It takes superhuman levels of persistence and sky-high motivation to face common sales objections, persist with seemingly endless follow ups and hear “no” much more often than “yes.”.
Picking yourself up after every failed deal and pressing reset before going to battle is part of your sales reps’ daily routine. As a sales leader, it’s your job to keep your sales team’s morale high.
That is, of course, easier said than done. First and foremost as a team leader you need to keep a positive attitude as your sales force will look to you for encouragement.
However, a positive attitude alone is far from the cure all to a downtrodden sales staff. It takes more than sending motivational emails to sales team’s or giving fiery speeches in your weekly
In this guide, we’ll dive into how to spot telltale signs of low team morale, and what you can do to boost your team’s positivity and sales performance. Read our related article for more sales motivation tips.
Table of contents
The telltale signs of low team morale
Sales deals will inevitably go wrong. You and your team will miss targets, big accounts will churn and enormous deals will fall at the final hurdle.
This is when the best sales managers pick their sales team up off the canvas and fire them up to smash their next round of sales objectives.
However, you may also face market forces, economic slumps, seasonality, delivery issues and many other intangibles that cause a severe slump in sales. These factors are all beyond you and your team’s control, no matter how much hard work goes into fighting against them. Because of this, they tend to hit motivation the hardest.
When a person feels that they’ve done everything right, applied the correct technique, backed their efforts up with skill and passion, nailed the ideal sales process and followed the sales strategy, it’s simply human nature to feel demotivated if their efforts are fruitless. Not even the most motivational sales quotes can pierce through these daytime blues.
Like a tornado, bad vibes amongst a sales team feed on themselves. If left unchecked, these negative emotions can irreparably damage your team’s culture.
Spotting the downturn before it goes nuclear
The best morale exists when you never hear the word mentioned. When you hear a lot of talk about it, it's usually lousy. – Dwight D Eisenhower
It’s very rare that a salesperson will come straight out and say, “You know what boss? I’m really lacking motivation and just don’t feel like I’m going to make my target this month.”
Keeping an eye on team morale so you can stay ahead of dips and pick-me-up is a critical aspect of a sales manager’s job.
In most cases, a drop in enthusiasm will have a clear triggering event. The most obvious, of course, is the failure to hit targets, especially if this has a direct financial effect on the sales team and overall sales goals (e.g. they didn’t earn commission or bonuses).
However, the causes for low morale are not always so clean-cut. Trying to unlock a new market segment, or targeting a new demographic altogether, could lead to a huge increase in the number of rejections a salesperson receives. While this may be understood and accepted on an intellectual level, the emotional strain is just as intense.
Here are a few telltale signs of a dip in morale:
A sudden drop in performance. If a previously successful individual or team starts missing targets, the natural reaction is to look at external factors. However, it’s usually wiser to look close to home first.
The sales cycle gets longer. Demotivated people tend to procrastinate and may find even the simplest tasks like updating the CRM beyond them. If your team is taking longer to work through an established sales process, you’re most likely dealing with people who have stopped giving it their all.
Bad apple, rotten bunch. If someone is constantly moaning about missed targets, how they hate their job, their bosses and the company, that negativity is bound to affect your entire team and damage teamwork.
Doom and gloom. Sales may be tough and stress-inducing at times, but it can also be fun. If laughter and conversation levels in your sales office drop significantly for an extended period, something is definitely amiss.
Increased absenteeism. When someone isn’t enjoying their job, they’ll find a reason not to do it. If you see a spike in sick days, reps missing sales meetings or, even worse, an upturn in employee turnover, you almost certainly have a problem with your esprit de corps.
The best way to keep your finger on the pulse is by establishing a workplace culture where your team is comfortable with being proactive, honest and open about any issues or grievances as soon as they arise.
9 ways to give your sales team a morale boost
When a culture is broken, the cracks show - morale is weakened, but so is profit and performance. That's why culture has to be at the core of any business transformation. – Peggy Johnson. Executive Vice President of Business Development at Microsoft.
Once you’ve determined your team’s morale is low, don’t focus on fault or blame. Instead, find the best way to progress.
This is where many sales managers think they need to reach for the checkbook. Surely if you pay people more and offer bigger financial incentives they’ll be more motivated?
While a pay raise may work in some cases, it can also be the start of a very slippery slope towards ever-increasing sales costs.
If your pay levels, bonus structure, commissions and sales targets are reasonable and realistic, don’t mess with them to fix a symptom of what is most likely a very different issue.
What follows is some practical advice that will help you boost lagging morale and prevent it from dropping in the first place.
If you’re familiar with Frederick Herzberg’s Two Factor Theory or Motivation-Hygiene Theory, you should easily spot the basis for many of these suggestions.
Herzberg famously said:
“For an employee to be truly motivated, the employee’s job has to be fully enriched where the employee has the opportunity for achievement and recognition, stimulation, responsibility, and advancement.”
Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as putting a few quotes posters in the break room or sending encouraging emails to sales teams throughout your organization to raise spirits. Our suggestions are a little more practical.
1. Always recognize and reward good performance
This is the most simple win any manager can get, yet many miss the trick.
A culture where great work is openly acknowledged and celebrated breeds its own excellence. How often have you heard complaints about a boss who nitpicks errors yet never applauds success?
This is one of the most common mistakes managers make.
Frequent, warranted generosity and praise actually buys you much more leeway to be critical when needed.
People will be much more open to your suggestions on how they can improve if they know genuine praise, thanks and reward awaits their good performance.
2. Team solutions for team issues
If your approach to boosting morale is dictatorial and completely top-down, you may simply reinforce the negative vibes. Finding a solution may reside in you listening rather than talking.
Bottom line: Ask your team what is wrong and canvas them for suggestions on how things can be improved before dishing out autocratic solutions. As they’re the ones in the trenches every day, their suggestions for how to improve lead generation and teamwork and ultimately increase sales are highly valuable.
3. Bring in the fun
The average month in the life of a salesperson is riddled with stress, fear and pressure.
Break the stress cycle by making regular time for your team to have some fun!
Scheduling team-building events and work parties outside office hours are great, but also cuts into your team’s free time. Allowing fun activities into the workday window is a subtle yet powerful gesture.
You are showing that you prioritize your team’'s emotional well-being and enjoyment alongside tangible results and metrics. This commitment will be appreciated, which is often returned in the form of higher dedication.
4. Understand your team as individuals
You need to know what motivates each and every member of your team. Once you do, you’ll find that it is rarely the same for everyone.
While it’s complicated to unearth what drives an individual, you can start by asking each team member a set of simple questions:
Are you motivated right now?
What would motivate you in the long-term?
Is there anything you can do to motivate yourself?
In your opinion, what are the signs when you’re demotivated?
What do you want me to do if you become demotivated?
If you know what levers to pull you can tailor your plans to each individual and ultimately keep your team happier as a whole.
5. Change their focus
Relentlessly hammering for results and targets will grind down even the hardiest of souls. Instead, help your team formulate a set of daily and weekly goals that will result in reaching a larger set of targets.
Daily targets might include things like starting five new sales conversations or moving at least four deals to the next pipeline stage. This task achievement creates confidence in the short-term and can help a salesperson break out of the funk and depression caused by focusing purely on the 500 pound gorilla that is their overall target.
Check out Pipedrive’s Sales Pipeline Course for some invaluable advice on how to approach this activity-driven targeting system.
Download the Ultimate Sales Process Guide
Learn how to use an activity-based selling model to simplify sales and help your team scale.
6. Teach some new tricks
It’s difficult to make time for training and skill development in a busy sales environment.
There’s always next week right?
This is exactly why a low morale episode can be the best opportunity to invest in your team.
Everyone gets a break from the relentless pressure when their focus shifts to something else. Plus they get the feeling their manager and company truly cares about their individual skills and future development.
7. Take a look in the mirror
What messages are you sending to your team?
Does the negativity start from the top?
Do you say things like: “I know these targets are very high but we’ll just have to suck it up/I know these leads are not great but let’s do our best/It’s a crap product but someone has to sell it”?
Even your body language will tell a tale about your own motivations. If your team senses that you’re not fully invested in their or the company’s success, they’ll involuntarily follow your lead.
8. Use their powers for good
Your team is most likely filled with some great salespeople. If they’re just slightly worn down by circumstances and responsibility it may be a fantastic idea to take some time out and use their skills for the greater good.
Take a day out to raise funds for a local charity, using all their cold-calling expertise, persuasive power and ability to drive a deal.
Encourage your team to have fun and enjoy it, making sure they have no targets to hit for the day!
This will serve to put the reality of their job in perspective and leave everybody feeling good about themselves and what they do.
9. Build a great (non monetary) rewards system
Money is great, but it’s often the small human things that drive and motivate people. If you’re looking at non-monetary rewards for an entire team, think along the lines of taking everyone to see a movie during the day, or ordering pizza to the office on a Friday.
Sometimes your team’s travel schedules can be hectic. If you’re hesitant to take your team away from their time on the road, give them flight or hotel vouchers to help them out on their next holiday. This way you don’t have to confront the logistical nightmare of getting everyone in the same room at the same time.
It can even be as simple as promising better quality coffee, or running a sales contest where the prize is half the day off on the last Friday of the month if your team makes a target.
Small gestures go a long way, and should never be underestimated.
Avoid fires by being proactive. Don’t wait until your team is struggling with morale to change the culture. Motivation comes from all the little details in your company culture, from the way you speak to your team to the openness with which you share information.
Working at it every day will fortify your team’s morale over time, meaning fewer fires to fight when stress levels peak.
By putting these tactics to work today, you’ll reduce that crushing stress and pressure and start re-igniting the sparks of confidence firing your sales team’s machine.
For more sales motivation tips, check out the linked article.
Prevent Failure With Your Guide To Handling Tricky Sales Situations
Learn how to prevent and overcome failure for your sales team. This 18 page ebook will help you develop plans for hiring, firing, and managing a crisis.