1. Be candid with your team
Be purposeful when communicating with your revenue team. Tell them why you are doing this–because of the times we are in.
Share what you can, as often as you can. Your people deserve to know what’s going on within the company. Maybe not all the nitty gritty details, but something to keep them believing in the work they’re doing.
These are strange times, and judging by all the news about layoffs, especially in the tech industry, there are strong indications that things will only get stranger (aka worse).
And that makes people nervous.
Your team might be nervous about their jobs and about the future direction of the company. As a leader, you don’t have to overshare and scare people, but share what you can and don’t sugarcoat it.
Being honest with your team will garner a sense of loyalty; people appreciate the honest truth.
Mass layoffs have caused widespread demotivation everywhere, not just in sales. So leaders throughout an organization should try their best to ease people’s fears because that will motivate them to do a good job for the company in the long term.
Pro tip: Increase your communication cadence and tell them why you're doing that. If you meet with your teams once every two weeks, meet with them weekly instead, or even twice a week. Make this an agenda item that you give updates on regularly.
2. Do something about it (within your power)
This can come in many forms, from (a) changing the sales plan/quotas to adapt to the new normal to (b) changing the way you engage directly with your team to help out.
(a) One of the jobs of the executive sales leader is to ensure that the company plan aligns properly with the company’s ability to meet said plan. If you have gotten too far off track, make the (admittedly tough) executive decision to do something about it.
This can come in many forms:
- Modify quotas for AEs, SDRs, CSMs.
- Align win rates and sales cycle times to adjust for current market conditions to set expectations properly.
- Realign team goals to focus on what is achievable now–maybe it's a shift to focus on upselling current customers instead of closing new customers.
- Change company goals so that the entire company sees that you are dedicated to a realistic plan.
Any or all of these things will create confidence in your ability to lead through these difficult times and foster a renewed sense of loyalty within the team.
(b) People don’t get to a place of executive leadership or management without having done an excellent job at the lower levels.
So offer to help using a situational leadership strategy.
- Understand what motivates each person on your team.
- Take what your salespeople are good at and help them develop that further.
- Help individual contributors with their specific weaknesses, and do it with empathy.
- Give feedback as often as possible and course-correct early on (before it's too late).
- Give concrete suggestions on how each salesperson can improve.
- Be involved in the sales process: jump on live calls, be involved in important deals without taking over, show your team what "good" looks like.
3. Create opportunities for quick wins
Every company needs long-term goals. There’s no denying that.
But long-term goals are unlikely to motivate your sales team because the finish line is too far. They need short-term goals to achieve quick wins, which in turn will keep them motivated to continue doing a good job.
Make it so that they feel like if they do something now, it has a direct impact on the business. Every individual contributor should feel like what they do every day has a visible impact on company results.
As a leader, if you set short-term goals your team can actually achieve, that will set you up for the path to long-term goal success.
The more small wins your team achieves, the more they’ll feel like they’re contributing to the success of the company. And in a recession, that is a huge motivator.
Check out this LinkedIn post on the benefits of setting up a 6-month rolling plan vs. a 12-month plan for startups.
4. Offer incentives and show appreciation
Humans respond to incentives. That’s just our nature.
And nothing motivates a team more than attractive/useful incentives that are achievable, especially when other parts of their job are tough.
And that’s especially true during uncertain times.
One thing to keep in mind when it comes to incentives is that not only top performance should be rewarded. Good performance should also be rewarded in some way.
We’re not saying they should be rewarded equally. But a job well done or a short-term goal that is achieved should be recognized, however small that recognition may be. That will motivate your revenue team to keep trying to reach those short-term goals.
Here are different types of incentives (other than cash) that work well:
- Equity: Any salesperson appreciates cash rewards. But if you want to change things up, offer equity in the company instead.
- Paid time off: If you know your rep loves traveling and would do anything for some extra time off, this would be the perfect incentive for them to reach their goal (a good example of the situational leadership we discussed earlier).
- Donations: A donation to a charity the person deeply believes in is a great motivator, especially during the holidays. Bonus: They won’t have to pay taxes on it.
- Training: There are people who prefer training to advance their careers over cash. You can offer to pay for an online course or send them to a conference that will help them learn new things. Even better, you can book 1:1 time and train them yourself (more on that later).
- Recognition: If there are budget cuts being made so that the company stays afloat, you can opt for recognition.
- Mention the rep’s name during a company-wide meeting.
- Send out an email that recognizes the rep’s hard work (for example giving a shoutout to an SDR who did an excellent job qualifying a prospect who then turned into a customer).
- Send a Slack message calling out a job well done.
- Give out trophies to the rep of the month (if you’re still working in an office).
- Start a monthly contest where the winner gets to have the honor of winning the whole month long.
5. Give extra training
A great way to keep sales teams motivated during a recession is to crank up the training.
By offering more training, you’ll enhance your team’s skills and you’ll show them that you care about their success. That you’re really invested in them.
As a sales leader, offering your time, expertise, and guidance during tough times is the most helpful thing you can do. But you don’t have to be the only one training your people.
Your top performers can share the tactics that work best for them so the whole team can benefit from them.
For example, if they have email templates that outperform the rest and help them engage with leads, it’s important to share them with the rest of their colleagues. Because when more people get better engagement from leads or opportunities, the more likely overall close rates increase.
Side note: If there comes a time when you have no choice but to lay off some of your employees, with all that extra training, you’ll at least have imparted knowledge they can leverage in their next roles.
Related post: 5 Ways to Improve Sales Process to Boost Team Efficiency