help the customer and another rep is showing up because they want a Ferrari – that’s when toxicity happens.
While working at Indeed a few years ago, the company had an awesome vision. They did an excellent job enthusiastically inspiring every new sales hire with this primary motivator:
“We help people get jobs”
It was everywhere.
On t-shirts, painted on the walls and in every presentation, however over time it became something tenured salespeople would simply say and not really feel. The emotional connection and motivation connected to this mission would eventually get lost behind the stressors salespeople would face.
This was my experience anyway. Rarely would I see sales leaders rally sales reps around this extremely altruistic and meaningful mission when motivation started to slip.
Rather than focusing on sales metrics, leaders in my opinion, should have focused on deepening the emotional connection between jobseeker and sales rep. Something every Indeed employee could relate to. Reminding sales reps how working with employers to better position their job descriptions would lead to someone landing their dream job is extremely meaningful and motivating.
How to Motivate Sales Reps and Support Mental Health
This is something I learned and have since changed in how I motivate myself and others. Becoming more aware of when my work starts to feel meaningless and learning how to emotionally reconnect with its purpose is an important skill. When I surveyed close to 300 salespeople – those who perceived work as more meaningful had better overall Mental Health.
Anytime I experience self-doubt or feel like giving up on Sales Health Alliance I don’t reflect on the new video game I want or the vacation I wish I could take. I reflect and connect with my own Mental Health struggles in sales. I connect with the conversations I’ve had with other salespeople who have experienced the same pain, fear and anxiety that most regularly face in sales.
Wanting to help others and offer relief to these daunting mental health struggles is why I show up each day. That is my primary motivator and what I use to drive my beliefs, attitude and actions each day.
3 – What Do You Feel You Are Best At In Your Role?
Inspiration is nothing without action.
You have determined how to motivate sales reps on your team; now you need to make it easy for them to take action. The best way to do this is to be flexible and have sales reps execute on their strengths which will help them build momentum.
When we do something we’re good at – it feels effortless and builds confidence. Research has found that using our strengths is an effective way to make progress towards goals, achieve greater fulfillment and enhance well-being.
Every sales rep will have different strengths and enjoy parts of their job more than others. Asking a sales rep what they are best at will help you identify their strengths so they can use them. Pushing them to do something they’re weak at will erase the effort you put in to inspire them in the first place.
For example – lets take a sales rep who is weak at cold calling and strong at building email sequences.
After you have inspired them to connect with the purpose behind their work, it makes more sense to have them re-engage with their work through something they’re strong at like building email sequences. This will make it easier for work to become meaningful again, while building momentum before executing a more difficult task.
It doesn’t mean weaker tasks like cold calling get ignored. It just means being flexible and allowing the sales rep to spend an hour or two executing on their strength first. This will set them up to better execute and develop their weakness, while approaching it with the right mindset to succeed.
How to Motivate Sales Reps – Next Steps
One of the best things you can do as a sales leader to ensure your sales reps remain motivated is invest into EQ, Resilience and Mental Health training. Giving your team the tools they need protect their mind will help them keep perspective while under stress.
As a result work will remain more meaningful and you’ll have to invest less energy into always having to inspire others. They’ll learn how to inspire themselves and stay motivated.
I have made this easy for you with an online course focused on improving sales performance, resilience and well-being through better Mental Health. You can access the course by clicking the link below.
An easy way to build this into the “sellers workflow” is through new sales hire onboarding. This is because new sales hires are already in the training mindset and not overwhelmed by a sales target.
About The Author
Jeff Riseley is currently the Founder of the Sales Health Alliance and Mental Health Advocate. With over a decade of sales experience – Jeff understands the importance of Mental Health in achieving peak sales performance.
Jeff combines his sales (Sales Knowledge Institute) and Mental Health expertise to improve sales performance through a mix of sales mentorship and mental health best practices. His strategies have helped sales teams improve their sales process, while helping them become more motivated, resilient and better equipped to tackle stressful events within sales.
He is currently delivering these strategies through on-site workshops, coaching and speaking engagements. To explore working with Jeff contact him at [email protected]