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“Working hard for something we don’t care about is called stress. Working hard for something we love is called passion”. - Simon Sinek

How to keep your sales team motivated?

It’s an eternal question for managers -- how to make work become something employees genuinely care about, how to convert ‘stress’ into a passion. And the question grows even more relevant each day in the wake of the COVID-19. Many employees have been displaced, away from the motivational power of their colleagues. The world’s economy is hurting, weakening the power of their salaries. And the constant existential threat can’t make getting up on Mondays any easier. It’s tempting to increase the commission earned on each sale as a method of boosting motivation. Besides the apparent loss of margin on each sale for the company, it turns out this type of sales incentive for employees has little motivational influence. But don't worry, we have got you covered we will give you the best ideas for incentives for sales staff and agents.

We understand from psychologist Abraham Maslow that physiological safety and security (in the corporate context, a salary) exists at the very bottom of the human ‘Hierarchy of Need.’

Maslow's hierarchy of needs

Accordingly, converting stress into passion requires more than just money. Employees crave psychological incentives; they want to climb the ladder of autonomy and competence and reach for self-actualization in their roles as salespersons and people. So, managers need to get creative with their compensation and incentive structures, now more than ever. In this article, we'll describe 5 ways to motivate the sales team, offering proven ideas for motivating sales personnel in ways that aren’t often considered by typical managers.

1. Educational incentives for sales staff and employees

We know what you’re thinking. Who would possibly think that education could ever be a stronger incentive than money? It sounds like the worst management pitch ever: “You’ve exceeded our expectations this quarter. Allow us to grace you with the opportunity for more training and education!” And you’d be right, for the most part. More work-related education could be unappreciated at best and downright offensive at worst. But the value-dynamic is flipped on its head when offering education that targets learners’ skills outside office settings.

Take learning another language as an example. Outside work, learning a second language is beneficial for so many things; it’s hard to summarize. Evidence suggests that being bilingual aids in multi-tasking, objective reasoning and can even help to stave off Alzheimer’s disease. Aside from the obvious benefits for the person themselves, having a bilingual salesperson in a company with international dealings is far from bad. Inspire your sales team by offering various educational incentives programs. In practice, this could mean offering private language lessons after a certain sales target is achieved. A service like Preply could be a hassle-free way to carry-out this incentive completely remotely.

2. Geographical freedom

Speaking of ‘completely remotely,’ if the past few months haven’t been educational, as far as the benefits of WFH (work from home), remote management, and shifting physical business activity into the digital realm are concerned, you might want to read up. Despite the distance between teams and their managers, it seems as if productivity when working from home remains steady, highlighting the possibility of a future where fully or partially distributed workforces are the norm. How employees can benefit from a WFH arrangement are obvious. More time with family, less time and money spent on commuting, and a greater sense of comfort and independence. What you might not guess are the benefits for employers and managers. Based on a study from Global Workplace Analytics, it’s estimated that employers running half-time WFH arrangements save an average of $11,000 per year.

Tech giants Google, Microsoft, and Facebook have all extended their WFH arrangements beyond the pandemic scope, with some turning the idea into a permanent policy. But it’s not their size that makes these Silicon Valley giants capable of such a feat. WFH is just as applicable and beneficial to SMEs. Take full-suite SEO services company Loganix, for example. Their “work from anywhere” policy isn’t just a luxury for their 32-strong team of employees, but, as they claim, an essential key to the organization's success. While they offer location-based services in Vancouver, it is the flexibility, trust, and worldly diversity that the partially distributed workforce brings to their operations that gives them an edge. Geographical freedom is an undervalued asset that's finally having its moment in the 'new normal' context and makes for a compelling incentive for winning salespeople. Designing a mutually agreeable WFH policy and ensuring employees are educated in winning productivity strategies could be a foolproof win-win.

3. Investment opportunities

Your sales team should have access to a comfortable life throughout their employment through a generous salary and a fair sales commission system. But a salary and commissions are far from foolproof when it comes to creating lasting financial security. By being offered investment opportunities beyond simple retirement funds or 401ks, your employees can automatically build cash in a protected fund without the need to perform lengthy market analysis. And your attractiveness as an employer skyrockets with a strong and diverse benefits package, which proves to be a great asset when it comes to employee acquisition and retention. A recent analysis from the American Institute of CPA revealed that 80% of employees would stay with a job that offered benefits over a different job with a 30% pay increase and no benefits. The range of funds on offer is more diverse today than ever before, and as an employer, you need to be able to tailor investment incentives to your sales team's specific needs and desires.

Say, for example, your sales team's average age is 35, with 90%+ having one or more children. A creative sales team incentive here could take a custodial investment account for the employees' children. Investing platforms like EarlyBird are often designed with this idea in mind, allowing users to set up expertly crafted ETF-based investment portfolios for low-risk compound gains over a long-term basis. The motivating force of knowing that their performance at work in securing their financial security and their children's financial security is hard to match. As an employer, it could be the secret to a lifetime of dedication from your sales team.‍

4. Life insurance benefits

Has there ever been a more pressing time to consider life insurance? Unfortunately, it’s a confusing and painfully dull topic to dive into as an individual employee. Not only that, but the premiums are considerably higher on an individual basis compared to group life insurance provided by an employer. So, for an employee, getting life insurance through work is a no-brainer. It’s convenient, low-cost or free, and customizable to account for new medical conditions (or the occasional global pandemic). And for managers and employers? It should be just as attractive if you’re taking employee health and motivation seriously enough. Consider Maslow’s hierarchy once more, this time turning your attention towards the lower half of the pyramid. Offering a secure and easy-to-enroll life insurance plan ensures the physiological security and safety necessary to move up the pyramid towards self-actualization.

Ask yourself what the motivational effect would be if your family were guaranteed to be taken care of thanks to your employer if the worst happened? Of course, it's a little more difficult in practice. To make the process as efficient and straightforward as possible, you should consider using a concierge-like insurance service where an expert can adequately assess your sales team's demands and find the perfect broker for your needs. An organization like TrueBlue can perform this type of service. What is more, your accounting department will appreciate how reliable it is: the quote given is the price paid 91% of the time.

5. Personalized incentive

You won’t find this last sales incentive everywhere, and with good reason. It’s considerably harder to assess, but it has maybe the most potential for boosting employee motivation. Want to know exactly what benefits your salespeople truly want? Ask them. That’s right, your sales team is a group of individuals, probably of varying demographics and personality types. They don’t eat the same lunch, get to work the same way, or perform equally, So why would they respond the same to certain types of motivational incentives?

They wouldn’t, and that’s why you should ask them exactly what they want. The convenience and cost-effectiveness of their desires might surprise you. Your star salesperson parent might want to take the next three Fridays off with-pay (PTO) to look after the kids. Give personalized incentives to your sales agents for increasing sales performance. Your up-and-comer smashing his quarterly targets might want an expense-paid adventure day in an outdoor climbing park. Don’t be afraid to be creative. The more personal the incentive is, the more valued the employee is likely to feel. The healthier your sales performance will be as they progress through the hierarchy of human motivation.


Motivating your employees is a marathon that doesn't have a finish line. As human beings, we are all vulnerable to external obstacles that hinder our motivation, and these times call for some extra boost, considering the current global outlook. There are novel ways to approach the problem, and creating systems like the gamification of sales activity is highly promising. Still, your sales team needs a strong motivational foundation before that. As an employer, you should make a minimum effort to cover your employees' basic needs in the essential areas of physiological and emotional well-being. After all, happiness at work is beneficial for more than just productivity. It affects an employee’s relationships, self-esteem, and even sleep.

This means offering baseline health and life insurance packages that support their salaries and commissions. You can also go a step further and improve your employee’s financial futures through tailored investment funds and retirement plans. When that’s covered, look further afield and address the things that support your worker’s self-esteem. Developing their skills outside work and giving them more freedom and autonomy in their work/life arrangements should be your next priority. You can go further still by conducting one-on-ones to discover the things in their life that are uniquely valuable to them. It may feel like a stretch from your organizational priorities, but it may just be the spark that reignites employee motivation–for good.

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Xoxoday Compass Team