Motivating a sales team is challenging in the best of times. During the last three years, leaders have had to do so even as they navigated major workforce changes. Sales reps have been experiencing something similar, striving to hit goals while struggling with employee turnover, new priorities, and economic uncertainty.
Now, in the second half of 2023, we’re settling into a new normal. Hybrid work has been normalized, and despite a hazy economic outlook, workers are happier than they’ve been in decades. Given this momentum, we decided it was time to examine how well sales leaders and managers motivate their sellers to hit company KPIs.
Table of Contents
- Why Motivation Matters
- What is Rep Turnover?
- Researching Motivation Among Sales Professionals
- Motivation Differences Between Managers and Sales Reps
- The No-Mo(tivation) Problemo—The Motivation Gap
- Improving the Rep/Manager Relationship Grows Revenue
- The 4 Bartle Player Types
- Play Games to Close Deals
- What Games Should I Be Playing?
- Fix Your Team Motivation Now
Why Motivation Matters
Motivation is at the core of everything we do, but it’s actually a lot of work to properly motivate yourself and your team. Not to mention sales rep turnover is one of the highest issues teams face that causes them to lose revenue.
Motivation is a crucial factor in the world of sales for several reasons. Here are some of the key points for why motivation matters in sales (especially for reps):
- Builds resilience: Sales can be a challenging and often rejection-heavy profession. Motivated salespeople are more likely to persist in the face of rejection and setbacks. They view these challenges as opportunities to learn and improve, rather than as failures.
- Provides energy and enthusiasm: Motivated salespeople bring a higher level of energy and enthusiasm to their work. This energy is infectious and can positively influence customers, making them more likely to buy.
- Creates goal-oriented reps: Motivated salespeople are goal-oriented. They set clear, specific sales targets and work diligently to achieve them. This focus on goals helps them stay on track and measure their progress. Once a goal is measured, it can then be grown.
- Better customer engagement: Motivation often leads to a genuine interest in the products or services being sold. This genuine interest translates into better customer engagement and the ability to address customer needs effectively.
- Helpful continuous learning: Motivated salespeople are more likely to invest in their personal and professional development. They seek out training, read industry literature, and stay updated on market trends, which enhances their selling skills.
- Better rep attitude: A motivated salesperson tends to maintain a positive attitude. This positivity not only impacts their own performance but also creates a more pleasant and productive working environment. Studies have shown that being in proximity (25 feet) of a motivated and higher performing salesperson will actually make you roughly 15% better at your job. Likewise, sitting near a low performer will statistically drop your performance 30%.
- Promotes creativity and innovation: Motivated salespeople are more likely to think creatively and come up with innovative solutions to customer problems. This can set them apart from competitors and lead to increased sales.
- Rep adaptability: In the ever-changing world of sales, adaptability is crucial. Motivated individuals are more open to change and can quickly adjust their strategies to align with new market conditions or customer preferences. Which allows your team to pivot quickly without sacrificing any key business metrics.
As you can see, motivation is a critical component of success in sales. It fuels persistence, enthusiasm, and the ability to overcome obstacles, ultimately leading to higher sales performance and better customer relationships. Motivated salespeople are more likely to set and achieve goals, stay adaptable in a changing marketplace, and create a positive and productive work environment.
However, when a rep fails to find motivation, it’s common that they become dissatisfied with their company or manager jump to another sales opportunity. This is known as rep turnover; it happens because most managers don’t have the tools or time to help reps feel motivated intrinsically.
What is Rep Turnover?
Sales rep turnover, also known as sales turnover or salesperson turnover, refers to the rate at which sales representatives leave a company and are replaced by new sales representatives. It’s a key metric used in sales management to assess the stability and effectiveness of a sales team.
Sales rep turnover can be shown as a percentage that’s calculated by dividing the number of sales representatives who have left the company (voluntarily or involuntarily) during a specific period by the average number of sales representatives employed during the same period.
High sales rep turnover can have several implications for a company, including:
- Increased recruitment and training costs: Frequent turnover means a constant need to hire and train new sales reps, which can be costly and time-consuming.
- Disruption to sales operations: Frequent turnover can disrupt sales processes and customer relationships, as new reps need time to become productive and build rapport with clients.
- Inconsistent sales performance: High turnover can lead to inconsistent sales results, as new reps may take time to reach their full potential.
- Decreased morale: Frequent turnover can negatively affect the morale of the remaining sales team, as they may feel uncertain about their job security.
- Loss of institutional knowledge: As experienced sales reps leave, they take valuable knowledge about the company, its products, and its customers with them.
To reduce sales rep turnover, companies often focus on improving their recruitment and onboarding processes. This can help, but sometimes there’s another option. There are a lot of creative ways managers and business owners can try to solve rep turnover and gamification is a great option.
No matter how long you’ve been in sales for, you know how prevalent rep turnover is and what it can do to a company. And it seems like there’s one sure-fire way to stop reps from leaving in handfuls: gamification.
“78% of professionals say that a gamified recruiting process makes them more eager to work for the company providing the training.”
Researching Motivation Among Sales Professionals
We surveyed more than 300 sales professionals in the solar, roofing, telecom and other sales industries to understand how managers communicate with their teams, which tactics they use to motivate reps (if any), and how often they recognize their team’s hard work.
Then we asked reps how effective those efforts really are.
Here’s what they said…
Motivation Differences Between Managers and Sales Reps
Despite their challenges, leaders and managers hold themselves in high esteem. When asked to evaluate their management and motivational performance, they gave themselves high marks across the board.
Sales reps were far less enthusiastic.
For example, 71% of leaders and managers agreed with the statement, “I know how to motivate my team to perform their best,” and 76% agreed that, “I know how to motivate each individual rep.” Ironically, 78% of managers who pointed to low individual motivation also said that they know how to motivate individuals.
Meanwhile, sales reps told a very different story.
Only 40% agreed with the statement, “My manager knows how to motivate me.”
69% of managers agree they have the tools they need to motivate their sales reps. They say gamification elements— leaderboards, dashboards, competitions, and badges that mark milestones and achievements, are among the most effective tools at their disposal.
However, interestingly enough, while most managers said they have these needed tools to motivate their reps, 54% stated that they don’t have great reward options already available, resulting in reps that don’t care to participate in what the manager has planned. Reward options are an essential piece to the puzzle that is sales motivation.
When asked what motivates them to perform their best and reach their day-to-day goals, 46% of sales reps ranked individual goal progression and 61% stated being able to track their progress in real-time as top motivators. Likewise, 61% of reps said being recognized regularly inspires them to work harder.
Managers did seem to overlook several obvious motivators—tangible rewards. When asked what tools and rewards were the most effective motivators, 54% of reps unequivocally ranked cash bonuses as the best way to reward them for reaching certain goals.
The No-Mo(tivation) Problemo—The Motivation Gap
After conducting our research, it was clear there was a lack of motivation among sales reps despite managerial efforts. But what was really causing it? Are managers spending an outsized portion of their time and energy motivating poor performers? Do managers overlook dashboards and motivational activities?
The data suggests the problem is bigger than just a few reps.
Managers and leaders who said they are most challenged by “low individual motivation” also picked “low team morale” as their second biggest problem. 67% put it in their top three. In short, managers and leaders who point to “low individual motivation” as a key difficulty also seem to have a team-wide morale problem on their hands.
By contrast, only 42% of other managers named morale as a top three problem. In fact, morale ranked lowest after “lack of a recognition program” (60%), “managing a hybrid team” (55%), and “ineffective incentives” (48%). When freed of the immediate challenges of tackling motivation and morale, leaders and managers seem to have the bandwidth to look at the bigger picture. After all, it’s hard to think about much else when you’re beating the quota drum every day.
When it comes to the intrinsic motivation of sales reps—a drive to achieve that comes from within—responses were equally split between goal attainment and helping clients.
This makes sense.
Sales reps are social creatures with a vested interest in helping clients succeed, but they’re rewarded financially for hitting their numbers. However, when we divide reps according to how motivated they say they are, a clear correlation emerges. The more motivated the rep, the more effective they rated goal attainment. The less motivated they are, the more likely they are to choose helping clients.
Reps who identified as “extremely motivated,” were the most likely to choose making progress on individual goals (56%) and least likely to choose helping clients (44%) of any other group. Conversely, 70% sellers who identify as “poorly” or “not at all motivated” chose helping clients, a much larger proportion.
Improving the Rep/Manager Relationship Grows Revenue
There are plenty of instances where sales reps and managers don’t see eye-to-eye. Sound familiar? What we identified is that reps want to be externally motivated, but their managers either don’t know how or don’t have the correct tools at their disposal.
A good relationship between sales reps and sales managers is essential for a variety of reasons:
- More Effective Communication: A positive relationship encourages open and effective communication. Sales reps can share their challenges, successes, and ideas with their managers, leading to better problem-solving and decision-making.
- Performance Improvement: When there’s a good rapport between sales reps and managers, feedback and coaching become more productive. Managers can provide constructive feedback and guidance, helping salespeople improve their skills and performance.
- Boosted Motivation and Morale: A supportive relationship with their manager can boost the motivation and morale of sales reps. Knowing that their efforts are recognized and valued can lead to higher job satisfaction and increased commitment to achieving sales targets.
- Goal Alignment: A strong relationship ensures that sales reps and managers are on the same page when it comes to goals and expectations. This alignment is crucial for working together towards common objectives and maintaining a clear sense of direction.
- Conflict Resolution: Conflicts and disagreements can arise in any workplace. A positive relationship makes it easier to address and resolve conflicts in a constructive manner, rather than letting them fester and negatively impact the team.
- Trust and Accountability: Trust is a cornerstone of any successful relationship. A strong manager-rep relationship builds trust, which is crucial for accountability and achieving sales goals.
- Employee Retention: Like we discussed before, sales reps who have a good relationship with their managers are more likely to remain with the company. High rep turnover can be costly and disrupt the continuity of the sales team.
A strong relationship between sales reps and sales managers is crucial for fostering effective communication, motivation, performance improvement, trust, and accountability. It contributes to a positive work environment and helps the sales team work cohesively toward common objectives, ultimately leading to increased sales and the overall success of the organization.
A huge component to a better manager, rep relationship is managers understanding who exactly their rep is. This doesn’t mean the manager needs to spend all of their time learning their reps favorite color or band, we’re talking about personality. A common theme from our research showed that reps feel their managers don’t understand who they are and what would actually motivate them (or that managers don’t even try). That can be solved by understanding which of the 4 player types a rep falls into—that’s where Richard Bartle comes in.
The 4 Bartle Player Types
Too often sales leaders and managers think well-motivated reps are somehow innately better: more focused, harder workers, more talented.
But those sellers may simply be wired to respond positively to the motivation framework that has worked in sales for ages. If that’s true, poorly motivated salespeople can be turned around—if managers can understand what makes them tick. Bartle’s player types is one of many frameworks for understanding what motivates different personality types.
Bartle’s Four Player Types, also known as the Bartle Test or Bartle’s Taxonomy of Player Types, is a framework developed by Richard Bartle in the early 1990s to categorize players of multiplayer online games based on their motivations and behaviors within these virtual worlds.
Bartle’s research primarily focused on text-based MUDs (Multi-User Dungeons), but the concept has since been applied to various online and multiplayer games—and now to the sales profession. The four player types identified by Bartle are Achievers, Explorers, Socializers, and Killers.
Here’s a quick breakdown of what each of them actually means to give you a better idea. You might even be able to identify these personality types at your company before they take the quiz.
Achievers are defined by a focus on obtaining status and achieving preset goals quickly or completely. Achievers roughly make up about 10% of the workforce.
- Goal-Oriented: Achievers are primarily motivated by achieving in-game objectives and goals. They enjoy completing quests, collecting rare items, and gaining levels or achievements.
- Progress-Driven: They thrive on measurable progress and competition, often seeking recognition for their accomplishments.
Focused on Rewards: Achievers enjoy the rewards and recognition that come with their achievements. They are the players who often excel in competitive aspects of games.
Roughly 10% of the salesforce are Explorers. Explorers are defined by a focus on exploring and a drive to discover the unknown. This translates to sales as being highly motivated to find the next big client or industry to target.
- Curious and Inquisitive: Explorers are driven by their curiosity about the game world. They love discovering hidden secrets, exploring uncharted areas, and learning about the game’s lore.
- Knowledge-Seekers: They may not be concerned with competition or socializing; instead, they derive satisfaction from mastering the game’s mechanics and understanding its inner workings.
- Enjoy Discovery: Explorers find joy in the journey of uncovering new aspects of the game world rather than just the end result.
By far the largest group (80%), Socialites are defined by a focus on socializing and a drive to develop a network of friends and contacts.
- People-Oriented: Socializers are motivated by building and nurturing relationships with other players. They thrive on interaction, collaboration, and social aspects of the game.
- Community Builders: They often form or join guilds, clans, or groups and are more interested in the social dynamics of the game than in achieving specific objectives.
Enjoyment through Interaction: Socializers find the game more enjoyable when they can chat, cooperate, or compete with other players. Their primary focus is on the social experience.
Killers are defined by a focus on winning, rank and direct peer-to-peer competition. They typically work alone and make up less than 1% of the workforce.
- Competitive and Aggressive: Killers are driven by competition and challenge. They enjoy engaging in combat, defeating other players, and exerting dominance.
- Conflict-Seeking: They may not necessarily be interested in the game’s story or socializing; instead, they relish the thrill of outsmarting or overpowering opponents.
- Power and Control: Killers often seek to gain power or control over others in the game, whether through strategic play or sheer force.
It’s important to note that most players exhibit a mix of these player types, with one or two types typically being more dominant in their play style. Understanding these player types can help managers create motivating activities or milestones for reps to hit that will actually be exciting and fun for them.
Wondering what your player type is? Use our quiz to find out. Then you can have a better understanding of yourself (managers can do this too) and your managers can figure out better ways to motivate you based on who you are.
All sales teams are not created equally. There are a lot of different mixes of player types on a team and it’s important to know your coworkers’ player types too.
Play Games to Close Deals
Adding games to your team’s sales process has been proven to get results.
“Companies that use gamification can see up to 7X higher conversion rates”
As silly as it may sound playing games at work, it’s a fun, engaging, and awesome way to get the entire team motivated to improve and stay at one company for longer periods of time.
What Games Should I Be Playing?
This is a good question if motivating through gaming is a new concept for you. There are several different options for motivating reps based on their player type and we have something for each of them.
- Battles: Head-to-head battles between coworkers is a great way to start some friendly rivalries (Killers love these).
- Competitions: Competitions can be company-wide and managers have complete control over the rules, prizes, and timelines for it.
- Achievements and Badges: Similar to real video games you can earn achievements for streaks and unlock cool badges that managers have created (great for Achievers and Explorers).
- Team Dashboards: Reps love dashboards but they’re particularly nice for managers that want one single reporting system for their teams numbers—plus it updates automatically
- Sales Surround Social Feed: The social feed is a great way to celebrate and congratulate coworkers on unlocking achievements or winning competitions (awesome options for Socializers).
- Rewards Store: Stock the rewards store with gift cards, cash rewards, physical prizes, or even PTO so reps can automatically redeem their coins for prizes they actually want (c’mon everybody loves gifts).
There’s a lot more to this platform of motivation, but these are the main components of gamification that have been proven to work wonders with field sales teams. From boosting bottom performing reps by almost 107%, to your middle performers also improving roughly 60% it’s a must for sales teams. Plus it doesn’t leave out your top performers, there’s still improvement for them as well.
Fix Your Team Motivation Now
Half of the battle with motivation is identifying that you have a problem. Team motivation can’t be solved in a day but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. Using the 4 Bartle player types with a gamification platform like ours is going to allow managers and reps to fix their lack of motivation and feel that their professional relationship has improved.
Learn more about what we’re doing to solve the secret to sales team motivation through games now.