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.”

How to Finish the Sales Year Strong With A ‘They Said No’ Audit

sales manager strategies end of year

The end of the year is not typically when you do your best work. During “the most wonderful time of the year,” most people become a little more distracted and a little less motivated. You may have a few deals on the line you need to close, but business is slow. Do you let it ride hoping for new vigor at the start of a new year or change your strategy?

The best sales managers take advantage of this extra time. A ‘They Said No’ audit may be your team’s solution to finishing the sales year strong.

Why Should You Audit?

A “They Said No” audit reviews everyone who said no throughout the year and allows you to reach out to them one more time. The worst that could happen is that they say no again.

Too often, we assume when they a prospect said no to you, they said yes to a competitor. In reality, something else usually happened. You could have talked with them during their busy season, so they didn’t have time to follow through. Or maybe they thought they could get a lower quote but never did.

Related: 3 Common Sales Objections and How To Overcome Them

If your product solves an issue that comes and goes, they could still be living with the problem. Sometimes they experience an issue only around one time of the year. If that time has passed, they could have just forgotten about it. In any of these situations, an end-of-the-year contact could mean a sale.

For example, let’s say you’re selling for a restoration company. In your area, tornados come about three times a year. If you call the property owners you know now, remind them to be prepared for the storms. Maybe there’s work they need to do preemptively before the weather worsens. Or perhaps they felt all bids were too high last year and never had the work done. In either case, they are still a viable prospect for you.

One of your most important sales manager responsibilities is to provide your sales team with a list of potential clients. One of their hardest tasks is then narrowing that list down to people who want to hear a proposal. With a “They Said No” audit, you’ve regenerated your list of possibilities. Plus, you already have their contact information.

As you contact potential clients, you’ll often find one of two scenarios: your prospect has moved to a new company or the business is in a different place. Both of these scenarios mean more opportunities, though. A new contact means new opportunity for business, and if they’re in a new location they need a different, maybe even bigger, proposal, to meet their needs.


The Action Plan for Your Audit

1. Create a Master List

Before you contact everyone who turned you down, create a prospect inventory as a team. Have every salesperson write down who said no, what their objections were, and when they were last contacted. Make it available to your whole team. The best sales managers will then examine this data to troubleshoot some of the barriers to the sale.

2. Make the Calls

Once you have your list, the sales team should surprise those contacts with a call. Your talk track may sound something like this: “We have new plans available now that we didn’t have when we last talked. Have your made a decision on anything? Are you happy with what you chose? What would it take to get your business?” Don’t be afraid to be direct.

3. Tell A Story

As you talk on the phone, use storytelling to your advantage. Stories build your rapport and help you connect with your client. How has your product recently made a difference for a similar company? Share that story. A good conversation after months of no contact may be a game changer.

Related: Telling Stories During a Sales Pitch: Do’s & Don’ts

4. Start an Email Sequence

Have a follow-up email ready to go after you make the call. By waiting until after a conversation, you’ve made your offer harder to ignore. An email alone may be swept under the rug, but when coupled with a call, you become a stronger presence to your prospect.

Don’t be content with checking off your sales manager responsibilities for the year! Rather than coast until New Year’s, finish this year strong. Use a “They Said No” audit to lead your team in a sales month that’s worthwhile.


Sales Team Strategies to Start the New Year Off Right

Business man climbing up on hand drawn graphs concept

Is this the year you’ve resolved to help your sales team hit the ground running after the holiday break? Have you vowed not to let them get into a slump after reveling in holiday parties, drinking eggnog and spending time with family?

To accomplish these goals and make 2016 a successful year, you need a plan to help your sales team build momentum and a strategy to successfully implement that plan.

Here are some tips for developing a sales team strategy and getting off to a rockin’ sales start in 2015:

  • Don’t make the same mistake twice. Build on what you’ve learned from last year’s sales, especially what didn’t go so well. If you pause to contemplate and write down what didn’t work for your sales team last year, you’ll avoid making the same mistakes in the future.
  • Focus on the things you did right. The strategies that did work are also an important part of your team’s plan. Make a list of what worked, then use that to springboard to even more success in 2015.
  • Applaud your failures. If you went after a niche last year and failed miserably, take that lesson to heart — but don’t be discouraged. It just means you need to hone your sales team’s focus to a different niche. Reward failure like Google does, and you’ll nurture innovation and eventually land on a successful sales tactic or niche.
  • Learn from your best clients. Learn from what worked with your best clients. Evaluate what it took to sign them on and identify their needs. Then, incorporate this audience into your sales team’s 2015 strategies.


In addition to creating a plan and building momentum, you can also empower your team with some encouraging New Year advice. This is the advice I give sales leaders when their teams need a boost:

  • Remember the 80/20 rule for salespeople. The majority of sales teams find that 80 percent of their business comes from 20 percent of their people. Find ways to get better performance from the other 80 percent of your team.
  • Don’t waste your energy on trying to turn around the bottom 20 percent of your sales team. In my experience, less than 10 percent of these people will actually change their performance as a result of a program. Instead of focusing your efforts on a performance improvement plan, create opportunities for the salesperson to exit the company, or just let him go.
  • Be sensitive to personal issues. Sometimes, a salesperson might underperform due to pressures at home, like a divorce or illness. Assess the salesperson’s history. If they were previously successful, cut them some slack or provide some tools to help them get going again.
  • Be willing to point the finger at yourself; it’s possible that YOU are the problem behind a lagging sales team. If you need to, hire a coach to work with your team and find out the cause behind low sales numbers.

2016 has the potential to be a great year — if you learn from the lessons of 2015. Find out what worked and what didn’t, and give your sales team the strategies it needs to be successful.