5 Reasons Your Salespeople Lack Motivation

Written by Josh Dhaliwal
on October 11, 2017

lack motivation
We’re all human. We’ve all had those days when we just can’t be bothered and even showing up to work is an effort. But what happens when those days stretch into a week, or even months, and those people who can’t be bothered are the ones who are meant to be selling your products? What do you do when Sales motivation dies?


Getting to the root of the problem

In order to correct the problem, you first need to pinpoint the cause. That can be a feat all of its own. The most straightforward method to find out the problem would be a conversation. You ask them what’s up and they tell you. If you can solve it, you do. If not, you have to help them get over it.

Of course, people and relationships – particularly that between a manager and their direct report – are not often that simple. Perhaps they can’t explain their lack of motivation, or perhaps they will deny that there’s a problem. In either case, you move on to the next method.


The 5 whys method

The 5 whys technique is a way of effectively asking the same question over again until you get to the real answer. It was developed by Sakichi Toyoda for the Toyota Industries Corporation as a method of root cause analysis. This example from a Close blog post, which deals with a lack of motivation among sales staff, shows how it takes 5 ‘why’s to get to the real ‘because’:

'Sales manager: My sales team is under performing.

You: Why is your team under performing?

Sales manager: Nobody seems to be giving their best effort.

You: Why are they not giving it their best effort?

Sales manager: They're not personally invested in their success. They just come in, do the day-to-day work, and leave at 5 p.m. sharp.

You: Why are they not personally invested?

Sales manager: I think it’s because we only reward the top sales rep, and everyone sees the top position as out of their reach.

You: Why do they think the top position is out of their reach?

Sales manager: Because Jeff has been the top rep ever since he started and they’ve pretty much given up on trying to even compete with him.

You: Why have they given up on trying to compete with him?

Sales manager: Well, he’s better than everyone by a long shot.'


By persisting in the line of questioning, it is possible to get to the heart of the matter – much harder to do with just one why.

The article goes on to add other methods to be used in addition to the 5 whys, such as data gathering and observation. Observing your sales team could uncover difficult relationships between employees, or behaviors that are distracting from work. Is it a whole team problem, or limited to just one or a few people?

NB: Be careful to distinguish problems from symptoms – for example, hanging out on Facebook all day is not why your salespeople are unmotivated, it’s a product of that lack of motivation.


Possible reasons why salespeople lack motivation

So, what could be some of the reasons why your sales team is under performing? 


1. Your enticements aren’t enough

Whether you offer commission, bonuses, perks, rewards, or all of the above, it may be that your incentives aren’t doing it for your sales team. Of course, everyone likes money – it can be a great motivator, but it’s not everything and if it comes to a choice between earning the big bucks and being happy, most people would choose happy.

If financial rewards aren’t incentivizing your team, try something fun instead. This article from HubSpot gives all kinds of ideas – some crazier than others – for rewarding good performance, including babysitting their kids, visiting a go-cart track and giving them the day off. Because these rewards are not expensive, it’s easier to give them out more frequently, thus creating a more harmonious workplace.


2. Your team dynamic is lacking

Most people are motivated by working in a group. It’s a combination of wanting to do well for your teammates, and being spurred on by others’ enthusiasm, as well as a general competitive spirit. If your team dynamic has lost its sparkle, it’s worth investing time and a bit of money to get it back. In addition to the usual team-bonding activities, you might find it worthwhile to introduce a light-hearted game to the office. In one sales team I worked in, whoever had the lowest figures that week had to buy bacon sandwiches for everyone for Friday breakfast. Though no one wanted to be the buyer, everyone wanted the sandwiches so it was a friendly kind of defeat. Meanwhile, whoever was doing the best that week got to have the team teddy bear on their desk. Obviously, these were adults who would not normally have dreamed of displaying a teddy bear with pride, but in this case it was what the teddy bear represented and how the team jostled over it that mattered. Team building is hugely important, especially if you’re trying to combat the lone wolf mentality of many salespeople.


3. They don’t understand what they’re selling

If your salespeople don’t understand or don’t believe in what they’re selling, their customers will know. Unless there’s a massive ideological gap between your employee and your company (in which case see point 5), this comes down to a lack of training and that’s on you. Go back to the drawing board and help them understand your brand. Whether or not this is a widespread problem, conducting regular training can be valuable to make sure everyone stays on message.


4. They don’t have the tools they need to succeed

It’s incredibly frustrating to feel like you’re working your backside off and not getting as far as you ought to be. Often, it’s your tools holding you back. The computer is clapped out or the software is inadequate. Maybe the CRM is due an update and keeps crashing, or their inbox is being flooded with spam. These problems and others like them are relatively simple to fix and if they’re slowing your salespeople down, you need to fix them.

As an example, a Sales Enablement Platform can improve productivity by ensuring that all the sales collateral your salespeople need is in front of them with a swipe of the finger. With a mobile-enabled app, your sales team can access marketing-approved content quickly and easily and you can track their engagement with these resources to see both how well the content is performing and to what extent the salespeople are making use of the tools.


5. You hired the wrong salespeople

Sometimes, things just don’t work out. If all your questioning, analysis and observation amounts to the conclusion that this person just isn’t a good fit for your company, it might be time to part ways. Make this your last resort, though, rather than your first instinct.

Finally, when it comes to encouraging your employees, I’d recommend more carrot than stick. Fear doesn’t inspire in the long-term and being given what feels like unattainable goals will only motivate your employees to start circulating their CV. At the end of the day, what you really want is a self-motivated brand ambassador whose ambition is to help the customer achieve their goals. Your job as their manager is to give them whatever technical, mental and emotional support they need to succeed.

Can you share any tips on motivating your salespeople? We’d love to hear from you!





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