Are You Unintentionally Killing Your Sales Team’s Motivation?


How many iconic inspiration posters have you seen? You know, the ones with landscape photography and some quote that’s supposed to change your life.

Sales managers: you are that poster.

Your most critical role is to motivate your sales team. Sure, it can be tough, but if you’re not lifting people up and removing obstacles from the salesperson’s path, you’re not doing your job.

Sales managers exist to manage resources (leads, time, people) in a way that secures the most sales. And motivating your team is one of the most vital ways you can manage your human resources.

But do you have any habits working against you? These 5 motivation killers may be taking your sales team’s drive.

Motivation Killer #1: Poor Timing

Bad things happen. Products defect, recalls are issued, delays happen. Of course you need to keep your sales team in the loop, but time your delivery right.

If you plan a morning sales meeting centered on the bad news, you’ve jeopardized motivation for the entire day. Instead, make morning conversations all about motivation. Start the day with sunshine and rainbows where everyone’s a winner.

Save bad news for the end of the day. If there’s a defect on a product or a tough conversation that needs to happen with a sales rep, wait until the sales day is over to deal with it. There’s no need to sacrifice a whole day of sales for bad news.

Motivation Killer #2: No Leader Board

Let’s say one of your salespeople closes a big deal. But when they come back to the office with their big win, they don’t get much appreciation. Sure, they may get compensated, but you shouldn’t underestimate the value of recognition.

When your salespeople close deals, then high-fives, celebrations, email accolades, conference call shout-outs, and leader board postings give them a sugar fix. And what happens when you get a sugar fix? You want another one. If you want to keep people hustling, you should keep handing out the recognition.

I can always tell top-selling companies based on their leader boards. If there’s no sales board, they aren’t fully recognizing good performances. Likely, their team is lackluster. But a leader board that is updated daily, where everyone can see it, keeps salespeople talking about the wins and motivated to climb the chart.

Related: 61 of the Best Sales Quotes To Keep You Motivated

Motivation Killer #3: Negative Influence

We’ve all met Negative Nancy or Negative Ned — that person who’s always bringing down the mood. When they get a lead, they immediately write it off saying, “They never buy anything,” or “This won’t ever close.” That kind of language asks for negative results. As these people spout off their negativity, it will probably lead to a more negative culture overall. These are the same types of people who underperform, mess something up, and then blame it on someone else.

You want the opposite type of person working for you. You want people who admit their mistakes and learn from them. Those people make comments like, “Whoa. I really messed up that sale. I answered his objection wrong, and I think it cost me the deal. I know better for next time.” And when people admit mistakes to the group, others learn from it too. Working in a collaborative environment results in high productivity. Sales teams in non-collaborative environments will never reach their potential.

Motivation Killer #4: Giant Lunch

What you eat is what you produce. Sure, it’s fun to go out for good food and good company. But plan accordingly. If you want your team to be productive afterwards, then choose wisely. Carb-filled, greasy, heavy food ruins the rest of the afternoon. If you want to splurge on this type of meal, save it for the right time — maybe a Friday afternoon when you don’t intend for them to make many calls after the meal. Otherwise, opt for healthy food that won’t weigh down your team.

Motivation Killer #5: Unobtainable Sales Goals

Every salesperson needs a baseline for sales numbers. If you’re new to an industry, set your goals wisely. Managers of smaller sales teams might pick one of their sales reps and ask others to replicate their performance. But how does that sales rep compare to the norm?

Maybe they’re a terrible salesperson but you have no one to compare them to. If so, you’ve created a false ceiling for someone new.

Or maybe they’re in the top 1% and the goal isn’t realistic for the average salesperson. Once someone realizes they can’t possibly meet the goal, their motivation goes out the window.

Instead, incentivize activity. If you don’t have real sales statistics to work with, then focus on the quality of calls and activities. Instead of incentivizing them on closes, incentivize them on the number of appointments made, and then deal with closing percentages. Once you discover achievable closing percentages, you can establish realistic sales goals.

If you’re accidentally making one of these mistakes, it’s time to change. After all (to quote one of those motivation posters), “Every accomplishment begins with the decision to try.”