How to Motivate a Sales Team Without Money

In this article, we will share seven innovative ways to motivate a sales team without money.

While competitive wages and financial bonuses are essential for any business strategy, non-monetary rewards can significantly improve motivation. It may even help resolve some of the sales budget issues.

Research has shown that employees in all industries have begun to pay more attention to nonfinancial factors in their employment, including work/life balance, quality of leadership, and the treatment of employees.

As sales teams across the country are struggling, we hope businesses will consider some of these (mostly) free strategies to improve employee morale and motivation.

Related article: The Trillion Dollar Problem: Why Sales Compensation is Broken

While everyone loves a boost in their income, sometimes you need more than money to understand your employees and their needs. These motivational tactics should help you improve employee optimism and hopefully see a boost in sales, too.

1. Create a Strong Purpose

While some people are seemingly born to sell anything at any time, others need to believe what they are selling is beneficial in some way. A great way to do this is by keeping your sales reps included in the customer feedback loop even after they close the deal.

Hearing how happy a customer is with what they sell them can boost confidence and help them feel more motivated in their job—we all like knowing if we have made a difference in someone's life.

No matter what your company sells, the end goal is always the same – happy customers. You usually get the most satisfied customers from enthusiastic sales reps who have a strong sense of purpose.

2. Give Them a Public Shoutout 

Being recognized for doing a good job is an excellent motivator. We all remember getting shiny gold stars on our school papers and how great that made us feel.

Sales teams love getting praised. In one study, 79% of workers said getting recognition from their leaders made them work harder, while 78% said gaining recognition improved productivity. When high performers get public credit, this can motivate other people on the sales team and show senior leadership who the best team members are.

Here are some easy examples of public recognition you can try:

  • Employee of the month award
  • Catered team lunch that honors star employees
  • Recognition award posted in a public space, like a “wall of fame”
  • Handwritten thank-you card
  • Personalized award

3. Spend Time Getting to Know Them

Your sales team wants to feel like valued members of your company. Spend time talking to each member of your sales team so you can learn about them. Perhaps you have a few baseball fans on the team or someone who loves Broadway shows. You probably have some parents – ask them about their kids.

Related article: 10 Reasons Why Top Salespeople Leave

If you are genuinely interested in your employees as real people, they will be more motivated to work well for you and the company. As you get to know them better, you can ask them what motivates them to work in sales. You may learn that they want recognition, or maybe they would work better with a flex-time schedule.

4. Set Goals Together

As a business, you need to create goals for your sales staff. However, working with your sales team and letting them create their own additional goals can encourage them to be more independent and responsible.

People are usually more willing to do something when it is their idea. As your sales staff achieve their own goals, they can feel proud of their progress. It also shows them that you value their opinions and want to be partners with them. This collaborative goal setting can also encourage strategic thinking — a crucial skill for salespeople.

5. Empower Them to Make a Difference

While many, if not most, of your sales team, started in this career path to earn a paycheck, that is not the reason why most people stay long term. Many people are drawn to sales because they enjoy solving problems for others.

As your sales staff progress in their careers, encourage them to be creative if they have clients with unique needs or situations. If they find the standard sales process is not working, they can brainstorm new pathways to make a difference for their clients. When you give your experienced sales staff this type of freedom, it shows them that you recognize their creative abilities trust their judgment.

6. Harness Healthy Competition

The best salespeople are innately competitive. That competitiveness can turn into a significant motivating factor as each salesperson tries to beat out the others, no matter how friendly they are with each other. Encourage that winning drive with some friendly team competition.

Related article: 10 Fun SPIF Ideas that Boost Sales

You will need to have a desirable "carrot" at the end of the competition, and it doesn't have to be money. You can tie this in with the public shoutout to get a "two-for-one" motivational deal.

Here are some simple content ideas:

  • Who had the best sales numbers for the month? Quarter? Year?
  • Who was the biggest team player?
  • Who made the biggest improvements over the previous quarter?
  • Who had the most positive customer reviews?

7. Give Them a Clear Career Advancement Path

If your sales staff know they can advance within the company, that can be a great motivator. Define a clear plan that includes regular reviews, so they know what to expect. You can also consider a mentorship or coaching program that pairs newer representatives with your more experienced staff.

Motivate Your Sales Team with the Right Incentives

Your company needs your sales team. That's why it's so important to give them the recognition they deserve. By using these motivational strategies like giving your sales team a clear purpose and promoting healthy competition, you may start to see a significant turnaround in your sales department.

However, even with all these incentives, you must get the initial compensation right. In the end, the paycheck will always be the biggest motivator.

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