How to keep your sales team going full speed ahead

How to keep your sales team going full speed ahead

With the current state of the world it is extremely difficult to stay motivated – even the most driven people struggle.

Staying motivated to achieve sales targets in any climate can be taxing. Managers and supervisors can get frustrated and use methods of motivation that may be detrimental rather than effective, such as negative reinforcement. I personally do not respond positively to negative reinforcement and having managed a small sales team for a few years, neither did they.

A great demonstration of this is shown in a Netflix series called 100 humans that experimented with this theory in an episode named Pain versus Pleasure. This episode centers around how humans respond to criticism versus praise, and which works better.


Criticism and praise

The participants are tasked with spinning plates on a stick, and there are two rounds. In the first round, participants are either criticized or praised for their performance, regardless of how well they perform. The results from this round show that individuals that performed exceptionally well but were criticized, lost confidence, and performed poorly in the second round. Whereas the participants that performed poorly in the first round but were praised excelled in the second round. This experiment proves that despite the performances, positive reinforcement was more successful in motivating the participants than negative reinforcement.


Tried and tested methods

It can be frustrating to keep everyone motivated under normal circumstances, let alone during a pandemic, primarily when targets are not being met. Here are a few examples on what I have used in the past and my tips on what keeps me enthusiastic to reach or exceed my sales goals.

  • Praise for small wins – I received praise by a simple phone call from my COO for a closed deal from a personal sales lead. Even though it was a small order, it showed that every bit of my effort was appreciated and drove me to close an even bigger deal. This can be used at every level to reassure your team that their hard work does not go unnoticed.
  • Tiered targets – Having a target for a set timeline. I have used a 3-tier quarterly incentive approach with a large bonus for the top salesperson, a local holiday trip for the second tier, and a valuable prize, such as a laptop for the 3rd tier prize.
  • Performance based commission structure – Not only do you reward your sales team fairly, but it also drives under-performing sales team members to thrive especially when their colleagues are receiving higher commissions. It also instills a level of healthy competition within the team.


Innovation and creativity

However challenging this period may be for your sales teams, innovation and creativity needs to be a massive part of your motivation strategy. Having regular check-ins and listening to your team’s suggestions on what motivates them is vital. The most important thing is to try and test various methods with your team to find out what works, whether it’s a pat on the back or something more tangible.

I believe that it goes without saying that if you take care of your employees, they will take care of your business.


The pros and cons of challenging sales targets – are these good motivators?

The pros and cons of challenging sales targets – are these good motivators?

My name is Sonja, and I am a hunter.  At least, this is how every company who ever employed me in a sales position, labelled me.  I beg to differ.  I am naturally inclined to farm, yet occasionally I do enjoy the thrill of the hunt.

In a nutshell, sales reps are split into two groups – hunters and farmers.  Normally, “hunters” are driven by challenging sales targets, and a desire to make heaps of money.  Farmers get to babysit the clients after the fact and “on-sell” or “up-sell”.  They also have targets to chase, which may or may not differ from those of the hunters.  It all depends on the company you are working for.  I’ve seen the chaos and backstabbing created in sales teams when challenging targets are set by Sales Managers, who don’t manage the process and outcome correctly.  FACT – Salespeople are by nature emotional creatures, so there is a thin line between creating an environment of motivation vs one of utter demoralisation when targets are not met.

If your sales reps only have one goal — meeting their sales targets — they’re selling themselves and your business short (literally).  The last week of the sales month can lead to a very cold-blooded, hard core approach to sales, if targets are way off.  This can have a negative consequence on client retention, for instance.  Your hunters are going in for the kill, and your normally-gentler-by-nature farmers starts to become bloodthirsty. This rings even more true when basic compensation is affected if targets are not met.  The looming idea of not being able to pay your rent because your basic won’t cover your expenses, does not motivate a person to work harder.  Rather it drives a person to either crumple in defeat or do what is wrong.



 So how do you set targets to motivate?  I can easily launch into a list of a day long here, but someone once said to me “Keep it simple Susan”.  Yes, he got my name wrong, but twenty years later, I still remember those words when I find myself in a heap of distress.  When I was a Sales Manager, I got my team to focus on the following three motivators to chase challenging targets and stay motivated:


Celebrate the small wins

Start by holding your reps accountable to smaller weekly or monthly goals, and you’ll increase the likelihood that they’ll slay the “Beast Target”.

Smaller weekly targets allow sales reps to build confidence and keep focus.  This way individuals and teams can track progress towards the Big Hairy Audacious Goal, and it helps the manager to quickly identify reps who are not performing.  Swift intervention is now possible as to identify whether there is a “lazy rep” issue or a real problem, like an external factor making it impossible for the individual to reach their target.

An article published by Harvard Business School found that is particularly helpful.

One of the key missteps highlighted in this article states “organizations often lose top sales talent because of target setting that penalizes success. One common misstep is using past performance as a yardstick. If a top performer overshoots her annual target by 20%, her next year’s target is set at 120% of the current year’s — while next year’s target for a rep who achieves just 90% of this year’s target remains unchanged. Not surprisingly, top performers find this unfair and often jump ship.”


Adjust for changing market conditions

In a failing economy, many companies drastically reduce spending on all levels, and it could affect a sales rep’s ability to meet her target. Take for example, cutting cell phone and fuel allowances.  If I can’t make the calls or get to my clients, I can’t make the sales.

Losing a key client because of the economy is almost like slitting your own throat.  Boy do you bleed!

Changes in technology and competition from newer, innovative products and services can seemingly saturate a market overnight.  If the target isn’t adjusted for market conditions, ACTUALLY REACHING the target, is as far fetched as Jack climbing that beanstalk while the giant is standing at the bottom chopping away at the stem with a big old axe.


Set Activity Goals

This will teach a rep to stay in touch with new clients at least once a month and build that relationship.  People buy from people they like and trust.  Eventually it will all add up to the monetary targets.  Getting to know your client becomes a great motivation to not just make the sale, but to also retain and grow the client.  A lot more emphasis should be placed on this aspect.  KNOW YOUR CLIENT!  Honestly, it makes the business of chasing those targets a lot more fun.

I do believe that the world of sales has changed radically over the past 10 years.  The one thing which remain unchanged though is the sales target….and it is ALWAYS challenging.  As the old saying goes “If you can’t stand the heat, then get out of the kitchen”.  Even if you work for the most awesome company, being in sales demands a very particular set of skills backed up by a kind of crazy personality that thrives on pressure.

Happy selling!

Will Virtual Sales do as well as Direct Sales?

Will Virtual Sales do as well as Direct Sales?

The global pandemic has seen a dramatic increase in virtual sales, but there seems to be a continuous divide when it comes to developing sales strategies for the future.   Can we   return to the classic method of face-to-face direct sales as soon as circumstances allow,  or joining the revolution of going full virtual.    What should we plan for in the “new normal”?

This time last year, I was waking up at the crack of dawn to brace the Johannesburg morning rush to get to my first client meeting in Pretoria. Today, I am working virtually for an American company. My first Zoom meeting is at 3 p.m., which is 8 a.m. Central Time Zone in Tennessee. I have gone from meeting clients in person every day, to calling and emailing them. Building virtual relationships with the time difference has been quite an adjustment, but I am enjoying not having to sit in traffic for hours. As someone with experience on both sides, this is my take on the two strategies.

The way I distinguish virtual from direct sales would be, quality versus quantity.


Direct Sales – Quality

Direct sales would be the quality approach. The focus is on face-to-face interactions. The value of the relationship between business and client is heightened because of the personal bond created. The client’s trust is built on meetings where informal conversations can lead to a higher chance of client retention. Even if the number of clients reached is considerably lower, because of the time taken to build the relationship.


Virtual Sales – Quantity

Virtual sales would be the quantity approach due to the access to a larger spectrum of potential clients from various industries, and the ease of contact via electronic platforms i.e. email. It is a great way to determine which industries to target and eliminate the ones that do not bring in positive metrics or sales. However, maintaining good relationships with clients can be difficult because of not having the face-to-face factor, and managing a concentrated customer base can create a lower chance of client retention.

To further differentiate the two sales strategies, I will use the 4 A’s model: Acceptability, Accessibility, Affordability, Awareness, and the selling of sweaters as an example for each.


4 A’s Model

Direct Sales

  • Acceptability – Why should customers buy our sweaters? Are they priced according to the quality we are offering? This component can be used in the sales pitch to potential customers.
  • Accessibility – Ensuring the store is stocked up with sweaters and positioned where customers can easily see and reach them.
  • Affordability – Are our sweaters priced to attract our target markets? How are the sweaters priced against competitors at stores nearby?
  • Awareness – Can customers see that we sell sweaters in our store? Are they visible on mannequins in the display window? Do we have a sign?

Virtual Sales

  • Acceptability – Why should customers buy our sweaters? Are they priced according to the quality we are offering? This component can be used in the product title and description on the website.
  • Accessibility – Having a website that is easy to navigate, and mobile phone optimised, so customers can effortlessly buy sweaters from any device.
  • Affordability – Are our sweaters priced to attract the desired target markets? How are sweaters on competitors’ websites priced?
  • Awareness – An email campaign, targeted at a group of potential customers to inform them about our brand of sweaters.

We can see from this, that the mechanisms of the 4 A’s in both approaches often coincide and have similarities.

Adapting to the current climate and adopting a sales process that not only protects your team, but also grows your business, is essential.

A combined approach of both sales strategies based on your company’s goals and objectives, would, in my view, be the most beneficial in these uncertain times.