3 Ways to Motivate Your Sales Team — Without Stressing Them Out

It’s widely accepted that if you are in sales, you will have a quota. Achieve your quota, good job. Miss your quota, bad job. Miss your quota by a lot or miss it multiple times: no job. This creates stress for individual sellers and the sales organization as a whole.


Plenty of jobs are stressful and have objective measures of achievement. But there is a special kind of stress reserved for the sales function. When the numbers are down, the reaction from management is to turn up the heat on the sales organization. At a global technology conference last year, I asked an audience of CEOs what they do when they are behind on their numbers. “We beat on the sales team to bring in more,” one CEO immediately said. Everyone laughed. The follow-up comments and questions revealed that this approach was common across the group of 70 CEOs.


While it is the sales team’s job to bring in business, simply cranking up the heat to get the numbers you want can produce an environment where stress backfires. Too much stress in any professional situation will mask talent and lead to poor decision-making. Our ability to focus, solve problems, and accurately remember details declines dramatically in the face of excess stress. We’ve all seen it happen when someone “chokes” under pressure.


When sellers are under inordinately high pressure to close deals, they may become overly aggressive and damage (or end) promising sales cycles. Pushiness and other desperate behaviors reduce sales effectiveness and cause margins to shrink. If your team is selling any kind of complex solution, most customers will become non-responsive when pressured.


Stress can cause entire sales teams to behave as if any business is good business. Need a discount to make the deal easier? Sure! Wrong kind of prospect or problematic deal? Who cares, we have a number to make this month. The attitude is “any revenue, at any cost.” Sellers become myopically short-term focused, just as they’ve been directed. This approach has long-term consequences for the business: mounting losses and failure to create a compelling sales experience.


In an effort to produce maximum effort and create urgency in a sales organization, leadership will apply mounting pressure, drilling down on the importance of making the monthly or quarterly number. In most cases, leaders believe they are pushing hard in the spirit of driving for results. While it’s important to a point, leaders risk pushing to a point of diminishing returns.


You can clearly see how stress affects performance in the below graph, originally created by psychologists Robert Yerkes and John Dodson. Their research illuminates how performance on tasks improves with increased physiological or mental arousal. Stress does help us get the job done — but only to a point. Too little stress, and you’re in the weak performance zone; too much anxiety, and performance is impaired. In the middle, an optimal level of stress produces what we’d call peak performance. The technical term for that zone is eustress, which is exactly where leaders should set the pressure to create optimal results.


Source - Read More at: hbr.org