The single most important mechanism for motivating sales teams is the sales commission structure. Salespeople want to earn more. No matter how many pizza parties or Starbucks gift cards are promised to a sales team, their earnings potential will always be more important. The commission plan is their starting point to find ways to increase their earning potential, and they are intrinsically motivated to execute against it.
The key to motivating sales teams is minimizing differences between the behavior required for desired business outcomes, and behavior incentivized by the sales commission structure.
A well designed plan should create a win-win situation, leaving both parties satisfied. If salespeople are motivated based on their earnings, and their earnings are tied to behaviors that drive positive business outcomes, their motivations are essentially driven by positive business outcomes. Sellers will always find ways to gamify their plans; when plans are closely tied to positive behaviors and outcomes, however, gamification becomes a good thing and helps the business succeed.
If commission plans are designed well, the sales team should be highly motivated. At that point, it’s up to sales leaders to set realistic targets, empower their reps to execute, and provide guidance and coaching when needed.