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How to Motivate a Sales Team

The Scotwork Team
Sales [Converted]
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Motivation is a tricky business, but it can be crucial for helping a sales team reach its full potential. It isn't enough for a manager to throw a zen picture with a relevant quote stamped across it into the group chat on a Monday morning. A motivated sales team requires nuance and effort if you are to get the best possible results from them.

With 61% of salespeople thinking that they are under-appreciated in the world of business, knowing how to motivate sales teams can really help drive your reps towards success. This can revitalise a team and get them realigned and ready to push forward to meet the company's targets. Let's dive into how you can think about motivating a sales team to reach new heights and conquer their goals.

Why do we need to motivate the sales team?

Before we begin to look at incentives and leaderboards, let's talk about why you should want to motivate your sales team.

A motivated team is an engaged and happy team, and happy employees can meet their targets more efficiently. In fact, research shows that happy workers are 13% more productive than others.

The sales department performs a critical function within a business. Without a good sales team, there is a strong chance that leads and big contracts could simply pass a company by. It is the responsibility of the sales team to close such deals and generate revenue to keep the company turning over.

If we don't motivate and properly reward the sales team, their performance will naturally drop. We are all human after all, and we get tired and have the occasional bad day. Motivation can play a key role in turning things around and realigning people with their goals. Sales professionals can sometimes have to deliver big promises with little manoeuvrability. Finding what motivates sales teams to truly excel can make a massive difference in helping them.

And here are 10 ways to motivate your sales team.

1. Establish their motivations

Everyone has a motivation for why they want to do a good job at work. By looking at their team's goals, a sales manager should gain an understanding of what their team wants to work towards. However, taking things one step further and looking at their motivations can reveal more about how they view the world of work, and even how they view their own contributions to targets.

The four main motivators team members usually have are:


Understandably, money is a big motivator for many. Since a sales rep will often work on a commission-based income, it gives them control over what they make. The higher their performance, the higher their income will be.


Everyone likes to be told they have done a good job. Motivating sales teams using leaderboards and other forms of light competition can help some to rise to the challenge and actively seek out ways to be recognised and rewarded for the work that they do.


Some sales reps just want the opportunity to keep moving onwards and upwards in their career. Recognition is excellent for helping them mark milestones, but what they really want is the chance to keep up their forward momentum, always hunting down a new prospect and reaching out to a new lead.


If the company's mission is strong and able to resonate with people from all walks of life, you may find that your salespeople align with it incredibly easily. No one wants to have to sell a product they can't get behind, but if you have a team that wants to shout about it from the rooftops, you might find it so much easier to drum up a little sales team motivation.

2. Cover the basics

If you are considering how to encourage sales teams best, you will no doubt reach for big motivational strategies rooted deep in psychology. We aren't saying not to do this – there are so many good theories out there for you to try – but we also want to stress that sometimes you need to start with the basics.

Your sales team is human, and, like all humans, they need a good night's rest, healthy and nutritious food, and plenty of exercise. Sales leadership needs to lead by example here; if all they do is down black coffee and stay glued to their desks, then a wider team might be persuaded to emulate such behaviour. This is not sustainable and could result in a toxic work environment where everyone is irritable and snappy simply because their needs aren't being met.

When considering how to motivate sales teams best, starting with the basics makes sure that there isn't something small that can easily be fixed. When we are well-rested and properly fed, we are better prepared to take on any difficulties that might come our way. A sales team can more easily tackle complex sales negotiations if they have clarity of mind and their basic needs taken care of.

3. Consider sales professionals as individuals

It can be far too easy to view a sales team as a singular block rather than many moving parts. However, in doing so, you end up neglecting the strengths and motivations of individual sales team members.

Each and every person brings different strengths to a sales team. Someone might be able to dial down on the finer details of a negotiation, and another might have a sunny disposition that prospective customers warm to. All members of the team might also work in extremely different ways. So, why should you treat them all the same when it comes to engaging and motivating them?

Ask your direct reports how they would best like to be supported. By offering that flexibility and allowing them to dictate how they handle communication and sales strategy, a sales leader might notice that their team begins to perform better across a wide range of metrics. This, in and of itself, might be considered a motivating factor for some as they know they can be trusted to implement their own work style and close deals in the way that suits them best.

4. Consider them as a team, too

Though you should always consider the sales team as individuals, you also need to consider them as a unit. When looking into how to motivate sales teams, a manager needs to remember that they are trying to create a cohesive sales team. To do so, they need to ensure that motivation takes place on two levels: the individual and the group.

How do you know which is right for the situation ahead of you? Analyse how many people are affected by the situation at hand. Just one or two struggling with an assignment will be a clear indicator that they require motivation on an individual level. However, if the entire team seems to be flagging, the whole group will need attention.

Many sales teams will bounce off one another and will gain motivation simply from being able to work next to one another and feed off one another's energy. Team-wide sales contests might seem like a bit of a risky strategy but they can provide very positive competition that delivers tangible results.

Likewise, consider your sales talent and how they might best be paired up. Two heads are better than one, after all, and some people benefit from having a teammate on sales calls with them. Look to see if you can create subunits within your wider team, and see if this style of collaboration can help to motivate your staff.

5. Develop your leadership

A team is nothing without a successful leader behind them. Sales managers need to prove that they can deliver great results themselves while also ensuring that every team member has what they need to deliver the most success.

Sales teams can function very differently from others in a company. They need a leader who will accommodate their specific needs and will lead by example. Ideally, a sales manager should also be working visibly to close their own deals and help meet sales quotas.

There is no one set way to approach leadership. Sales managers may even have to adopt new approaches and styles depending on the situation in front of them. On one occasion, your sales reps might need support, and on another, they might require a firm hand.

Knowing how to switch it up and keep motivation levels high is a key skill that all leaders need to lead their team to success.

6. Build trust

Even when they work in pairs on one proposal, sales reps can often find themselves doing it alone. A sales team will rarely pass a prospect from one to another; it will just result in confusion and repeated conversations on both sides. Therefore, sales leaders need to trust that their people will be able to work their magic on their own and bring home the deals without too much intervention from management.

If you want to boost motivation amongst your sales team, show that you trust them. Build a transparent culture of trust that relies on honesty and accountability. More often than not, this can be exactly what your sales team needs to go out and complete their role with full confidence.

Building trust also needs to be done amongst the sales team itself. These are people who might be in frequent competition with each other, but they should want to support one another, too. From mentoring programs to trips out as a team, there are plenty of ways to motivate salespeople to interact with each other within your team. You don't need to be best friends, but you also shouldn't be strangers.

7. Encourage variation

Any sales team that is urged to just "sell, sell, sell!" is eventually going to run into issues. Sales tasks should be varied and engaging and not all about getting those deals closed. According to Hubspot, the average sales close rate is 29%. If a team is purely focused on getting closes, there is going to be a lot of disappointment along the way.

Linking back to building trust and treating sales teams as individuals, a motivated sales team will structure their diaries based on key tangible tasks that they can get over the line each day and not just the volume of sales they can make.

For example, they should be encouraged to pursue any professional learning opportunities that could aid their wider goals. If a sales rep wants to become an expert negotiator, they might allocate part of their day to studying a course or analysing negotiation case studies. In turn, this will feed back to their sales results as they complete tasks more competently.

8. Make meetings matter

One good quarterly meeting can easily replace one poorly structured team meeting each week. Block out time in everyone's diaries to realign. You could all do a team-building activity, create a tangible goal or two to aim for in the months ahead, or you could even deliver a training session.

Don't let meetings drag on with no structure or point. They might be one of the few occasions where the whole team gets together, especially if you have a company of remote workers. After leaving a quarterly meeting, your employees should ideally feel realigned, motivated, and clear about their goals for the next few months. Plus, everyone might just feel better for having fewer meetings in the diary!

9. Set reasonable goals

Let's chat more about what these tangible goals might be. Though a high level of closed deals might look impressive, it isn't the best metric to measure the success of the whole team. In fact, many sales teams might appear to be struggling if the only metric they need to watch for is closed deals. Then, naturally, motivation is going to drop.

Adopting a wide variety of customer-centric metrics can help illustrate exactly what is happening during a company's sales process. For example, you might decide to look at response times, customer value, stage-by-stage conversion rates and any other metrics that can help demonstrate who the top performers in your sales team are. By diversifying these metrics, you get a clear view of the customer journey and where your sales reps are best at their jobs.

10. Use incentives and rewards wisely

With all of this praise and motivation flying around, a wise sales leader will need to know where to deliver incentives and rewards. Sure, you should celebrate the little victories just as often as you do the big ones, but that doesn't mean that you should be throwing a party every time you close a deal.

What would provide the best motivation for the sales team? Would it be something that benefits the whole team, like a lunch covered by the boss? Would it be something smaller, no more than a handshake and a vocal affirmation? Could it be monetary incentives and a bonus to win on top of their commission?

Knowing whether your reps prefer public or private praise can be crucial in helping to motivate your sales team. Someone might be a natural whiz at the negotiation table, but they also don't like to celebrate their wins in a big way. To encourage them to continue to bring in sales success, it might be better to congratulate and incentivise them behind closed doors rather than in public.

Motivation has to be people-centric

If you take anything away from this, we want it to be that to truly motivate your sales team, you need to keep things people-centric and supportive. Engaged employees who feel appreciated for their hard work will naturally want to work harder and deliver on their monthly goals.

Motivating sales teams can take many forms depending on the individuals working in them. Some might benefit from close support or mentorship from others in the team. Others might just want a straight rewards system; complete a goal and get a prize. Only by talking to your sales team can you discover what makes them tick, and how leadership can offer them the best routes to leadership.

How can Scotwork's experts help you? Our Advisory Services can break down where and how your teams need support, working to motivate your sales team and help them develop the skills that they need for success.

The Scotwork Team
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