Even your top performers can lose focus during the summer.
Warmer months mean more distractions, and with key decision makers on vacation, a potential drop in leads. This is a toxic combination for sales reps and their managers.
Sales leaders that fall back on run-of-the-mill motivation techniques struggle to drive their reps toward aggressive growth targets.
This year, take a different approach to the same challenge.
These 10 motivational techniques will engage both junior reps and their senior counterparts, ensuring they continue to work to meet their sales goals throughout the summer:
1) Invest in Sales Management Coaching
One clear way to motivate salespeople in the summer is to empower front-line managers to be better coaches. Many sales managers are bogged down by non-coaching tasks: Reporting numbers, attending unnecessary meetings, and making their own sales. Sales leaders create the ideal environment for coaching by prioritizing it among the list of managerial responsibilities.
Start by identifying a behavior-based coaching method to adopt for the organization and secure support from other senior leaders. Clearly communicate these expectations to managers, and whenever possible, free them up to spend their time giving tactical support to reps. In particular, convey to managers that developing strong selling behaviors and actions in every stage of the funnel is time intensive, but it has an incredible impact on revenues. By supporting the strategic role of coaching within an organization, company leaders boost the motivation and performance of the entire sales team.
2) Plan a Sales Contest
Sales contests are another engaging way to propel reps forward. Sales management expert Ken Thoreson identifies the two primary rules of sales contests below:
The first rule: Remember cash is not what you want to use during sales games -- that is what your commission plan is designed to achieve. The second rule is that creating fun in your sales culture is the main outcome.”
To take a contest to the next level, offer two completely different rewards rather than one. The lower-level reward shouldn’t be a watered-down version of the first — it should appeal to your team’s unique wants and desires. By using this two-tiered method, leaders motivate everyone, not just star performers who always bring home the prize.
3) Reiterate and Reinforce Goals
Christine Lotze, a behavioral change expert, found that simplicity and repetition are the two keys to communicating workplace goals. As August comes to a close and September begins, ensure your managers are communicating regularly with their teams. They should reiterate and reinforce the quotas for the quarter with direct language and repeat the message during one-on-one meetings.
Sales managers bring accountability to these objectives by breaking them down into smaller, personalized goals. For example, a manager could ask an underperforming rep to double her number of prospecting calls.
4) Track and Celebrate Small Wins
When sales slow down in the summer, focus on tracking and celebrating the small wins to keep spirits high. Ask reps to record their accomplishments every day and share them with a friend at work. Small wins can include better email metrics, a higher number of demos conducted, and verbal agreements. These moments of success give salespeople momentum and keep their focus on the positive.
5) Focus on Professional Development
Summer is the ideal time to focus on professional development for sales reps. With key decision makers vacationing, their schedule is typically slower, and learning new techniques helps them override low motivation. Consider breaking up the quarter by sending a few reps to an exciting conference or by planning onsite trainings. If your company has limited budget, make use of books, webinars, and podcasts that help salespeople strengthen their skill set.
Developing a mentorship program is another low-cost way to increase engagement in the summer. By partnering junior and senior salespeople, leaders can facilitate learning while increasing employee engagement. If salespeople can deepen their sales skills during the summer, they can sign deals faster once lead volume returns to higher levels.
6) Implement a SPIFF
SPIFFs -- Sales Performance Incentive Funds -- are popular performance tools that challenge salespeople to sell a particular product. With a specific goal that’s tied to commensurate compensation, salespeople regain focus. Christopher Cabrera, sales compensation expert and CEO of Xactly Corporation, explained the six best practices for SPIFFs in Selling Power:
Make sure to plan out each SPIFF with a solid understanding of expected ROI.
Use SPIFFs to launch a new product or sell excess inventory.
Keep it short -- three months maximum.
Only implement SPIFFs twice a year. Summer is a perfect time.
Create a surprise SPIFF that’s unpredictable for salespeople.
Limit the cost to 5% of an incentive budget.
When implemented well, SPIFFs motivate a sales team to hit a target that supports your company.
7) Support Remote Work
Salespeople enter the profession because of the flexibility it affords them. As long as they hit their numbers, they enjoy a degree of autonomy and self-direction. Despite managers’ instinct to tighten the grip on salespeople during summer, reps benefit most from extra flexibility. Encourage people to work from their ideal environment, whether it’s at home or even while on a trip to the beach.
According to Stanford University researchers, working remotely can help increase productivity. Managers can pre-empt any perceived leniency by developing accountability systems that work just as well in remote situations. New communication applications like Slack and Asana, for example, make communication with remote reps easier than ever.
8) Lead Team Events
Despite some eye-rolling from employees, team-building activities have a tangible effect on business outcomes. To develop camaraderie and boost morale, take a team into a totally new environment.
Leaders can ensure their planned activities don’t flop by getting sales reps involved in planning the process. Ask individual salespeople to brainstorm some ideas for an offsite event. Something as a simple as a barbecue, trip to the beach, or even a sporting event encourages team members to relax and connect outside of the office.
9) Communicate Value
Appreciating your salespeople is one of the easiest (and least expensive ways) to motivate them to work harder everyday. When leaders communicate what they value about salespeople, they encourage more contributions.
At the next company event, publically recognize reps who have gone above and beyond this summer. Give awards to individuals who not only surpass expectations, but also bring something different to the table or exhibit real progress. Acknowledge a rep who made the biggest sale of their career, or consider bringing attention to the salesperson with the highest rating from clients.
Balance these public opportunities with day-to-day praise. Giving someone a high-five for a job well done or writing a personal note of thanks can go a long way toward inspiring higher performance.
10) Eliminate Commission Caps
Some companies use commission caps to limit salespeople’s pay as compared to other employees. Despite positive intentions, these caps severely stifle revenue growth. If top reps are not incentivized, they will hit commission caps and stop performing.
Commission caps are the absolute worst way to stunt a company’s growth. Overall, they lead to decreased motivation, fewer high-performing reps, and a diminished capacity for growth. As the summer comes to a close, work with HR to get rid of commission caps and watch how your talent’s performance soars.
How do you keep your sales team motivated during the summer months? Let us know in the comments below.
Originally published Aug 18, 2016 12:00:00 PM, updated July 28 2017