Motivate Your Sales Team: The 20 Point Checklist

Motivate Sales Team Checklist

How do I motivate my sales team?

In order to motivate your sales team, executives need a comprehensive toolkit of tactics to push their top performers, develop junior members, and keep the team focused on achieving aggressive growth targets.

Sales team’s that possess energy and confidence are successful, and good leaders know how to keep morale high whether business is at a peak or in a slump. Since motivation is an intangible quality, sales leaders need unique approaches that are tailored for their people.

To keep your sales team motivated, use this 20 point checklist, starting with tips to fuel your team’s intrinsic motivators.

Intrinsic Motivation

Connect your sales team’s daily activities with a higher purpose. Studies from Harvard Business School show that people who find meaning in their work feel ownership over it, leading to higher motivation, commitment, and overall performance.

1. Internalize your company mission and vision

Steve Jobs’ vision of “a computer for the rest of us” forever changed the way we interact with technology and the world at large. And he didn’t get there by keeping his vision to himself. On your own team, make sure that you communicate a common mission and vision. If your company has an official mission statement, review it in a team meeting and discuss whether or not it’s motivating. If it’s old or boring, have your team discuss how they would update it; this introduces an opportunity for ownership and intrinsic motivation.

2. Bring your mission to life

Make progress concrete by documenting customer success stories internally. Write down what the customer achieved, how your company’s product or service made their lives easier, and whether they recognized your company for its contribution. Distribute these stories internally in company newsletters, by reading them at meetings, and by sharing them with all new employees. This helps the sales force connect the dots between their day-to-day activities and the positive impact they have on customers.

3. Walk the walk of company values

Your company values are closely tied to your mission and vision and create a certain quality standard for operating your business. When they’re aligned with your sales force’s personal values, they’re incredibly motivating. As a leader, make sure to “walk the walk” and uphold values, even when it’s risky.

A great example of value-driven leadership comes from 12-time entrepreneur and big-brand business consultant Troy Hazard. Hazard tells how he turned his team’s morale around when he took a close look at his 6-million-dollar-client base. He realized that 60% of his company’s customers were not clients that the team likes, respects, or trusts. So he returned to core company values and sent a memo around at the start of the new year. “‘Beginning now, our new criteria for taking on new business will be that we like the client and that they are prepared to pay our price. Don’t try to make any potential clients fit into our culture, people, and what we stand for.’ Morale shot up 1,000 percent; all of a sudden, we were making money on every project. It was amazing. My staff was happy and the sales team sold more!”

The Power of Small Wins

It’s just as important to acknowledge small, daily steps toward progress as it is to celebrate big sales. That’s especially true when teams are in a slump and bigger wins are hard to come by.

4. Create opportunities for small steps forward each day

The power of small wins is a bit of good luck for sales motivation and resilience during times when sales aren’t flowing in. Research by Harvard Business School shows that small wins disproportionately boost positive mood, motivation, and constructive ways of perceiving work challenges. This means that managers should encourage and recognize members of their sales team who are making minor steps forward toward a goal — an email sent, a good response, a new insight learned, moving a lead one step down the pipe. According to 12,000 daily surveys filled out by knowledge workers, these small steps were tied to joy, warmth, and pride, while setbacks were tied to frustration, fear, and sadness. This research suggests that the little things do matter: getting even one positive email response from a lead that has been frustrating for weeks can brighten a salesperson’s outlook and mood dramatically.

5. Track today’s wins

For one day, ask your team to carry a pen and paper and jot down every positive thing that happened, no matter how small. Maybe it was a positive interaction with a customer, a new prospecting tip they learned, a breakthrough their teammate had, a new piece of content delivered from the marketing team, or a tentative “yes” from a prospect. Writing down these wins and makes them concrete and harder to ignore when the bigger picture isn’t going so well.

6. Track and share weekly wins

Sharing small wins with another person multiplies the morale-boosting effect. Have your team write down three wins from the week every Friday, in an email. They can be as small as they like, relating to prospects, customers, their understanding of the industry/competition/product, and their own professional development. Have them send the email to you or to an accountability buddy (a peer) for a quick high-five. This should take no longer than five minutes and should be a protected, non-judgmental space to celebrate small wins, rather than a public showcase of accomplishments.

7. Look for positive metrics in your tracking systems

Sales activity metrics can be a great way to find small wins that demonstrate steps in the right direction. You can look for improvements in overall sales activities: total number of calls made, demos booked, and prospecting emails sent. You can also find improvements in email metrics: open rate, clicks, reply rate, and reduction in email bounce rate.

We’re Better Together

Motivate individual employees with the power of group dynamics, from public recognition to camaraderie to competition.

8. Reward and recognize the sales team publicly

Do you acknowledge the entire sales team for their contributions and celebrate their successes in a way that the whole company can recognize them? For decades, researchers have found that a public display of appreciation can be more motivating than salary.

How often do you use the following tactics?

  • Give kudos to individuals at team meetings
  • Award “most valuable player” status each quarter
  • Annual recognition with monetary bonuses and trips
  • Small awards and prizes that are aligned with what individual reps enjoy
  • Sending an email thanking them for a job well done for a small win

9. Run a contest

Start a sales contest. Research by Frost and Sullivan shows that 80% of global sales executives do goal-oriented competitions and 47% of them find these contests highly effective. Keep things fresh from contest to contest by changing the goals, length, and prizes. Set them up so that the same top performer doesn’t win each time. Measure results, post them publicly, and analyze them to determine which types of competitions deliver the best return on investment.

10. Offsite events and team building

Yes, research indicates that team-building events do not rank high on employees’ “to-do” lists. In fact, nearly one-third of office workers report that they dislike team building activities. Yet a meta-analysis of 103 studies spanning sixty years of research shows that team building does indeed have positive and measurable effects on team performance. With some forethought, you can plan activities that elicit more high fives than eye rolls (and still fit your budget). Maybe it’s a simple round of drinks, a sports game, a golf outing, or an official team building program. The goal is to get your team to genuinely relax, have fun, and cultivate camaraderie in a natural way.


Get these 20 motivational techniques in an easy to use, printable checklist.


The Model Manager and Mentor

As a leader, you model behavior and build relationships with each employee so you can help them develop and reach their highest potential. The trick is to mentor and support, rather than to directly interfere with your team’s work. According to the Harvard Business Review, “Effective managers establish themselves as resources, making sure to check in on employees while never seeming to check up on them.” Indeed, with a growing Millennial workforce, this is more important than ever, as research shows they want their manager to serve more as a coach or mentor than a boss.

11. Be positive and walk the walk

If your sales team is in a slump, are you echoing their worries and complaints out loud? Are your actions reflecting a fear mindset, and are you taking fewer risks? Pay attention to your daily language to make sure you’re positive and that your decisions and words reflect the company values, vision, and objectives you’re driving toward.

12. Value your employees (and make sure they know it)

A key driver for motivation is feeling valued at work. A study by the American Psychological Association reports that 93% of employees who felt valued at work also felt motivated, whereas only 33% of them felt motivated when they didn’t feel valued. The study found five top factors in making an employee feel valued:

  • Opportunities to be involved in decision-making
  • Potential for growth and advancement
  • Opportunities to use flexible work arrangements
  • Adequate monetary compensation
  • Non-monetary rewards

13. Get in the trenches to learn more about your team’s skills

Tracking your team’s performance via a spreadsheet, CRM, and reported numbers only goes so far when it comes to mentoring and providing each individual with the right kind of support. Keith Rosen, author of Coaching Salespeople into Sales Champions, explains that data “doesn’t provide you with the root cause of certain beliefs, attitudes or behavior and it doesn’t provide insight into the quality of their activity and how effective and skilled they really are at performing a certain function, task, facilitating a conversation or their true selling acumen.” You might find a problem, yet you’ll find out why that problem is happening when you get into the ring with your team. Great sales leaders make it a priority to make a few sales calls each day side by side with their team for a period of time.

14. Link today’s activities to tomorrow’s career goals

Have a discussion with each of your teammates about their future career goals and help them set up a path to get there. Whether it’s to rise in the sales organization, transition to a new industry in five years, or join the ranks of the 20% of the Fortune 500 CEOS who come from a sales and marketing background–find ways to connect the sales activities they do day-to-day with the broader context of their long-term goals.

Structure and Support for Day-to-Day Sales

15a. Prioritize

In today’s office environments, salespeople spend only one-third of their time selling, according to research at Hubspot. Employees have competing responsibilities on their plates that make it hard to be productive, so your value-add as a sales leader is to help them prioritize. For example, take stock of all of the selling tasks a rep must perform one day and prioritize the three most important initiatives. Allow them to optimize their schedules and focus on those three things for one week, or one month, so they can make more positive steps forward on key initiatives, get more small wins under their belts, and see their return on investment.

15b. Allow reps to focus on selling

Hubspot found that the top two activities that took time away from actual selling are (1) CRM/Reporting/Admin and (2) Searching for and creating marketing content and sales enablement collateral. Top sales leaders find ways to lighten their reps CRM responsibilities and work directly with marketing to help develop sales enablement collateral.

16. Equip your employees with great marketing content and collateral

Does your sales force have easy access to blog posts, case studies, videos, websites, and whitepapers? 57% of salespeople surveyed cited high-quality content as an important tool to them connect with prospects and drive sales, and providing the right content shows that your company recognizes their needs and is committed to dedicating resources to support them. What’s more, sales teams are often excited to share a new, high-quality piece of content because it introduces variety into their conversations with customers and makes their work more efficient.

Make sure that your sales team’s content is up-to-date and compelling, and allocate budget to invest in new sales assets. You can also invest in tools to simplify how collateral is stored; the average company stores its content in complicated ways, across five to six repositories on average, which reps find difficult to search. In fact, 84% of reps surveyed said this is a top way that their companies can improve sales productivity.

17. Check challenging tasks

Top performers like to feel challenged, but it takes a balance of challenging tasks and daily tastes of progress and success to keep a team motivated over the long-term and prevent burnout. If the goals assigned to a sales team are all too challenging, and even the top performers on your team are unable to achieve them, you are either not providing enough guidance and mentorship or the goals are simply not realistic.

Tap into Your Team’s Creativity

If your marketplace is changing, the same old strategies and tactics just won’t cut it. Involve your team in finding creative new approaches to sales problems, then allow them to experiment. Your team will feel a greater sense of ownership and motivation if they’re involved in brainstorming, have the latitude to test ideas, and stay tuned in to industry trends.

18. Give your team constant opportunities to learn from the outside

It can take a wide perspective on a narrow problem to find a solution. Invest in your team’s continued education by encouraging them to learn about your industry as well as sales techniques and strategies. Books, webinars, and podcasts are widely accessible and low-cost ways to find inspiration. If you have a budget, send team members to third-party conferences and host onsite trainings. You can also establish mentorship programs to pair senior and junior salespeople to increase learning on the job. This is great for both long-term career development and short-term problem solving at work.

19. Brainstorm, but do it virtually

Get your team to brainstorm ideas for how to tackle sales goals. Not only does this increase a sense of ownership and motivation, you might come out with some brilliant ideas to reach targets. But there’s a right and wrong way to brainstorm. Studies show that brainstorming with in-person groups consistently produces fewer ideas (and they’re usually less creative). Facilitate virtual brainstorming sessions (for example, over chat) and encourage employees to brainstorm individually. These methods are shown to produce more results, more creativity, and a higher personal satisfaction with the ideas generated. Check out more guidance and research on how to set up the most productive online brainstorming session.

20. Experiment

Allow your team to run small tests of new ideas that come up in your brainstorming sessions, from making a unique business recommendation to a customer or varying the way sales reps talk about key value propositions. Some (or many) variations on your traditional strategy will fail, and that’s okay, because it’s a learning process and an exercise in taking responsibility for reaching sales targets and meeting customer needs. And who knows? Maybe these experiments will reveal a winning strategy.

The Best Sales Managers Motivate Their Team to Hit the Number

The best sales managers leave no stone unturned to figure out which motivation techniques are most effective for each member of their sales team. It takes a unique combination for each person depending on their level of experience, career goals, personality, and relationships with managers and peers – and finding the right recipe may take months of testing and revisiting this list of strategies. When you succeed, you’ll know how to keep passion consistent and alive in your team for high performance year-round.

Jennifer McFarlane

Jennifer is a human resources consultant specializing in medium to large enterprise and provides HR advice, support, and outsourced solutions for companies based in the United States.
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