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Understanding the WHY and HOW of Recognizing Salespeople

June 9, 2021

By Patti Traglio
It’s no secret that salespeople are highly competitive individuals who thrive on validation and glory. But their job is not all roses and sunshine, they face constant obstacles and daily rejection. A Frontiers Study found this repetitive negativity causes bad moods and even aggression, which can lead to poor performance and lackluster sales. So how do you keep your sales force motivated and productive? It begins with understanding their “WHY?” — their motivation — and HOW they want to be valued in your organization.

A Glassdoor Employee Appreciation Study found that 81% of employees are motivated to work harder when their boss shows appreciation for their work. For those in the sales profession, the positivity of being recognized for work efforts and achievements counterbalances the inevitable daily negativity, giving them a sense of accomplishment and making them feel valued for their work. When employees feel valued and appreciated, they are more motivated to contribute, innovate and lead their co-workers to do the same.

In short, recognizing your salespeople shows you are more concerned about them than their results — you truly care about their happiness and quality of life. When you notice and recognize all the triumphs along the path to a sale, you send a message to each person on the team that they matter and that you value their effort and contribution. When they feel what they do makes a difference, and that they matter, they will be motivated to contribute and do their very best.

Motivation is Linked to Productivity

Motivation has been linked to a high-performing culture, and salespeople who are motivated and excited about their jobs, are higher performing. Highly motivated people have the right attitude and are more likely to embrace change and ‘go with the flow’ of the ups and downs of a sales cycle.

Mike Sharples, CEO of Brand Experiences uses a tool called Motivational Mapping to measure personal motivation. When individual results are compared to productivity levels, the findings land in three areas:

  • Presenteeism Zone: These sales folks don’t want to be there, and productivity usually drops off a dramatically. They can also impact the productivity of others as they can become disruptive and start making major errors.
  • Normal Zone: These team members are pretty much a 1:1 relationship between motivation and productivity. So, if someone is 60% motivated, they’ll be 60% productive. (Think: more motivation, more productive.)
  • Allow peer celebration Recognition programs gives peers a platform to celebrate each other’s efforts and achievements. These interactions build stronger teams, cultivate a richer company culture, and again motivate employees to do their best work.
  • High Performance Zone: Salespeople in this zone can feel unstoppable! Their productivity can rise steeply and isn’t capped at 100%, as they have demonstrated they can smash their targets!

Motivation is what keeps the high performers performing and provides inspiration to those in the normal output zone to raise their level. Focus your sales recognition efforts in these two areas.

Motivation Needs to be Nurtured

Motivation is a personal journey, and it’s up to every sales leader to create the workplace conditions necessary for each salesperson to thrive. Here are a few ways to create an environment that motivates:

  • Treat salespeople humanely If salespeople are treated like robots, they will act like them. Caring about them in a humane way creates the conduit for a fulfilling personal experience, which increases loyalty, elevates respect and improves both mental and physical well-being.
  • Provide team direction and individual feedback A clear roadmap with attainable goals helps a sales team achieve them. Manager feedback allows sales leaders to work with each employee on their strengths and weaknesses, focusing on the areas that need improvement.
  • Consider personal fulfillment and professional development Everyone has personal goals and dreams. Work with each member of the sales team to align their goals with the organization’s goals. Encourage upskilling to create a more robust team and enforce PTO so the team refreshes and recharges.
  • Encourage a culture of trust A sales team must rely on one another during different periods of the sales cycle. Promote collaboration, the sharing of ideas and object feedback on processes and procedures to foster confidence amongst the team members.
  • Provide tools and resources There’s nothing more demotivating than not having what you need to do your job. Sales leaders need to realistically assess what is needed for their sales team to achieve their goals — in terms of human resources and tangible tools — and then do what it takes to secure those necessities. The entire sales team will respect and admire their leader’s tenacity and work that much harder to match or exceed the contribution of their leader.
  • Comparable pay and perks It should go without saying that proper compensation, including benefits, commission and perks, are the foundational level of the motivation funnel. These days, paychecks are considered more of a “service contract” and are the baseline compensation of a company. Consider additional benefits that appeal to multigenerational team members, and if you don’t know what motivates your employees ASK THEM.
  • Recognize their commitment Bonuses and prizes are always welcomed, but that isn’t the only form of recognition you should use. Employees need to be appreciated and thanked for their efforts, accomplishments and wins by their leader(s). Recognition shows each sales professional that you care more about them than their results.

There are a number of theories about what motivates human behavior, and no one theory can explain all motivation. But in the end, motivation is what causes humans to take action, and sales leaders are responsible for motivating their salesforce to drive sales. If it is done from a place of caring and valuing each individual as a person — not just a number — positive business outcomes will follow.