how to motivate sales team

How to motivate your Sales Team in a challenging economy

How to motivate your Sales Team in a challenging economy

Emily Tomlin

October 27, 2023

In the wake of the COVID, the business landscape has evolved in unprecedented ways. Sales teams around the world found themselves navigating through the economic turbulence that followed. However, there was an unexpected post-COVID boom for many firms and teams expanded, revenue targets grew accordingly, and many of us benchmark ourselves against our performance then. Today, though, we find ourselves facing new challenges. Rapidly increasing interest rates, increased conflict, prolonged sales processes,  reduced bonuses, and in short a very different economic environment to the boom times is affecting the moral of many sales professionals.  There will be many obstacles thrown at leaders, but keeping your team motivated during this challenging time may be the hardest of all.

One of the most pressing issues facing sales teams today is the lack of confidence in the economy. This uncertainty is making many firms look at ways to reduce their spend. If nothing else, sales processes have become elongated in many industries. Prospects are making more cautious decisions, processes are more complex, and this extended sales cycle can become demotivating for sales teams, who have become accustomed to quicker wins. This lack of economic confidence, and activity, can become a crisis of confidence for sales professionals. They may find themselves questioning their abilities and doubting the potential success of their efforts. Understandably, these negative emotions can severely impact their performance, making it crucial for sales leaders to address and overcome this challenge.

A well-run sales team uses bonuses and commission to motivate staff, but a downturn can lead to firms tightening their budgets and reducing variable compensation. It’s a drain on the wider economy, but also on the motivation of sales professionals, who may see a reduction in living standards.

The most important thing during challenging times is communication. It’s imperative that sales leaders maintain an open and honest dialogue with their teams. They can see the figures, colleagues talk, and sticking your head in the sand won’t change anything. Addressing their concerns, sharing company updates, and providing a clear vision for the future can help rebuild confidence and maintain trust within the team. A “this too shall pass” attitude is calming and realigns everyone to the long-term vision that the team is working towards.

A key part of focusing on your long-term vision is focusing on training and development. If your market is experiencing a slowdown, then you want the best trained team when the market recovers. A team, which can capture market share, and which has the skills required for a new economic environment. Some training could be short-term fixes like overcoming objections, but others could focus on developing colleagues' management skills, or allowing them to gain other skills.

Don’t back away from still setting targets, and challenging ones, but be realistic. Allowing a team to drift without focus will only make the situation worse. Clearly define expectations and provide a roadmap for success by breaking down larger targets into smaller, achievable milestones. This helps to maintain motivation and focus and enables you to celebrate each small win along the way. While bonuses may not paid, you can implement non-monetary incentives, which recognise strong performance such as increased time off. It’s a great idea to get the team to brainstorm as to what these non-cash rewards could be, and you can then implement those that the business feels are suitable.

Work together to audit each part of your sales funnel and again encourage team members to contribute with ideas to improve your reach and performance. This only strengthens you as a leader who is open to hearing the voices of others, and good ideas aren’t exclusive to exec teams. Encourage the sharing of best practice and learn from each others’ experiences. Not everybody in the team will be suffering from the same level of slowdown and it’s good to understand why they are outperforming, and then replicate their success elsewhere in the team. Add value to clients. They aren’t buying because they are having issues themselves. Work with your team to understand your clients’ issues and see if you can come up with a list of things that help them, which may not fall into your usual service lines.

Most importantly be an optimistic leader. If your team don’t believe in themselves, then you believing in them will really inspire.

Enjoyed this article? Then you may enjoy this article on consistent leadership.

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