Motivating Rep Productivity Amid Economic Uncertainty

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Selling is more complex now than it ever has been. For sales teams today, navigating an uncertain economic climate while juggling high turnover rates and changing buyer needs can be overwhelming and exhausting. Meanwhile, selling spaces continue to evolve into more virtual and hybrid formats, and buyer demographics have become increasingly dispersed across younger generations – 44% of millennial B2B buyers now act as their company’s primary decision-makers.

In navigating these transformations, sales enablement is uniquely positioned to provide support. By focusing on three key seller motivators–culture, coaching, and compensation–sales enablement teams can make enablement mission-critical and help inspire sellers to maximize productivity and performance.

Below, learn how enablement teams can drive motivation and success amid the difficulties of the selling environment in the 21st century across these three levers.

Igniting High-Performance Through Culture

Because it functions as the mentality behind all types of interpersonal interaction, company culture can define workplace behavior. This means that neglecting to nurture that culture can result in unhealthy, draining mental habits, a focus on short-term revenue, and ultimately, poor performance and burnout. If salespeople are ambivalent to the ultimate value of their work, their actions will reflect that.

“People don’t necessarily want to come work for us [without a strong workplace culture],” said Peter Ostrow, vice president and research director at Forrester. “It’s harder to recruit. It’s harder to retain. Your reps are going to fail, or they’re going to leave.”

Developing a strong workplace culture can be especially difficult across remote environments, as an already intangible concept must now be translated in an equally non-physical space. However, the enormity of the task only further indicates its importance, as companies stretch to remote workplaces and dispersed sales teams.

“[Culture] truly is, from my perspective, a critical pillar for sales enablement, as it supports the unique needs of geographically dispersed people in a very diverse organization of sales folks,” said Pam Dake, head of global revenue enablement at Cyolo. “It can be frequently overlooked because honestly, it’s not necessarily as tangible or as easily measurable as sometimes training and communication can be.”

To create a healthy culture that works to support high performance in a fundamental way, establishing trust is key–trust in the company’s ability to maintain respect, transparency, and purpose. Sales reps need to have the stability of retaining respect regardless of their position in the organizational chart. They should also have a clear understanding of the corporate mission, one that is transparent about the ultimate purpose and value of their work on a company-wide level.

This can start from simple acts, such as regularly expressing appreciation for work that sellers complete or ensuring they feel comfortable asking for help when they need it. Ultimately, reps will be able to perform better when they feel cared for and valued not just for the numbers they achieve but as the people they are.

When this type of healthy culture is built into a company’s overarching corporate structure and internal behaviors, it will filter down into sales teams on a more individual scale.

“Once you build that culture as a company, it’s that much easier to build it on the sales side,” said Hillary Anderson, sales enablement leader. “By creating a sales culture where rather than putting people down that aren’t at top of the board, having those people that are top of the board working with those people that are at the bottom of the board to get them that much closer to being a top contributor, is where I’ve seen organizations be most successful.”

When companies begin to build a culture that strives to value employees for who they are as people and not just the results they bring, sales reps are better armed to sell with confidence and a drive that is fueled by passion rather than pressure.

“These are the components of high-performing organizations where we start to realize that just as all of our employment brands have changed and evolved, especially over the last three or four years, it also matters for salespeople,” said Ostrow. “The growth of the human being becomes something that is not a nice-to-have, but a must-have.”

Coaching for Sustainable Progress

In addition to nurturing culture, sales enablement leaders can also drive sales rep attainment by emphasizing coaching, an essential element to making sure reps continuously develop their competencies and grow their skills.

“From the standpoint of a lack of coaching, we just don’t see folks progressing enough: the low performers can find a place to hide out, the high performers are not going to stay around,” said Ostrow. “People are going to fail, or they’re going to leave.”

The individualized nature of coaching can make it difficult to do it right, because it functions on such a detailed and personal level. Coaches have to help sellers with specific elements and skills they need more work in, and that means more than just generalized advice or broad instruction.

“Coaching means you need to start to listen for the things you don’t want to hear and looking for the things you don’t want to see,” said Ostrow, “It has to be a cadence, not a pipeline of review meetings. Sure, you can talk about your deals and your coaching, and you can provide coaching in your pipeline meeting. But those are separate interactions. One is to accomplish the numbers. The other is to accomplish the person.”

Whether coaching looks like providing constructive feedback, setting clear expectations for specific competencies, or providing reps with support for their own professional development, it helps reps develop a mentality of lifelong learning that builds their own skill sets and increases their value within the company.

In coaching, strive to formalize the process, establish a regular rhythm, and remember to continue coaching the coaches and teaching the teachers. In these coaching patterns, each cycle should include feedback that shows progress and improvement with each iteration, so coaches can see that their instruction was impactful and led to visible growth.

“There’s an element of circling back, understanding, and looking at what progress that person is making,” said Stacey Justice, vice president of revenue enablement at HashiCorp. “I think that’s one of the reasons that you’re speaking to the fact that it happens over time. Good coaching shows progress. It shows development.”

Similarly, asking for continual feedback means that coaches can adjust and improve their coaching for the salesperson’s needs. To do this, coaches can encourage a culture and attitude of communication and facilitate open and receptive dialogue with their mentees.

“One of the core components to a successful coaching framework is really just being able to dig in and have a very transparent, open, vulnerable discussion with the sales reps,” said Evangeline Earl, director of sales enablement and training at Granite Telecommunications. “Get them to open up and describe what their current challenges are, really get them to start thinking, and be very consciously aware of where their gaps may be.”

Assigning Motivational Compensation

Traditionally, compensation has been determined by the contingencies of the stipulated position, and for sales reps, that usually comes from a balance between their base salary and commission. While thinking about how to balance the two, it is important to consider the corporate and workforce changes that have taken place in recent years and just how compensation now informs action and performance. Inevitably, employers will end up with the type of behavior they are rewarding through this compensation.

“The idea behind that is you do get what you pay for if you motivate someone to just be a shark,” said Ostrow. “If you motivate them to be selfish and self-oriented, they’re not going to behave for the benefit of the greater good. So, what’s going to happen? They’re going to fail, or they’re going to leave.”

Compensation is tricky – both over or under-assigning quota by viewing the seller only as the number of bookings and dollars they deliver can result in de-motivation and lowered productivity. This is why it is crucial to analyze and examine if a compensation program truly motivates sellers as desired.

Having awareness about how different demographics now view and understand monetary compensation is vital to improving and informing more creative compensation practices. Sellers are constantly evaluating their pay against the work they do and the compensation of others in the same role, as well as considering financial incentives beyond their base salary.

To understand the compensation program of an individual company and assess how effectively it is to motivate sellers, tools like revenue intelligence technology can help increase the accuracy and equality of quota assignments. For example, it can simplify the process of staying updated on changes in product competitiveness and market distribution, allowing enablement teams and sales leaders to proactively consider their impacts on compensation. Developing a fair and transparent compensation structure has the potential to encourage reps to strive for continuous excellence and high achievement.

The combination of equally emphasizing culture, coaching, and compensation serves to motivate 21st-century selling behavior. Now more than ever, sales enablement is uniquely positioned to offer methods of guiding sellers to engage more intentionally with these components of productivity.

Ultimately, sales enablement can work to make appreciation and recognition a norm in corporate culture. Managing the person, not the pipeline, and acknowledging and basing compensation on who a person is, not just what they do, serve to foster greater seller motivation and success. More deeply, it can enable purposeful and inspired employees and companies that strive for indelible impact in 2023 and beyond.

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