10 Tips to Light a Fire Under Your Sales Team

Michele Warg
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A sales team makes up a company's front lines. They need to feel passion and excitement for their product, their company and their clients. Keeping them upbeat and focused means keeping a fire lit under them. Do this through rewards, encouragement and great communication. Keep reading to learn 10 ways to light the fire that keeps your sales team operating at peak performance levels.

1. Reward Your Team

One of the best ways to get a sales team revved up is to reward those who do a great job. Acknowledge employees' skill and efforts. Simply showing gratitude when the team puts out effort can do a lot to keep them loyal and working hard. Failing to acknowledge good work is a sure way to cause the best people to print their resumes and start looking elsewhere.

2. Don't Micromanage

Continually correcting your crew and giving them little freedom to do their jobs the way they want to do them can be sure-fire ways to end up with an unhappy team. Don't over-manage, and don't keep comparing their performance with that of other teams. Instead, focus on motivating and rewarding them.

3. Personalize Your Encouragement

Different team members are motivated by different things. Some on your sales team probably just want to do their jobs and collect their paychecks. Others may want to please you or the others on the team. More self-directed team members may find motivation in outdoing themselves year after year. Pinpoint the motivations of individual team members, and use them as a way to target your efforts to inspire them.

4. Match People to Projects

Knowing your team as individuals also pays off when assigning tasks throughout the team. Find out who loves making cold calls, and give him that task. Hand off the research and data analysis to a sales rep who really loves doing the number-crunching. Light a fire under your team by targeting tasks to their individual passions and skills, and find a group that's happier and more productive.

5. Stay in Touch

You can't manage your team effectively if you never leave your office. Walk around and talk to your team. Deliver good news and bad news in person to let your team know you're approachable. Avoid using email as your primary means of communication with them.

6. Hire the Best

It's hard to keep a team fired up if there's a lot of dead wood dragging down morale. Focus on hiring the best people, taking care to make their personalities mesh well with current team members. You also benefit when you hire salespeople who don't need training and are ready to hit the ground running.

7. Celebrate Together

While it's certainly a good idea to recognize the special achievements of a team's stars, it's also important to find times to celebrate successes together without causing team members to compare themselves to one another. Focus on the wins, and set the losses to one side to help build your team.

8. Make Your Expectations Clear

If your team isn't quite sure what you expect and when you expect it, no one can head out into the field with much enthusiasm. Keep communication clear and constant. Define expectations for each member of the team precisely, and let them know what rewards they might receive if they exceed their targets.

9. Don't Overfocus on Numbers

You may be the type who gets excited by reading charts and crunching numbers. However, most of your sales team, if they're natural salespeople, probably get more fired up by relationships than by statistics. Let the team know the basics of the numbers, of course, but don't force them to wade through endless calculations if you want them to stay revved up to sell.

10. Keep Things Simple

While you want clear expectations, don't overdefine the process you expect your sales team to apply. A process that's too regimented or complicated can make a sales rep feel as if he can't do his job. Be flexible in a way that highlights team members' best strengths.

Every team needs a good leader. When focusing on how to motivate a sales team, think about the team members individually to design strategies that can encourage them to do their best. Figuring out how to light a fire under each member can lead to an explosion of energy and productivity that everyone can celebrate.

Photo Courtesy of Simplistic SitesY at Flickr.com


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  • Joan G.
    Joan G.

    Great helpful tips.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Carol thanks for your comment. So very true! But I agree - the manager needs to be respected because of their position - not because of their personality or who they are. Always respect the position no matter what. It is a shame that many managers are thrown into their positions without the benefit of any type of training themselves but they are expected to be able to train their employees and to lead. Not everyone has the ability to be a manager.

  • Carol Karney
    Carol Karney

    There are a lot of managers out there that have no clue on how to manage. Many of them are numbers people, but they have trouble relating to the staff they manage. Some look at the position as a Parent/Child exchange, some as just I'm the authoritative figure you will do as I say. Trouble is they are not any better with training techniques than they are at management. Not everyone can do that job. To juggle anywhere from 6-22 different personalities and figure out how to get them to do their jobs on days they don't want to be there can be a challenge. For the most part people go to work to do what their job is and to be good at that job. It is when they are in a funk, or have extra stress at home, not feeling well for any reason, that is when a manager shows their abilities. You have to be able to recognize many of those characteristics and determine how to handle those situations. Managers don't necessarily have to be liked, but they should be respected, because they respect can get them and their team through a lot.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Jane we are all grown ups here. If that person has management skills but doesn't want to use them, then maybe it's not being aloof at all but maybe they just don't want to manage any longer. I am one of those. I have a master's degree in management but, at this stage in my life, I don't want the responsible of managing a team. Maybe they are afraid in which case you could try to encourage them. But if their fears are strong, leading may just not be in the cards for them right now.

  • Jane H.
    Jane H.

    I've worked for a couple companies where the management staff got their positions because of who they knew from a previous company, basically hiring their friends into positions of authority. The problem is that those people didn't really know how to manage people. How would you advise a person who has management responsibility but makes themselves aloof for fear of showing that they don't actually know how to lead a team?

  • Hema Zahid
    Hema Zahid

    I always found that celebrating a success with all my coworkers made me want to work harder. Individual wins are great, but when it’s a win for the team all the members become motivated to do better. I think more supervisors need to take note of this easy way to increase their sales numbers.

  • Jay Bowyer
    Jay Bowyer

    Micromanaging: it's one of the biggest productivity killers, for sure. When we micromanage our teams, we restrict their freedoms and hamper progress. I think it's much better to be careful during the hiring process and bring the best talent onboard to begin with, so that we can let them run free and come up with their own innovative solutions.

  • Mike Van de Water
    Mike Van de Water

    I totally agree about the micromanagement. Good managers not only allow their employees freedom to "tweak" the job to do it their own way, they also encourage employees to share their ideas with the rest of the crew. Nobody knows a job like the person that's actually on the ground doing that job, and plenty of decisions that might seem like a good idea from the executive suite simply don't work in practice. Many if not most innovations will come from the ground level, so it's vital to listen!

  • Jacqueline Parks
    Jacqueline Parks

    There are a lot of good ideas here, but I am not sure about hiring new sales team members who are ready to go without training. Current team members are likely to feel some resentment if a new member comes in and gets right to work without a gradual introduction into the company culture. Also, if the new member really shines, it could hamper the success of the others who might not work as hard because they feel devalued. Although it is important to keep a quality sales force, I would recommend making sure that improving current team members is the first focus, and that new team members always receive training and gradually move into positions as equal team members.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Jacob not sure if a sales manager can ever take a step back from the numbers. The numbers are what drive everything in sales - from new accounts to closing on the sale to saving an account. It's all a numbers game. Anyone have experience with this and can give @Jacob an answer?

  • Jacob T.
    Jacob T.

    What is a good way for a sales manager to step back from the numbers? There are so many data points any given sales rep has to hit - new accounts, dials, close ratio, sales, etc., how do you step back from that without allowing some team members to take advantage?

  • Duncan  Maranga
    Duncan Maranga

    I really like the idea of staying in touch with the sales people under my supervision. For me it comes out as very motivating because it makes the individuals in the sales team feel that someone really cares to come down to them and see what they are doing. Its also a very effective way to get insight of personal challenges of the team members and find possible solutions.

  • Lydia K.
    Lydia K.

    I wonder how it's possible for a manager put #9 into into practice. Companies hire sales people for one reason - to see numbers. And I think every salesperson has sales goals and quotas to meet. What are some other ways to keep sales people motivated and excited about their jobs apart from closing x amount of sales or bringing in x dollars each month?

  • William Browning
    William Browning

    One thing that helped me at the office was gamification. If I pretended everything was a game or a competition, that made it more fun for me. It seemed the fun came first, then the money and benefits later. Everyone loves games, especially when we played them as a kid. Instead of buying properties in Monopoly, the game at work was how fast we could reach our next goal compared to everyone else.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Abbey totally agree that micromanaging is a bad trait to have. I am sure we have all worked under micro-managers at one time or another. Personally it is one of the main reasons that I originally started to look for a work from home position. I don't need someone standing over my shoulder telling me how to do my job. I know what needs to be done and I get it done - without a micro-manager. Those types of managers are ones who require "butts in the seats" every day. They want to know exactly what you are working on, why you are doing it the way you are, what are you planning to do next, when will you be finished! Working for a micro-manager makes you want to just scream - something I did in my car after work! Didn't take me long to move away from that and into a different position! It is true that we all need good managers but we need managers who trust that we will get the job done.

  • Abbey Boyd
    Abbey Boyd

    I think micromanaging is a serious issue in many companies. An employee can work much better without someone hovering over them, and independence is a great way for employees to grow. Let your employees do their job, and check in periodically. This fosters a sense of pride and accomplishment as well, as the employees feel they are capable and feel that their supervisor knows this.


    I think rewarding your team is obviously a good way to light fire under your sales team, but I think it is important to make sure that the rewards you are proving for hard work are actually appreciated by the employees. Sometimes rewards are not useful or are too low in value to be appreciated. The best practice is to ask employees beforehand what rewards they would like and what would motivate them.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Shannon thanks for the comment. Rewards can be anything, within reason, that motivates the sales force. For some it could be a bonus; for some it could be non-monetary things such as a day off with pay; for some it can be promotion or raise. I remember when I sold vacuum cleaners door to door many many years ago, the incentive for the highest sales was a trip. That wasn't an incentive for me so I talked to my boss and asked, if I am the highest in sales for the month, could we discuss a bonus and he agreed. A nice $500 bonus was in my paycheck for that month. I wasn't the top salesperson but came in second. So it depends upon the person and their needs. So no it doesn't have to be relevant to the company's products/services/industry.

  • Shannon Philpott
    Shannon Philpott

    I especially am fond of the idea of keeping things simple. When you are trying to motivate a sales team, the last thing they need to be focused on is trying to comprehend a complex system or incentive program. The article mentions reward systems. What are some potential rewards you could provide? Should they be relevant to the company's products/services/industry?

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