Sales are down right now in most industries. Hospitality and retail were the first to go; manufacturing, construction and wholesale trade followed. Now, The Washington Post is reporting that white-collar workers are also in a precarious position, with the finance, management and public sectors seeing negative industry impact. WeWork is making global layoffs; even iPhone sales are down.
It’s easy for sales professionals, whose livelihoods often depend on commissions, to get frustrated and anxious during tough times. The problem is that frustration, anxiety and fear can come across to prospects and clients. It’s critical right now to help your sales team keep negative emotions in check and help them find small wins that can boost their confidence and motivate them.
Here are five motivators I’ve learned from over two decades managing sales teams:
1. Overcommunicate with your reps
This is especially true for your youngest or least experienced reps, whose confidence may be easily shaken. Be as personable as possible. While your first thought might be to Slack them or email them, pick up the phone and call them, or set up a video chat. Try to have as much (virtual) face-to-face communication as you can. These conversations are much more meaningful than an offhand note.
2. Focus on your most remote reps
Even before COVID, many companies were moving to partially or even fully remote sales teams. The more remote your sales rep is, the greater the risk he or she will become isolated from the team and get stuck in overly familiar patterns and techniques. When reps are isolated from the rest of their team, they become siloed and they stop looking for ways to grow and improve. This isn’t intentional; it’s simply a byproduct of isolation. It’s much more difficult to see what’s changing around you, or what you could be doing better, when you’re not interacting on a day-to-day basis with others in your industry. As we gradually start moving back into office spaces, make an extra effort to reach out to those who are still remote, whether they’re stuck at home because of their childcare situation or because they live out-of-state.
3. Celebrate the small wins
Don’t just celebrate deals made. It’s especially critical right now to celebrate other wins, like meetings set, meetings completed, demos completed, renewal business, or work anniversaries. Your team needs obtainable wins to stay motivated when deals are slower than usual. Personally congratulate team members on their small wins, and announce them to the rest of the team.
4. Come up with new spiffs
Sales program incentive funds work. Up your sales incentives, not just for deals made but for more achievable objectives, so there are more winners. Be specific about what goals, what reps can be doing to achieve those goals, and what the incentive is. Rewards for meeting goals don’t have to be cash bonuses, especially if you don’t have the budget for big rewards. They can be Amazon gift cards, bottles of wine, Apple AirPods, or lunches. In one company, we bought a slot machine, and anyone who had achieved a certain goal could spin it for a chance to win a prize.
5. Communicate Internal product development decisions
It’s especially important down a down market to make employees feel included in company news, decisions and wellbeing. You don’t want your reps to feel like they are out of touch with what is going on behind the scenes. When management teams go quiet during recessions, it means something is wrong. Your management team should continue to connect your sales reps with marketing and product development teams so that they can stay informed on all aspects of the business. People want to feel included and engaged, especially when they’re pick up the phone and hearing “no” all day.
As lockdown restrictions are eased, business will resume again, but there’s no knowing whether it will get worse before it gets better. In the meantime, team leaders and management should be prepared to devote extra time and creativity to motivating discouraged teams.
About the Author: As the Chief Executive Officer of Titanhouse, Mike Levy is responsible for the overall strategy as well as daily operations.
Prior to TitanHouse, Mike was the Chief Revenue Officer at RainKing Solutions where he was responsible for the client-facing business. As one of the original investors and members of the executive team, Mike helped build and guide RainKing from beta to two very successful PE exits. Prior to RainKing, Mike was a Vice President of Sales for Ipreo.