Stop trying to motivate your sales team

It sounds counterintuitive, but being a sales leader is much easier when your team can motivate themselves. Jennifer Bers from Onfido shows us how to create the oxygen to keep their fire burning.

Back in June, we staged our second #SaasGrowth conference, at Here East, part of London’s Olympic Park. There were over 250 SaaS professionals in the audience, watching more than 40 of London’s foremost SaaS experts share their knowledge. Even if you couldn’t make it, we want to share the inspiration and education with you through our #SaaSGrowth2019 articles.

Jennifer Bers

Jennifer Bers is VP of Sales at Onfido and a long-time friend of Sales Confidence. Jennifer presented at one of our earliest events at the Salesforce Tower. She also spoke at #SaaSGrowth2018. It was great to welcome her back.

The title of Jennifer’s talk was ‘How To Motivate Salespeople’. However, it didn’t go the way you might expect.

‘How do you motivate salespeople? You shouldn’t!’


‘It’s extraordinarily hard for you to drag every single salesperson over the line. It’s exhausting and it doesn’t scale. You can’t create that fire. Your job is to supply a steady stream of oxygen.’

Jennifer then put forward seven ways to create a culture in your sales team where everyone wants to perform to the best of their ability.

1 — Hire the right people

The first step is to hire people who already have that fire in them. If they have the fire, all you need to do is keep it burning.

How do you know who has it and who doesn’t? Ask the right questions at interview.

Jennifer always asks, ‘Tell me about a deal that you lost.’

Great salespeople will always know what they did wrong and they learn from it. They don’t blame anyone else.

2 — Training

Training adds value to your team by augmenting their skills. It also keeps their inner fire burning as they can feel themselves improving. This is especially important with today’s millennial sales workforce. If you don’t train them, they will go somewhere else to get better.

3 — Enablement

Give your salespeople the tools to do their job. Salespeople want to close deals. They don’t want to be data entry clerks.

The more you automate, the more time they can spend delivering value to customers.

4 — Culture

Your salespeople spend a minimum of eight hours at work, plus time spent commuting. Create a workplace culture where they feel valued, where they know they’re making a difference.

Culture is arguably more important than compensation to today’s generation of salespeople.

5 — Management

Not every salesperson is the same, so don’t manage them all the same.

‘While you shouldn’t change who you are, part of your igniting the fire is making your reps feel valued and heard.’

‘If I managed everyone the same, it would be a disaster because there are some that I have to manage 180 degrees the other way.’

6 — Compensation

You need to have the right compensation system to drive structure.

7 — Don’t be a demotivator

Although you shouldn’t motivate, you need to steer clear of things that demotivate your salespeople. These could include:

  • · Yelling at them
  • · Blame
  • · Micromanagement
  • · Not setting up a structure where everyone knows where they stand
  • · Creating a toxic culture

Don’t do these things. End of story.

Over to you

We’ve heard from Jennifer on how to keep that fire burning. Now, it’s your turn.

If you’re a sales leader, what do you do to keep your team firing on all cylinders?

If you’re an individual contributor, what keeps you plugging away when things don’t go well?

Let the Sales Confidence community know by leaving a comment below.

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