2. June 2021 Blog

A Practical Guide to Motivating your Sales Team Despite the Pandemic

During 2020, employers suddenly faced the need to organize their salespeople's work in a home office system. Bosses also had to coordinate their activities, ensure continuity of their organization’s operations, quickly respond to the changing situation, and at the same time maintain the same high level of team involvement. Sales professionals may find themselves in an insecure professional environment as a result of these changes.

HR departments and managers have to face the new challenge of how to support their teams when everyone feels stress and fatigue that is  exacerbated by information chaos? How to really motivate salespeople in a pandemic so that they deliver results? 

We're going to discuss this topic today.

What has the pandemic brought us?

Each industry reacted differently, but the first aspect that brought many salespeople down to earth was their own motivation. Customers found they had excellent objections like "there is a crisis", "coronavirus", or "now is not a good time to shop". It could take just a few such negative responses in a row for a salesperson to lose all of their motivation. 

As a result of the restrictions, the ability to travel was reduced and therefore the possibility of meeting clients vanished. Currently the only real method of communication for most is still digital, and this change has reduced the ability of many field salespersons’ ability to do their jobs effectively. Researching customer needs, presenting solutions convincingly, neutralizing objections, closing sales, or up-selling all became more difficult overnight.

And since the proof is in the pudding, many statistics simply back up these claims. 

How to motivate your sales team during a pandemic

Every company's sales department must work like a well-oiled machine. It should be a balanced set of professionals whose unique skills intertwine such that they allow you to achieve sales goals. This is a primer on how to create a sales team - it must maintain a high level of commitment and diligence, pulling up those who work below expectations. Proper motivation of a sales team can effectively encourage its members to work. It is therefore necessary to prepare procedures and follow practices so that you motivate employees to deliver better sales results, even during a pandemic.

#1 Set attainable and measurable sales goals

We ought to set concrete, measurable, achievable, relevant, and specific goals that salespeople can improve upon. The business reality of often unrealistic targets is very different. They can demotivate by either being too hard to achieve and so simply cannot be realized, or being too easy and hence not stimulating action.

How to set goals?

  • Set targets in relation to the market situation, take into account the seasonality of sales or a significant change in legal regulations affecting them.
  • Set sales targets on a discretionary basis, independently of the employee's effectiveness rates.
  • Set the bar at a realistic height, do not expect the impossible.
  • Define targets so that it is clear how to measure their achievement, otherwise a loss of enthusiasm is guaranteed.

#2 Find ways to automate tedious sales tasks 

The pandemic has made companies realize that costs can be perfectly optimized.

Salespeople's working time is valuable, so don't make them waste it on activities that can be automated. Work related to the circulation of documents and information in a poorly designed system causes reluctance and frustration of employees. A well-designed, intelligent system will not only improve productivity but also increase motivation to work.

And this is where CloudTalk comes in handy. 

Our outbound call center solution is a match made in heaven for sales teams. It works well with all major CRMs and offers a wide range of virtual numbers at affordable rates.

Additionally, you can compile your own database of contacts and filter criteria for potential prospects based on relevancy. The Power Dialer feature also boosts sales through less downtime between calls and automated workflows.

The more smart automation you implement, the merrier your sales reps will be. Thanks to automation they will be able to deal with more sales calls automatically, leaving them more time to focus on building relations and boosting their results.

It is advisable to invest in other tools that encourage sales, too. Automation of sales processes or a good CRM system that facilitates the team's work may positively affect not only sales, but also its effectiveness and speed of closing individual sales opportunities. A good CRM and automation system allows you to visualize results, generate task lists, and automate sending emails, just to name a few activities.

CloudTalk integrates with many CRM systems, by the way. 

#3 Empathize with your customers and listen to their troubles

A sales model based solely on the language of benefits is no longer relevant today. Another trend that has emerged as a result of the pandemic is customers needing advisers who can answer their purchasing needs without reciting product specifications. During the buying process, the salesperson must solve a problem or make the customer’s dreams come true. In fact, there is no other reason for them to make a purchase. It is crucial for a modern salesperson to know how to speak about customer problems rather than focus on the product or service right away.

SPIN is the ideal sales approach at this stage since it involves a salesperson identifying a potential customer's problems by asking questions according to a specific strategy:

  • S - Situation - assess the current circumstances of the buyer.
  • P - Problem - understand the problems that the buyer faces and how your product can solve them.
  • I - Implication - investigate the causes and effects of these problems.
  • N - Need-Payoff - why is your product worth the investment then?

SPIN works best when the client is guided through the whole process by asking questions in the appropriate sequence. Sellers should not directly influence customers, nor offer "merchandise," nor have to attend to objections from customers.

The customer should then ask the seller at the end of the conversation whether or not they have an offer for them, and ask for assistance after answering all kinds of questions.

Sounds like quite a booster for salespeople’s productivity and motivation, doesn’t it?

#4 Introduce performance dashboards and rewards

Competition can be the driving force behind a sales team. You might want to offer an individual bonus as reward for the most successful seller. Apart from the aforementioned rule, competitions for employees can be organized. It is a method that introduces healthy competition, not mutual struggle. The best employee with the highest sales results will receive a financial or some other type of reward. 

Another factor that motivates the sales team is an unexpected bonus award or public praise with a small gift. Surprising employees is an added bonus, as they will feel noticed without unnecessary competition. Employees themselves will set personal goals to achieve better sales results. Public ennoblement also has an elevated rank that may lead to additional motivation not only for the awardee, but also among other employees who want to equal them in the future.

Of course, everything must be clearly communicated in the team. Concealing sales and competition effects can have a negative impact on the team, so make sure everyone has access to team dashboards where they can see the results of each other’s work.

It may be tricky, though. 

Healthy competition stimulates action, while unhealthy competition kills team spirit. Providing the right level of competition can help the team achieve its goals and develop new solutions. However, if the competition is too fierce, it can cause a breakup. Instead of focusing on  achieving one common goal, salespeople might instead focus on achieving their own objectives and therefore avoid sharing knowledge or experience with others.

Rivalry or cooperation? Balance is also important here. 

#5 Replace micromanagement and over-control with empathy

In some organizations, sellers only have clear orders and prohibitions about how to work and how their work will now be inspected. In the message, some employees receive information that remote work would only be possible in exceptional cases, without giving reasons for such a decision. Of course, clear information in a crisis is very much needed, and the way in which it is communicated is also important for motivating sellers.

If an employer believes that their employees cannot be trusted, they have a good chance of feeling the consequences of that belief. In addition, if employees feel unfairly treated (a lack of information about the reasons for the decision to ban remote work may understandably be interpreted as unfair), there is a high probability that they will engage in counterproductive behavior and thus act to the detriment of the employer. If an employee feels that their boss does not trust them or the company does not care about their health, then they will have no little or no motivation to work with commitment.

All this can confuse salespeople, negatively affect their motivation, and discourage them. The key role in this difficult time is that of managers and supported by HR departments to think about employees in many dimensions. It is worth drawing employees' attention to aspects such as: prioritizing tasks, proper organization of work at home, creating a day and work schedule, and the ability to finish the working day. But the most important will be empathy, forbearance, and managerial awareness of employees.

While sales stars may be more motivated, most ordinary workers and laggards respond very well to recognition and praise. In fact, they are often valued more than money. In the digital age, visible forms of recognition and celebration are common and have a positive effect on the whole team, as long as the evaluation is viewed as fair and equitable.

It is worth paying attention to all this also because a stressed or exhausted employee cannot perform their duties effectively. It is important to make employees aware that everyone is in an unusual situation that can evoke many different emotions: fear, sadness, anger, or an accumulation of all of them. These emotions are perfectly justified and constitute a natural reaction to a threatening situation. Nevertheless, if they are felt too intensively then it may significantly interfere with the employee’s ability to function.

#6 Take care of the organization and internal communication

Irrespective of whether we are talking about the sales department or any other part of your company, everyone likes to know "what they stand for" and what the rules are. It gives a sense of security and allows you to feel more confident in your role. Thanks to this, you will know what to do, how to do it, and what you are doing it for.

If you suddenly set goals, impose new targets, alter reward rules, or make other changes that disrupt the established order, don't be surprised if morale drops. It would let your employees know that you are not treating them fairly. If you do not justify changes at all or they are imposed without any common discussions, you can be sure that you will be poking a stick in an anthill. And this can only end in disorganization.

Over-control will make your team burn out quickly. The other extreme - organizational chaos - will also work in the same way. Salespeople need certain freedom of action to catch the wind in their sails and effectively gain new customers. However, they must know the what, where, and whys. They need to know to whom and what they are responsible for: sales strategy, team goals, individual targets, assigned areas of activity, the scope of competencies - it would be a truism to repeat that this should be known to your employees and discussed with them. However, it turns out that it might not be so obvious.

Remember about clear rules of communication:

  • Identify a sales strategy for the company and familiarize sellers with it.
  • Define who is subject to whom and to what extent.
  • Specify the scope - delineate what employees have been assigned discount brackets, and which areas don't require you to approve their work.
  • Set clear, understandable targets and talk about them specifically.
  • Determine the area of operation - leave assigned customers with the sellers and do not interfere in the process without consulting the team.

Now it's your turn

The basis for maintaining a healthy employer-employee relationship is mutual understanding and cooperation. Regardless of whether the team works remotely or has to be physically in the workplace, providing support is a very important task for a manager. However, it must be remembered that this situation is also burdensome for business owners and board members. In order for the quarantine period to be successful for the company, both parties must show goodwill.

Regardless of how large a sales team is, in football nomenclature it can be compared to a team of eleven. It is rare for a team to win if only one player kicks the ball. Victory is the sum of the total contributions of all squad members: the goalkeepers, defenders, midfielders, and forwards. It is similar to a sales department - only cooperation and the use of each team member’s special skills can create the basis for success.