Sales Motivation: How to Empower and Retain Your Sellers

Learn tips and techniques to stop seller burnout and close more deals in today’s B2B environment.

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Nearly 90% of sellers report feeling burned out from work

Ongoing social, economic and geopolitical disruptions and changing customer behaviors are leaving sellers frustrated, exhausted and overwhelmed.

Download our sales motivation bundle to:

  1. Learn how to engage and motivate sellers in a complex selling environment

  2. Uncover the four internal sources of “seller drag” causing your sellers to burn out, and how to address them

  3. Discover how to harness the power of AI to give sellers up to 27% more focus time and help them drive more high-quality deals

The core components of seller motivation

Seller energy and persistence are critical to success, especially during periods of disruption.
To retain and motivate sellers, address both drive and drag dynamics with a focus on productivity.

Motivation toward work is not the problem

On one side of the seller motivation coin is drive. Sellers experiencing drive are mentally engaged at work, take initiative and persist in the face of obstacles. Drive is associated with higher quota attainment and is an important predictor of seller success.

Sales leaders tend to focus on increasing drive, and these efforts appear to be highly successful — in fact, 76% of sellers report high levels of drive.

So why are so many sellers exhausted if three in four report high levels of drive? It turns out that drive is only a part of the equation. The key to increased commercial returns actually lies with drive’s evil twin, drag.

Reduce drag’s impact on performance

Although it may seem logical to invest in resources to capitalize on a seller’s drive toward work, it’s actually more impactful to the business to prevent drag. A seller experiencing drag feels bored, procrastinates, struggles to focus or even avoids work altogether. Drag is what’s most associated with lower quota attainment and higher intent to leave. Sellers experiencing drag from a lack of development opportunities are up to 35% less likely to attain quota and up to 51% more likely to be actively job-seeking.

Although the impact of drag is worrisome, the sources of drag are largely organizational and within the power of chief sales officers (CSOs) to address. Reduce drag by focusing on three primary actions:

No. 1: Diagnose the sources 

Move beyond periodic skip-level meetings, climate surveys or manager feedback. Instead, treat sellers as co-investigators in understanding the sources of drag. Create a collaborative investigation process with a mix of focus groups, guided discussions and surveys to ensure sellers can share specific pain points, and also benefit from the perspective of their peers to understand which issues are unique to their circumstances and which are shared. This arms you with knowledge on how to prioritize and monitor projects going forward.

No. 2: Ensure development opportunities

Enable your sellers to envision a career path that aligns with their aspirations and interests, which may increase the likelihood that they continue to meet quota in the short term and stay with the broader organization — along with their institutional knowledge — in the long term. 

No. 3: Empower sellers

A substantial number of sellers feel like they have little control over their destiny. Fifty-six percent of sellers feel like a cog in a machine. Those who feel this way are more likely to experience drag, which increases the likelihood of subpar performance and active job-seeking. 

Empowerment is key to addressing this source of drag by encouraging sellers to make their own decisions, solve customer problems and improve business processes. But this requires sales leadership to support new ideas even when they are risky, foster creative freedom to solve for customer needs and reward sellers for finding ways to improve sales processes. You don’t have to hand over total control to sellers. Instead, carve out carefully scoped opportunities for empowerment within select guardrails.

Make selling simpler and more productive

In an effort to meet constantly evolving customer behaviors, sales leaders have spent years increasing the number of technologies, tools and skills sellers need to do their job. But rather than delivering more, overwhelmed sellers find it difficult to meet their revenue targets. 

To be successful in today’s B2B environment, reps need less responsibility, not more. Two actions by sales leaders can take the burden off of sellers and set them up for success:

  • Treat technology as a member of the sales team. Rather than giving salespeople more tech, give the tech itself more responsibility. AI can make this new approach possible.

  • Allow sellers to focus where they matter the most. Narrow the seller role to focus on buyer behaviors through mentalizing and collaborating with new technology. Reducing role complexity with AI will free salespeople up to better address the human, emotional behaviors that drive high-quality deals.

These two shifts will increase seller time to do what is most important — help buyers affirm value, which leads to higher-value deals.

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FAQ on seller motivation

Motivating sellers means addressing factors that increase drive and reduce drag. Those actions together build the energy and persistence among sellers to contribute more commercial success, but the dynamics are complex. For many sellers, these opposing forces present themselves simultaneously in various aspects of their day-to-day work and are not simply two extremes on a single spectrum.

The best technique to increase sales motivation is to reduce drag (demotivation away from work). The sources of drag are largely organizational and, therefore, within the power of CSOs to address. Reduce drag by focusing on three primary actions:

  1. Diagnose sources of drag.

  2. Ensure development opportunities.

  3. Empower sellers.

To boost seller performance and retention:

  1. Diagnose and address unique sources of drag within the sales organization through a collaborative investigative process that incorporates multiple sources of seller and leader input.

  2. Expand career development opportunities and collaborate with HR partners to publicize roles and encourage sellers to explore those roles.

  3. Coach managers and sellers on the value and intent of seller empowerment efforts, how to accurately identify promising empowerment opportunities, and the core principles of assessing the viability of opportunities.

Addressing the factors that affect seller motivation is critical to commercial success. Sellers who experience drag are associated with active job hunting and lower quota attainment, which sinks the bottom line.

To keep sellers engaged and motivated through current and future disruptions, sales leaders must diagnose sources of drag within their organization, build out clear seller career paths and design opportunities that empower sellers.

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