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How To Motivate a Discouraged Sales Team

Author: Bob Oros   |   February 13th, 2010

Are your sales people ready for the coming year? Based on my personal observation as well as conversations with sales people from all over the country, the answer is no.  Most sales people are not ready for what’s ahead of them this year.  And for the most part, it’s not their fault.

What is the key to keeping your sales team motivated?

What is the key that will unlock the potential of your sales team and get them excited about reaching their potential? The answer is to take a new approach.  The secret is to make the transition sales team motivationfrom having a group of independent contractors to a team of highly motivated sales professionals working for the success of the entire company.  The key word is “team!”

Here’s where we start.

Let’s say you have 50 sales people and you are going to put together a sales contest to get them motivated. You have a first place, second place, and third place winner. If I am one of your sales team members what would I be thinking? “I already know who is going to win, they always win, so why put in the effort?” You end up with 3 winners and 47 losers!

You have everyone working out of self interest rather than being a team player.  You have everyone competing against each other.

You have a team of losers!

You have just reinforced the fact that the majority of your sales people are losers. To get your sales team motivated you have to do more than offer a simple contest, you have to offer a program.  You have to reinforce the fact that every member of your team is a winner.

Your competition is not your own team members!  Your competition is your competitor.  The ones out there taking your business!  It’s true that fear of loss will get someone going in the short term, but what about for the long haul?  Everybody reaches a point where they decide to “chuck it” if they don’t feel like an important member of the team!

When I was in the military I was part of a team.  There was never any question or doubt about it.  If I made a mistake, we all suffered.  If I did something outstanding, we were all rewarded. From the first day of boot camp until the day of final discharge, I was a team member.  “I’ve got your back” was not just a cute little phrase, it meant that if I had to take a bullet for you, I would!  Being a Veteran, I still feel like a member of the team.

Here’s a case study to show you exactly what I mean.

An insurance company I did business with several years ago had just completed the best year they ever had in their history, doubling their sales for the year.  I asked the VP of sales what the secret was.

First, he came up with a slogan for the year; “We Appreciate Every Member of Our Team of Agents”. Then they set up a program to prove it. The entire support staff was told to go out of their way to make sure the agents in the field were taken care of and made to feel important.  They put together an incentive trip that was all or nothing.  If every agent made their numbers the entire company would go.  If they didn’t, no one would go.

They took it a couple of steps further. At the start of the year they sent flowers to all the agent’s wives and said they appreciate the long hours and evenings away from home (making their wives feel like part of the team). During the year they sent monthly cards to their wives showing the great trip they would be going on at the end of the year.

The sales that were required to win the trip were attainable and the entire “team” would be in a position to go.  The program was so successful they broke every record in the industry.

Half way through the year they were actually helping each other rather than competing.  Anyone who was running behind was given all the help and advice they needed to make their numbers.  That’s what you call a team effort.

It could have been a brand new sales person who landed a small account that made all the difference.  One that actually took more work, more effort, more planning, more calls, more follow up and more rejection to land.  He or she was motivated because they knew how important every sale was for the “team!”

It could have been that small sale that put the final number on the score board and pushed them over the top.  It’s a valuable point for everybody and when it goes up on the score board, everybody wins!

It takes more than an individual effort.

It takes the feeling that you are an important member of a team.  An individual’s motivation will double when they feel like an important member of a team.  Build a team and you will find that everyone starts helping rather than competing.  Build a team and it’s easy to make individual decisions, because if it’s good for the team, it’s the right thing to do.  If it’s not, don’t do it.

Build a team and it’s like the Marine creed of “no man left behind.”  Build a team and it takes on a life of it’s own.  The team becomes more important than any single individual, yet all the individuals in the team benefit.  Build a team and everyone feels more secure, resulting in more individual effort which equates to more sales.  We are all on the same ship.  If the ship sinks, we all go down!

- Bob

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