Keeping Your Sales Team Motivated

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Keeping Your Sales Team Motivated

By: Frank J. Rumbauskas, Jr.

Sales managers frequently approach me for advice on how to keep salespeople motivated, especially when sales reps get into a rut - and seem to keep slipping deeper into it. Telling managers what not to do usually solves the problem. Most managers do things to de-motivate salespeople without even knowing it.

Let's take the idea of funnels and forecasts, for instance. Funnels and forecasts are important aspects of running any sales operation. Both salespeople and managers need to know where they stand in terms of potential opportunities, and funnels serve to track those opportunities. No successful business can operate and properly plan for the future without accurate forecasting. In theory, these are absolutely essential to the success of any operation. In reality, however, few words strike terror in the hearts of salespeople like "funnel" and "forecast."

For most salespeople, the term "funnel review" equates to micromanagement, probation and performance improvement plans. Just hearing the term is enough to shift a sales rep's frame of mind from positive to negative. He or she suddenly loses enthusiasm and doesn't know why. Many managers increase funnel reviews as performance slips, which causes performance to slip further, and in the end nobody wins. Endless funnel reviews, especially if they're not positive, only serve to reinforce salespeople's self-doubts and limiting beliefs.

Forecasts are a similar problem, but in different ways. Few salespeople forecast accurately. Nobody wants to fall short on their forecast, so they embellish, exaggerate and make sure the numbers add up to where they should be rather than where they really are. This results in managers who expect those numbers, and salespeople who dodge managers because they know they aren't going to perform as forecasted. Then there are salespeople like myself who do the exact opposite - since I hated nothing more than having a manager constantly ask me, "When is this one going to close? When is that one going to close?," I intentionally left good deals off my forecast. While it eliminated the problem of constantly being asked when all those deals would sign, it created another form of stress in having to deal with the consequences of a funnel that fell short of expectations.

Another word that instantly de-motivates salespeople is "activity." Unfortunately, in the absence of any other viable advice, most managers simply blurt out, "You need to increase your activity" to anyone who isn't at quota. This accomplishes nothing other than setting up the rep to believe that a series of funnel reviews and performance improvement plans are soon to follow.

Finally, I see entirely too many managers pushing too hard to spend extra time with salespeople who are falling short. While it's necessary to spend time with these people, it's not a good idea to keep asking them what they need help with and to insist on riding along with them. This only turns up the heat another notch on an already stressed-out rep. Nobody who is having trouble likes to be singled out, especially when the extra attention easily can be mistaken for micromanagement.

To keep a struggling salesperson motivated:

  1. Keep the talk of funnels, forecasts and activity to a minimum.
  2. Offer help without being overbearing.
  3. Put your trust and confidence in that salesperson.

Stick with these guidelines and you'll not only do a better job of helping those who are having difficulties, but you'll see an overall increase in your sales team's motivation and enthusiasm.

About The Author

Frank Rumbauskas is the author of Cold Calling Is a Waste of Time: Sales Success in the Information Age. He is the founder of FJR Advisors LLC, which publishes training materials on generating business without cold calling. For more information, please visit


Zeida98 11.07.2006. 22:26

How do I motivate a commission only sales force? Our sales force sells advertising for a web-based new publication in a town of a little over 3000 people. How do I get them motivated and out there making money? Our commision rate is 20%. Any suggestions will be appreciated.


Admin 11.07.2006. 22:26

Zeida, the pace of the pack is determined by the speed of the leader. You have to set the pace even if your a managing director. You have to also serve your workers, give them ideas but go with them and show them how its done. And here's a few ways of doing it -

1. In your town there will be meetings, where businessess meet, where people of business come together, so have a portfolio ready and go out there and mingle.

People will buy from someone who they like not what you do. So help them to build relationships and get to know the people in town and word of mouth is the best part of getting commission.

2. If you have motivate your sales team then you will either need to sort out the enviroment they are in, within the office with some pet talk which will motivate them. The best way I find is the leader has to be strong, compassionate, buzzing always, and when the office is sparking mad with enthusiasm because of your energy, then the workers will do whatever it takes because they want you to keep smiling but also, they see you're always encouraging, helping them.

3. When they see your a leader, your putting the action in, setting the example in bringing the sale and sharing the knowledge of "How" then they will get moving/

4. One needs to set goals with all the team. The team come together as one, with one goal and together they go for it, but working together not against each other.

5. You can give as much bonus you want but have you took time to listen to them? Have you sat down to find out what they want from their work? Have you found out their dreams? Have you built a relationship with them so there is mutual respect?

These build a strong foundation of not just respect but also, they look up to the leader and want to do whatever it takes took the time to listen and find out about them.


senzualsindhique 12.02.2012. 14:47

what should I pay a sales representative as commission to keep him motivated to sell? I am hiring an independent contractor sales rep to sell prepaid payment terminals to gas stations, convenience stores, wireless dealers etc. The position will be commission only. How do I determine what is a good compensation in order to retain the person and keep him motivated to work on each account he opens?


Admin 12.02.2012. 14:47

Why don't you consider paying him a basic salary of approx 100 per week, so he doesn't starve if he has a bad month. Otherwise if he has a bad month with no pay he will leave. You don't give any figures, so it's difficult to quote. Do your research, consider what others are paying. In retail it can be around 3 per cent commission and in car dealerships the sales staff get about 50 for each car they sell (inc. a low basic salary of about 600 per month). Remember, good sales reps can earn a fortune 50,000plus a year simply because they demand large commissions, the rest are a nightmare because they leave as they can't earn enough to live on. If you have a team of sales reps it's sometimes a good idea to reward ALL the staff a small amount for EACH sale, that way they all work to the best of their abilities for the good of your company. Good luck.


alyssa_17t 19.09.2010. 00:18

What are some kinds of jobs in professional sports? I would LOVE to work for a professional sports team (NBA, MLB, NFL, etc.) However, I don't really know what kinds of jobs are out there for that. Any suggestions?


Admin 19.09.2010. 00:18

Here is a list of positions detailed on SportsCareerFinder:

* Marketing Director Jobs - Marketing directors develop the firm's marketing strategy in detail. With the help of marketing assistants and market research personnel, they estimate demand and create a brand image for the team.
* Team Marketing / Promotions Assistant Jobs - The Marketing Assistant is responsible for assisting in the development and for taking primary responsibility for the execution of marketing initiatives. These employees direct promotional programs that combine advertising with purchase incentives to increase sales for sponsor companies.
* In-Game Marketing Coordinator Jobs - In-game marketing coordinators are tasked with making sure the stadium or arena entertainment runs smoothly.
* Director of Sponsorships and Business Development Jobs - Charged with overseeing the sales and account management staff and work with the VP on strategies for targeting companies within different categories. Directors also work with the league office to keep up to date on open categories that the team is allowed to sell sponsorships in.
* Sponsorships Sales Executive Jobs - Some responsibilities for sponsorship salespeople include: identify local, regional, and national companies as potential sponsors and/or corporate hospitality customers by reviewing lists, research and networking.
* Sponsorships Account Manager Jobs -The Business Development Account Manager is responsible for managing the relationships with corporate sponsorship partners, and implementation of all contractual elements, including radio, signage, publications, in-arena and retail promotions, community programs, events and hospitality.
* Director of Community Relations Jobs - Their main job function is to motivate people in the media to run stories that show their team in a positive light.
* Ticket Sales Director Jobs- Ticket sales directors were often the most successful ticket sales account executives or suite/group sales executives. They worked their way into directorial positions through hard work on the front end proving their selling abilities.
* Ticket Sales Account Executive Jobs - Ticket sales account executive is a great position for someone that wants to break into the field and has little experience with marketing, branding or sponsorships.
* Scout Jobs - Professional scouts evaluate the skills of athletes to determine talent and potential. As a sports team's eyes and ears, the scout's primary role is to find top athletic candidates for the team he or she represents.
* Group and Suites Sales Account Executive Jobs - Stadium suite/group ticket sales account executives are responsible for generating and increasing revenue through the sale of group outings (suites and club seating) to games through relationships using a current and prospective organization base.

These are just some of the positions detailed in the professional sports team jobs section of SportsCareerFinder. As a member you have access to more detailed descriptions, which include pay information and educational requirements.


Mike D 19.12.2007. 17:47

I have recently been asked by the owner to revamp the current commission structure that has been in place for? almost 19 years. Obvoiusly I need to research and find one that promotes hard work and motivates our salepeople. BUT what other concerns should I consider? Ways to save co. $ with poor proformance, lower cancellation %, increase profit, etc?
Please give me some advice.
I am a salesmanager at a mid sized RV dealer in Michigan.

Mike D

Admin 19.12.2007. 17:47

To promote hard work and motivation with a commission structure, you need to look at it from the salespeople's perspective.

For example, the first thing that came to my mind was this: Keep it SIMPLE! Your salespeople -- or all salespeople for that matter -- are doing their commission cut in their head when they make a sale... or are about to make a sale... or are greeting the customer. Knowing what they are about to make is good motivation.

But you want to have hard work, so that dumps a "One-rate" comission schedule and we shift to a "step-system." To do this, figure out what is your absolute highest commission percentage that you are willing to give, as well as the lowest percentage you think you can get away with. Then find the middle.
THEN find the numbers for your average sales and your highest and lowest sales for a particular period (like weekly, monthly, yearly) and convert that to monthly.
This is the simplest "step-system."
For example: 10% - 20% - 30%, 15 units, 20 units.
They get 10% for any sale, 20% for ALL sales for the month if they sell 15 or more in that month.
30% on ALL sales for the month if they hit 20 units in that month.

All sales meaning, if they sold 14 units, their commission is 10% of 14 units. If they sold one last unit on the last day of the month. They now get 20% on 15 units.

Now, how to prevent someone from just sitting pretty at 10%? Well, if everyone else is selling 12 to 18 units a month fairly regularly, then make a rule that you have to make the 20% mark at least once every 6 months. OR once a quarter.

If you don't want to use a stick to motivate, or you'd like to offer a carrot AS WELL, offer a bonus for each level. I.e. they get an additional $100 bucks if they hit the 15 units mark and ANOTHER $500 if they hit 20 units. (For 600 total)

Whatever you do, STICK with the plan! Nothing sucks the life out of a sales team faster than a boss who keeps changing the rules to save himself money. Take the time in advance to hammer out the details. Don't just throw something together and wing it.

The two unorthodox ideas up there were adding bonuses together and retro percentages.
For adding bonuses, all I can say is that reaching two goals deserves two rewards. If you only want to give out 500 total, then do $50 for 15 units and $450 for 20 units. (OR Whatever) The point is that multiple bonuni make people multipli happy.
For retro percentages: can you imagine the push that a salesman will make towards the end of the month and he's already got 14 units sold? He could seriously raise his money for the month by selling just one more! Talk about your motivations.

Here's a fresh idea: Start at 1% (or whatever) and add 1% for every unit sold. So if they sell 10 units in a month, they get 10%. If they sell 20 units, they get 20%. That almost guarantees that they won't work hard to get to 15 units then STOP with a week left. (Stopping of course because they know they can't get to 20 units in a week, so they just coast.)
It also makes sure your company will not pay too much for low sales while still encouraging them to be as great as they want.
There WOULD have to be a cap on the percentage points, (say, 40% or whatever) but NOT the money.

Which leads me to my last point. With Commission based sales, NEVER put a cap on the money. That will kill the spirit of any salesman.

What I mean is, if a someone sells 30 units for you and should be getting 200k, but you capped him at 150k, not only will he NEVER again sell more than 150k in commissions, he will hate you for the greedy person you are.

If he sold 200k worth of commission, that means your company got the rest of the money! Encourage that man! Give him a watch or something!

Last point. Random, unpredictable little gifts for everyday good work will go very far as well!

Set up a rigid, fair -- I suggest a "step-system" -- commission program and stick with it. Be generous with rewards for overachievers, be fair with the average achievers, give the minimum to the underachievers.

Hope this helps. Good Luck!


Raheel 23.03.2006. 04:42

How to motivate a sales team thats not progressing up to the mark? they are actually way out of the mark so is there any way to persue them in a positive manner.Help me out please


Admin 23.03.2006. 04:42

The difference is in self-belief.
A small anecdote- One salesman on his first day was told by his boss to crack a deal with an 'easy' customer - since it was his first day. The salesman too found it easy to crack.
The whole office was astounded then because, they were trying to crack it for some time now, and he was their most difficult customer!!!
There is no single way to increase self-belief, but dramatic & imaginative interventions like this can help.

Best thing to do is to draw in fresh blood and set up competition. And 'divide & rule'- keep them apart and reward the performers.


theWordofGodisAlive 17.02.2013. 20:59

Do you think Rick Hendrick is more concerned with corporate profits than winning races for his teams? It makes common senses to me that if an owner really wants his drivers to win, he would NOT shop his engines around! And yet he does. I have thought this out quite thoroughly and I believe the reasons are much bigger than just the Henrick's teams. "Think, think, think" Chevrolet announced that it was going to pull way back in motor racing a while ago. Do you really think Chevy wants to get trounced by Ford and Toyota like the beating a red-headed step child gets? I REALLY DON'T THINK SO! So it only makes sense to me that Chevrolet has asked Hendricks to be their ambassador in the sport. I'll bet the Chevrolet engineers are constantly at the Hendrick's facility or the other way around. This is the only scenario which makes sense to me. Mr. Hendricks surely does not need the money that is generated by the sale of his engines. And if this is the way it has to be to keep Chevy strong in racing, then so be it!
@tbone If you ain't got something good to say, just don't say it. Makes you look like a fool!!!


Admin 17.02.2013. 20:59

Hendrick wins a lot of races and championships. Far more than anyone else of late. So he seems fairly motivated to win.


fallenxphoenix 19.08.2007. 01:24

What is the difference between a sales associate and a team leader? Array


Admin 19.08.2007. 01:24

Sales associate is like the player while the team leader is like a coach in a ball game.

Sales associate is hired to produce, produce and produce 'sales'; this requires some special skills such as creating leads, approching and /or warming up prospects, finding out how the company's products fit their needs, making presentations, taking care of objections and finally selling the company products without buyer remorse and within the guidelines of the company policies and the laws.

The team leader is hired to set goals for each individual members so that overall team goal fits into the company sales goals. He trains his people, brings them up to date on new techniques and methods in their professional field, sets examples for them in selling in the office or in the field, motivates them through recognition, reward and encouragement and keep them motivated by ensuring that their environment at work is positive, ensuring that they are proud of what they do and the company they work for and they are satisfied in their job. More importantly he works hard to meet the goals and policy requirements of the top management and acts as a go-between between the upper mangement and the members of his team.

I hope this gives you some, if not complete, idea of the differences between the sales associate and their leader.


Gary D 01.07.2008. 05:22

What finanical metrics of my business should I be most concerned with? I feel that I am suppressing the growth of my company by not paying enough attention to the numbers of the company. I really want to pop the top off and get some great growth this year.

I'm just curious to what very successful people concentrate on when running a business. Ratios? Percentages? etc.

Gary D

Admin 01.07.2008. 05:22

First, make sure you accounting is current and accurate. Having a few years of historical information to analyze and compare to will be helpful. Key ratios and percentages that we focus on are:

1.Profit margin
2.Month-to-month and year over year sales growth
3.Expenses as a percentage of revenue and compared to budget
4.Current ratio
5.Cash conversion ratios - primarily DSO which measure our collections activity
6.Debt-Equity ratio

These are the generic ratios and percentages most businesses should be looking at on a monthly, quarterly, and annual basis. For more information check out:

You should also identify your Key Performance Indicators (KPI?s). These indicators are specific to your business and measure what really matters to the company as a whole and to individual roles. For example, a company may have a specific goal to get 10 new customers per month and a salesperson may have a goal to make 10 sales calls to new customers each week. This will supply you with greater knowledge and control of your business. The down side will be developing the right KPI?s and keeping track of this type of information will require new business processes, systems, and time. So think of this exercise as an important investment in your business. Here?s some more information on KPI?s:

Finally, if you really want to pop the top off you company, make sure you have the right management team in place. You should have a:

1.Business Development and Marketing Specialist ? to get new business leads and deliver the right image to the public
2.Sales Director ? to hire, train and motivate people to turn leads into sales
3.Operations Manger ? to keep things moving smoothly while controlling costs
4.Finance Officer ? to enforce proper and timely accounting, keep your records safe, and develop the right scorecard and metrics
5.Chief Executive ? for vision, inspiration and consistent communication to the staff, customers, vendors, investors, and general public

Ideally these positions should not be held by the same person and each person should be well qualified and educated in their role.

Best of luck to you!


Jolene 27.02.2008. 21:41

HELP! I am trying to come up with a staff incentive program for a pub. Any Ideas? I am the manager of a pub/bar and I need some ways in motivating my staff. I am tierd of giving away a bottle of wine etc. If anyone has some ideas on how I can run a team staff incentive. This way they would work together. Also if I ran the contest over a few months I could give away a really great prize. Like a digital camera etc. I need some way of keeping score. Help!


Admin 27.02.2008. 21:41

I have worked for a service industry for years even though it was a law firm it was still about getting the clients. One thing we did was every summer we had a contest, whoever had the most sales or percentages of sales, would get a weekend at a resort in Branson. It was a great idea and since we all broke all kinds of records one year we all got to go. But you could do a suite in a nice hotel. Work in coordination with the hotel and put that nice bottle of wine in the hotel room and maybe kick in an hour massage for your employee or one room service meal delivered. There is nothing better than paid time off plus getting to go on a vacation even if it's in your own hometown. There is something about a hotel room that says "relax, have a great time, on us- Thanks for a job well done!"


Le All Knowing............Mostly 25.04.2010. 21:56

What are other direct sales jobs like Avon, Mary Kay, Tupperware, etc? I need names of legitimate companies. Basically, what I want are jobs that require you to sell a product. Can be anything, as long as it isn't a scam.

Le All Knowing............Mostly

Admin 25.04.2010. 21:56

The best thing to keep in mind as you are searching for an opportunity is what are you passionate about? You need to find something that speaks to you so that you'll be motivated to really work your business and make money at it (even if you only have to work a couple hours a day!). Your clients will also pick up on that. :)

I have 3 direct sales businesses - Young Living essential oils, Slumber Parties (romance enhancement products & in home parties for women) and Send Out Cards. I love them all but SOC's might be my fav, who doesn't love getting a card in the mail and sometimes a gift?! And doing it all from the computer makes life sooo easy. It also does not involve making time to go out and do parties and carry inventory.

As you narrow your search for what companies speak to you, make sure you find an "upline" that is invested in helping you succeed. It doesn't matter if they're in your area or not, but having people on your team that support and motivate you can make all the difference. The company plan is also important, especially looking at what your pay will be.

Best of luck with your search!! :D


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