Motivating sales teams during sales training small setting meeting

Why are some salespeople uniquely successful? Do they have some special sales skills that others don’t? If your sales force is somewhat normal, just 20% are high performers. Imagine what a difference it would make if motivating sales teams was tied directly to sales training and increasing their ability develop stronger customer relationships and sell more.

From increased competition and changing buying patterns to economic uncertainties and talent crunches, external business and market trends are always shifting, and often in nerve-wracking ways. Motivating sales teams in volatile times is never easy. But recently there’s been an additional, and in some ways more insidious, issue that’s affecting sales team engagement, retention and success.

In a world now dominated by technology and automation, customers have instant access to more information than ever before. They’re also busier, more distracted and pretty sure they can find what they need on their own. They’re less willing to spend time listening to a sales pitch, particularly because they don’t expect to find any value in it for them.

Many salespeople have been left wondering whether there’s still a role left for them in this kind of selling environment, and whether it’s one they can find success and personal fulfillment in.

The answer to both of these questions is an emphatic “yes.” But you may need to take another look at how you’re approaching the essential aspects of  sales training. Salespeople need new tools and skills to navigate the demands and complexities of today’s sales ecosystem, and, just as importantly if not more so, they need to change their mindset about what it means to sell. Otherwise, you’ll continue to struggle to motivate them, regardless of how experienced they are or how much success they’ve enjoyed in the past.

Why Sales Skills Are Far From the Whole Story

Motivating sales teams so that they sell more and close more deals isn’t just about giving people training on sales skills and telling them what they need to do to be successful. After all, if you’re like most sales leaders we talk to, you have loyal, honest, conscientious, good people on your sales team. They’ve got the product specs and details down pat. They know your CRM processes cold. They watch all the videos on the latest sales techniques. They’re taught foundational selling principles and seemingly participate and listen diligently in weekly sales meetings. And yet that one nagging problem remains:

They’re not selling much!

If only they’d do what you teach them to do, they’d be successful. But they don’t do it, right? And continuing to take the same approach with your sales team isn’t going to change things or make them more motivated. To help all of your salespeople sell more, especially when the environment is looking like it’s stacked against them, you have to understand what actually causes their success—and what doesn’t.

Motivating Salespeople Is More Than Training

Teaching sales skills, product information and sales processes, while important, won’t in themselves cause someone to be successful. Just reading the best sales books, attending workshops and listening to experts who share their selling secrets also isn’t going to make them successful or more internally motivated. Simply knowing how to sell and what to do, even though that’s important, isn’t enough, and here’s why:

People don’t always do what they know to do! They usually do what they feel like doing and what they think is possible for them to do.

How To Motivate Sales Teams

So let’s talk about what we know about what motivates sales teams. Salespeople are largely driven by emotion — on average 85% feelings, attitudes and emotions and 15% logic, knowledge and discipline. Even if most of them know how to gain knowledge, they struggle with identifying and handling their emotions. That’s why their ability to sell isn’t just about picking up new sales skills.

To create more high performers and motivate sales a team, you have to drill deeper, to those emotional factors that control around 85% of a salesperson’s ability to sell. For the “how” of selling to take hold, the “why” has to be readily apparent. This is about mindset, not skillset.

Most sales training stays at the surface, focusing on things like closing skills, probing techniques, negotiation strategies, challenge phrases, closing techniques and manipulative devices. In other words, it teaches them how to get people to say “yes.”

Sure, that sounds like it makes a lot of sense, but let’s go back to what’s really driving a salesperson’s behavior: their feelings, attitudes and emotions. If salespeople don’t feel positive about what they’re doing — and manipulating someone into buying something, whether they need it or not, doesn’t tend to feel good — they’re going to shut down. When salespeople are asked to do selling activities that conflict with their values, perceived skills or their sense of right and wrong, it triggers an internal conflict and can actually decrease their ability to sell.

Now put it into the context of today’s selling environment, where you have a highly informed customer base that is already skeptical of the value the salesperson brings. If your salespeople have nothing to add to the equation beyond some clever selling techniques and scripted messaging about product features and benefits, they’re going to get turned away quickly and repeatedly. That will only lower their confidence, motivation and ability to sell even further.

The Connection Between Inner Values and Sales Team Motivation

Our inner values define who we really are. And anyone who tries to sell something without any concern about whether it’s right for the customer or not will experience an inner conflict — because this very act conflicts with healthy values. Likewise, sales training that teaches techniques and strategies that are designed to pit the salesperson against the customer in a battle to see who can win will also conflict with most people’s inner values. Even so, these are still common ways that many people are taught to sell, and it explains a lot about their sales performance failures or low sales. In fact, there are 4 clear reasons why most sales training fails. When you think about why sales leaders struggle to motivate their teams, this approach to training is one of the key factors.

OK, so what does work then?

Here’s what we’ve found, and it’s something that has been confirmed time and again, through good economic times and bad, regardless of industry, market or business model: When salespeople focus on listening, identifying and filling the needs customers have and creating the most value for them, they earn their customers’ respect, and their own self-respect is enhanced in the process. They’re not reciting information the customer could find on their own; they’re genuinely interested and listening to understand what matters to the customer so they can help them address their needs. As a result of this shift in approach and mindset about what it means to sell, they have strong, positive values about selling, and their drive to achieve goes up. They’re fueled by an internal passion to do right by their customers and create more value for them.

To be most successful, your salespeople must answer this question: “Is the way I sell consistent with my inner values?” Regardless of how sharp their sales skills are or how well they understand your sales process and product features, if their conscious or unconscious answer is “no,” they’ll either perform on a low level or quit and do something else.

But, if their answer is “Yes, the way I’m asked to sell is consistent with my inner values,” they’ll be free to perform on higher levels. They’ll be happier, more fulfilled and will serve you and your customers better. And no technology will be able to replace the value they bring to the table. Their authentic humanness is their biggest differentiator.

Sales Training That Removes the Barriers to Sales Success

When it comes to motivating sales teams, values are just one of the pivotal internal factors that affect your salespeople’s ability to sell and will ultimately have much more influence on their performance than just the sales skills taught in a typical training program. Their sales success will be largely due to an alignment of the following key dimensions:

  1. View of Selling
  2. View of Abilities
  3. Values
  4. Commitment to Activities
  5. Belief in Product
Selling Congruence Graphic

As these dimensions come into congruence, salespeople want to do result-producing activities. They develop an internal zest, confidence and a deep feeling that what they’re doing is right and good. That means that even when the business environment is rocky and they’re under pressure to close the revenue gap, they’ll have the energy and internal motivation to sell on higher levels.

Rather than teaching people to sell, this is an approach that removes the fear of rejection, call reluctance and many of the common emotional barriers that prevent salespeople from selling up to their real capabilities.

To learn more about the myths of why salespeople succeed or fail, the three essential conversations of sales success and how motivating sales teams can happen by bringing each of these five dimensions into alignment, download a free preview of (and find links to order) our newest book, Listen to Sell: How Your Mindset, Skillset, and Human Connections Unlock Sales Performance.

About the Author
Donna Horrigan

Vice President of Client Development

For more than six years Donna Horrigan has been partnering with our clients to drive business outcomes through performance improvement...
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