If You Want to Motivate Salespeople, Do This

By Andy Springer, Chief Client Officer, RAIN Group
The silhouette of a woman standing with her fist in the air at sunset

We often hear from sales managers the common misconception that top salespeople are born with “fire in the belly.” They’ll say, “What I need is to find self-motivated people who’ll stop at nothing to hit their marks. They’re so hard to find!” While that class of salesperson certainly exists, the premise is all wrong.

Motivation isn’t binary the way many sales managers think it is. It isn’t something that individuals either have or lack. The spark of motivation exists in nearly everyone. All it needs is development and enhancement. 

Sales managers are the motivational linchpin adding fuel to the spark and keeping the flame of motivation as high as it can be for their teams.

Important to Motivate Your Reps

Simply put, motivation improves performance. Our benchmark research, The Top-Performing Sales Manager, found that Top-Performing Reps – those who met annual sales goals and achieved higher win rates – are 71% more likely to have a manager who excels at motivating reps for high productivity and performance.

As this data strongly indicates, sales managers who want to build a team of top performers must bring out that level of performance in their reps, rather than hope to find intrinsically motivated reps through the hiring process alone.


Here are three ways to motivate salespeople, backed by research in which we analyzed 100 skills and behaviors, across 12 categories, for over 1,000 sales managers and reps.

There are systematic ways, tactical activities, and interactions that sales managers can use to increase motivation across their team.

1. Deliver a Regular Ongoing Schedule of Coaching 

A regular ongoing schedule of coaching interactions with sales managers helps to motivate reps to achieve greater performance. When we analyze the types of coaching reps receive, we find that top performers are 51% more likely to receive regular coaching rather than ad hoc or intermittent coaching. 

2. Improve Sales Manager Coaching Skills

Sales managers who keep their teams motivated and productive tend to have stronger sales management and coaching skills. Specifically, our research shows that Top-Performing Sales Managers are more likely to excel in:

  • Helping reps solve problems and challenges
  • Leading valuable 1-on-1 coaching meetings
  • Coaching reps to build selling skills
  • Providing deal coaching to maximize wins
  • Coaching reps to lead masterful sales conversations
  • Leading valuable sales team meetings
  • Helping reps build meaningful and achievable goals and action plans
  • Planning and analyzing how reps should manage territories and pipelines to achieve sales goals

Organizations that focus on developing these capabilities in their sales managers will be more likely to build sales teams that meet goals in challenging conditions.

3. Focus on Productivity

According to Top-Performing Reps, the No. 1 skill of their sales managers is the ability to motivate reps for high productivity and performance. This ability is the greatest difference between Top-Performing Sales Managers and The Rest. 

In our research, Top-Performing Reps score higher in each of nine productivity behaviors including:

  • Gets the most done and produced in the time available
  • Sustains energy for long periods
  • Focuses on own agendas, not reacting to and getting derailed by other people’s agendas
  • Changes habits when needed to improve results
  • Plans and manages time to achieve the best results
  • Maximizes time spent on activities that drive the best results
  • Holds themselves accountable to commitments
  • Is very proactive
  • Avoids distractions

Why is this important? Being productive and making progress are motivating. Unfortunately, productivity is seldom a core focus of sales training programs. Yet, there’s a clear need for managers to help reps develop productive behaviors and be more productive themselves. 

Our recommendation to organizations is to update sales training and coaching programs to focus on helping managers and reps improve their productivity.

While there are plenty of natural reps in the world, as well as naturally motivated people, with a motivational manager, reps don’t have to be born sales stars but can learn to improve. Finding diamonds in the rough through hiring alone is hardly a sustainable way to build a team of top performers. But motivating your team will yield results. Deliver a regular schedule of coaching to reps. Focus on developing managers’ capabilities in sales management and coaching. And don’t neglect to foster productivity behaviors in reps and managers alike. 

Andy Springer is the co-author of Virtual Selling: How to Build Relationships, Differentiate, and Win Sales Remotely and Chief Client Officer at RAIN Group, a global sales training company that delivers award-winning results through in-person and virtual sales training, coaching, and reinforcement.