There’s no question about it, we’ve all been through a lot in the last two years. Even if your sales team was not immediately or directly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, even if no one on your team was touched by the illness and you were able to keep your team up and running through those long months of lockdown, your team has still been impacted.
But the lingering effects of the pandemic are not the only reason why your sales team may not be performing as you need or want them to. There can also be deeper, systemic issues that traditional incentives, such as commissions and bonus pay, can’t accommodate. Knowing how to respond to these issues with understanding and compassion, however, is essential both for the overall performance of your team and for the general wellbeing of your team members.
Motivating Beyond Money
Once upon a time, the gold standard for incentivizing your sales team was the promise of a hefty commission. But many employees today need more. Above all, employees are looking to feel valued by their company.
And before they invest their time, skills, and energy in an organization, they want to know that their organization is willing to invest in them, too. One powerful way to do this is by offering your sales teams incentives for pursuing advanced education, such as Master of Business Administration (MBA) degrees, which can be valuable in innumerable industries and career fields. In addition to tuition reimbursement, for example, you could offer individualized career planning that would include a significant promotion upon the attainment of the MBA.
And when you encourage your team to cultivate their skills and to advance within your organization as a result, you’re going to have a more loyal and motivated workforce. Not only that, but the skills acquired through this advanced training will only enhance their performance, which is great both for your employees and for the company.
Focus on Relationships
No matter how driven your sales team may be, no one wants to feel like just another cog in the machine. So if you find that your team’s performance is slumping and none of the traditional approaches, such as pay incentives, are working, then that’s a good sign that money isn’t the issue and you need to take another tack.
The key to this is building a strong relationship with your employees. Keep your office doors open, literally and figuratively, whenever you can. Work alongside them as much as possible. Above all, be present and get to know them. Only then will you truly begin to understand what they need, both as a team and as individuals.
For example, you may discover that you have an employee who is struggling with a crisis of confidence after losing a client. Offering a word of encouragement or some specific, individualized praise for a successful deal the employee has completed can be all you need not just to motivate that one individual but to fundamentally alter the tenor of the entire team.
Offer Rewards and Recognition
Compassionate incentives, above all, are about showing your employees you see them, you care about them, and you want the best for them. And that’s why rewards and recognition need to become an integral part of workplace culture.
The good news, though, is that you don’t have to break the bank to make this work. In fact, rewards and recognition aren’t primarily about money at all. If it were, then commissions and financial bonuses would have been enough. But there are other and, for many employees, more meaningful ways to celebrate your employees’ achievements.
For example, if you have an employee who has gone the extra mile in landing a new customer or closing that sale, then you might reward them with a gift card to their favorite restaurant. And the reward will be even more powerful because it shows that you have taken the time to know them, that you have cared enough to learn what their favorite restaurant is.
Such a personal touch when you are celebrating your employees’ achievements and acknowledging the contributions they make to your organization can be far more motivating than a simple pay bump triggered in payroll. Commissions and bonuses might be great for your employees’ household budget, and certainly, no employee will feel motivated if they think they’re not compensated fairly. But to incentivize your team across the long term, and particularly to lift them out of a performance slump, they need to feel appreciated and acknowledged in personal and thoughtful ways.
A career in sales can be as challenging as it is rewarding. And that means that motivating your employees can be no mean feat at times. But if you find that commissions and bonus pay just aren’t getting you the performance results you need, then that’s a strong indicator your sales team needs more. Incentivizing your employees through compassionate means, from relationship bidding to employee rewards and recognition to the cultivation of your employees’ professional development can be exactly what your team needs to achieve excellence.