How to Motivate Sales Reps So They Won’t Quit

motivate sales reps
Sales Management

When a sales rep first joins a business, their desire to work hard and prove a point is at an all-time high. They are loving that ‘new job smell’, making new friends and imagining the possibilities of what they can do with all those commission dollars. While self-motivation is important, sales managers need to take some responsibility here too; managers need to motivate sales reps by aligning their deeper personal goals and desires alongside the goals of the business. Otherwise, the average performance of the rep will most likely drop over time.

Every Sales Rep Knows This Crappy Feeling

Imagine this. You’re a semi-new sales rep in month three or four of your new gig. After the new job smell has worn off, your sales manager comes to you every week chatting about pipelines and revenue, treating you like a robot and taking no interest in your personal development.

Suddenly, it seems like you’ve been reduced to a mere company ROI figure. Dollar in, dollar out. All your manager cares about are your numbers at the end of the month. After all, they have a quota to hit that is eight to ten times what yours is, so this pressure is going to flow downward.

If You Don’t Motivate Sales Reps, They’ll Eventually Abandon Ship

It’s going to take a serious toll on your sales reps after a while. Eventually, they’ll feel lost at sea and either:

  • Move on to another company.
  • Reduce their effort to 60% and leave at the bell.
  • Or worse – become negative and start destroying the company culture from the inside.

Think being bitten by a zombie! As an SVP or sales manager, you need to motivate sales reps by taking them on a journey from Day 1 and provide them with a sense of direction so they feel like they’re progressing every day. This, in turn, will ensure they’re in an optimal emotional state to perform better and crush sales goals. 

Here’s How to Motivate Your Reps

The key to motivating the majority of reps is not to throw more money at them or change compensation plans every month. This might be necessary for the first few months of a start-up whilst you’re proving the concept and ramping up reps to show the art of the possible. However, it never works in the long-term as it creates a ‘heroin-addict fix’ environment. The key is understanding how to motivate sales reps beneath the surface, documenting what their goals are and showing them how hitting their numbers can help make these goals a reality. 

The process actually starts all the way back in the interview process, where you as the manager should, at least, be involved in the final stage of the interview process before the new rep joins your team. Two of the questions you should be asking are, “What are you passionate about?” and “What are you looking to achieve over the next year?” For more great interview questions, I’d recommend this formula for how to hire A-players.

Step 1: Set Goals & Expectations From The Beginning

Before offering the rep the role, it’s important to show them a documented role profile breaking down exactly how they can affect their basic salary and commission through higher performance (revenue and non-revenue targets). It should then be agreed by the rep whether the potential compensation available aligns with their personal financial/development targets over the next year or so. There’s no point in hiring someone if the earning potential isn’t there for them. If you mismanage their expectations at this stage, prepare for a negativity shit-storm down the line.

Step 2: Develop a Performance Development Plan

It is then essential that within a week of the rep starting, they have a PDP (Performance Development Plan) in place completed by their manager and logged in your CRM (not hidden in a word document somewhere in Google Drive or stuck to their desk next to a picture of a Ferrari.)

At Epos Now, we use a SalesForce HR plugin from the App Store called HR XCD. You can store all of the objectives and monthly 1-1 feedback for your reps succinctly and periodically update them once the goals have been achieved.

To effectively motivate sales reps, it’s extremely critical to revisit these goals with them on a bi-weekly basis, at least, and to hold them accountable for either achieving or missing out on those personal goals based on their performance.

Real-Life PDP Example

Here is an example 1-1 entry which is logged into the HR system and clearly visible for the rep when they go through their bi-weekly 1-1 with their manager.

As you can see the goal for the rep is to rent their own apartment by the end of May 2017. They need $1,000 for a deposit payment and at least the same amount each month for the rent. If the rep hits $50,000 a month in revenue and subscriptions, this will provide them with that commission to pay for their own apartment.

Now it’s all about reverse-engineering the $50,000 target and the manager showing them exactly how triggering certain KPI’s can meet this goal. Here’s a great resource I’d recommend on data-driven sales coaching.

It then requires a daily commitment from the rep and manager to help each other achieve this agreed number. After all, if the rep hits $50,000 and the manager’s target is $300,000, it’s mutually beneficial!

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motivate sales reps

Step 3: Have Meaningful and Regular Performance Reviews

Once the goals have been set, it’s essential to encourage employee feedback and self-evaluation, which is logged in the HR platform and directly emailed to the managers and used in preparation for the next 1-1.

The manager replies with their own feedback and the 1-1’s are, therefore, a useful discussion not only around performance goals and metrics, but also any personal problems or out of work issues that may have been a cause for poor performance.

Overall, it helps build the relationship between the manager and the rep so that it’s stronger than any internal rep-to-rep relationship. Here is what this looks like in the HR platform.

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As an SVP, accountable for 8-10 managers, I can then log into the App within SFDC and view all of my managers PDP’s as well as the ones for their reps. Once you reach a department size of over 12 reps, this is essential.

In addition, I would definitely recommend creating a custom dashboard on SFDC to highlight which managers have not yet completed their 1-1’s or set objectives for their reps.

As an SVP, I can then hold my sales managers accountable to their numbers and goals each month and have the clear visibility that they are doing the same with their reps. The line of communication must flow downwards.

motivate sales reps

motivate sales reps

Conclusion: Don’t Be A Robot Sales Manager, And You Won’t Get Robot Sales Reps

To effectively motivate sales reps, it’s all about keeping them aligned with the business goals and showing them how hitting their numbers can improve their lives both from a financial standpoint and a personal development standpoint. You need to get under the skin of your reps and constantly build an emotional relationship that goes just beyond discussing numbers and targets like an accountant and transitions more into a life-coach position, discussing goals and development.

David Duncan is an award-winning VP of sales for the 13th fastest growing Tech company in the UK and fastest growing POS company in the world (all organically funded, no VC!). He's a results-driven sales leader with a proven track record of 156% annual growth for 4 years in the UK before spearheading the US expansion in 2016 with 1,300% organic growth YTD.

Contact David at david.duncan@eposnow.com