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Sales inspiration: A guide to motivating your agents

Is your team in need of sales inspiration? Here’s how to give sales agents the boost they need when faced with challenging situations.

By Cristina Maza, Contributing Writer

Published June 4, 2021
Last updated July 6, 2021

A highly motivated and inspired sales team is essential to your company’s growth and revenue. But working in sales can be difficult. Nearly all sales representatives experience challenges during at least one stage of the sales cycle, according to Zendesk research. Sales agents also face many rejections from leads, which, naturally, leads to discouragement.

Sales inspiration is what encourages team members to do their jobs in a demanding environment—it's what makes them want to sell as much as possible. While sales incentives can help, money or prizes alone don’t boost performance. The tactics you use to pump up your agents should be strategic and cater to the problems they're facing.

We’ll walk you through three scenarios you may face as a sales manager and describe effective ways to handle them so your team feels supported.

How to motivate your sales agents in 3 common situations

Problem 1: A sales slump

Sales agents inevitably hit slow periods—maybe it’s because of the season, or maybe their head is a little out of the game. During challenging times, encourage your agents by reminding them of the value of their work and providing the support they need to get through rough patches.

Solution: Share inspirational quotes

Eloquent, motivational quotes around failure and resilience will instill inspiration and help agents realize they can move past their slump. By reading words of wisdom, your sales team can regain their drive and leave their dejection behind.

To fire up your sales team, consider these quotes that capture why hard work is rewarding and provide motivation for meeting goals.

  • "Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing." — Theodore Roosevelt
  • "Without hustle, your talent will only get you so far." — Gary Vaynerchuk
  • "Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort." — Paul J. Meyer
  • "If you work just for money, you'll never make it. But if you love what you are doing and always put the customer first, success will be yours." — Ray Kroc
  • "The best sales questions have your expertise wrapped into them." — Jill Konrath

Send an email to your sales agents with a new encouraging quote each week. You can also create a company Slack channel where team members share quotes for sales inspiration.

Solution: Remind them of the meaning of their work

If sales agents only focus on their performance results, they'll be easily discouraged when they hit bumps in the road. Remind them of the value of their work beyond quotas. That way, they'll be motivated to close deals even when they’re experiencing setbacks.

To help sales agents regain their sense of purpose, set up a meeting with each agent and ask them to answer these questions:

  • What attracted you to this role?
  • What are you setting out to accomplish?
  • What do you love about your role?
  • How do you want to grow in your role?

You’ll remind sales agents of why they’re doing this job in the first place, which will inspire them to keep going—employees who find meaning in their work are far more motivated and engaged.

You can also pair a sales agent who’s in a slump with an upbeat, more experienced colleague who has persevered through hard times. Ask them to set up weekly meetings so the agent can ask the more seasoned team member for advice. The agent will likely feel more motivated to up their game when they learn about the challenges their colleague has overcome and how they find meaning in their work.

Problem 2: A big, challenging lead

Getting a lead is exciting, but it can also be intimidating for agents, especially if the lead is high-maintenance or represents a lot of value for the company. Reduce their stress levels by reminding them there are psychological frameworks they can leverage to convert leads—even the tough ones.

Solution: Remind them of the meaning of their work

If sales agents only focus on their performance results, they'll be easily discouraged when they hit bumps in the road. Remind them of the value of their work beyond quotas. That way, they'll be motivated to close deals even when they’re experiencing setbacks.

To help sales agents regain their sense of purpose, set up a meeting with each agent and ask them to answer these questions:

  • What attracted you to this role?
  • What are you setting out to accomplish?
  • What do you love about your role?
  • How do you want to grow in your role?

You’ll remind sales agents of why they’re doing this job in the first place, which will inspire them to keep going—employees who find meaning in their work are far more motivated and engaged.

You can also pair a sales agent who’s in a slump with an upbeat, more experienced colleague who has persevered through hard times. Ask them to set up weekly meetings so the agent can ask the more seasoned team member for advice. The agent will likely feel more motivated to up their game when they learn about the challenges their colleague has overcome and how they find meaning in their work.

Solution: Show them how to use sales psychology

Every potential customer makes decisions based on their unique psychology. With that in mind, sales agents must find ways to identify and understand the motivations behind a customer’s purchasing decisions.

Consider recommending Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion to your agents. Written by psychology professor Dr. Robert Cialdini, the book outlines the six universal principles of influence that can help people persuade others.

  • Authority: People are more likely to agree with or say yes to someone who seems to have more knowledge or experience. Successful salespeople showcase their expertise (and their company’s value).
  • Commitment and consistency: People tend to stand behind something once they've decided on it. They’re more likely to continue justifying their position rather than admitting they might be wrong. Have your agents get potential customers to commit to something small to increase their brand loyalty later on.
  • Liking: We often say yes to people we like. So, remind your agents to turn on the charm, let their personality shine, and make themselves genuinely likable. That doesn't mean winning people over through false flattery—it requires building genuine rapport.
  • Scarcity: People are more likely to want something if they think the supply is limited. Remind your agents to make the product or service they’re selling sound not only desirable, but also exclusive.
  • Social proof: People are naturally inclined to do what their peers do. If a lot of other consumers are purchasing something, they’ll probably want it, too. Have your sales agents show examples of the popular items being purchased.
  • Reciprocity: People have an innate desire to respond in kind to what another person gives them. When sales agents can provide their potential clients with something extra—like a gift or a free trial—it will likely create a bond with the customer and spark brand loyalty.

Another book you can recommend to your agents is Brian Tracy’s The Psychology of Selling: Increase Your Sales Faster and Easier Than You Ever Thought Possible. The book provides ample tips for hitting annual sales goals, explains why people make purchases, and covers several other relevant sales topics.

Once your agents understand the psychology of sales, they’ll be inspired to do their jobs more effectively and feel more confident when tackling any challenging leads.

Problem 3: Lack of skills

Being a sales agent requires balancing many skills—communication, empathy, and organization, to name a few. When new agents notice their knowledge gaps, they may feel discouraged. Keep them motivated by making training the norm and easily accessible.

Solution: Build a positive culture around learning

Agents will be more likely to participate in training and take it seriously if you build a culture where everyone embraces ongoing sales education.

Normalize training by asking all sales agents to share what they hope to improve and how they would like to learn. Set up regular one-on-one meetings for conversations about potential skills gaps, and put together development plans. Everyone has to start somewhere, and if an agent doesn’t feel embarrassed about what they don’t know, then they’ll learn more quickly.

Most importantly, set training goals that will keep your agents motivated—people feel challenged and engaged when they have something to pursue. If the goals are clear, this will accelerate the learning process.

Once you’ve created a positive team culture around learning, try these training ideas to build your sales agents’ skills:

  • Get your agents to play a game where they try to sell a generic item, like toilet paper or a pen. This activity will show your team how they can get creative and better hone their pitches. If they can convince someone they need something more conventional or “boring,” then they can do the same for a readily marketable product.
  • Have your agents roleplay cold calling and handling objections. For many sales agents, this is the most nerve-wracking part of the job. Roleplaying games will remind them that customer objections aren’t personal and will help them better respond to objections without getting nervous.
  • Pay Rejection Therapy, a game that businessman Jin Jiang invented to desensitize people to rejection. The basic concept is that if you repeatedly expose yourself to rejection, you can overcome your fear of being rejected by strangers. You can play the game by having your agents make outlandish requests of strangers so they experience rejection over and over again.
  • There are numerous training and coaching opportunities out there that will help your team members rediscover their sales inspiration. You can find more ideas by exploring sites like Chorus.ai to learn more about coaching on discovery calls or closing deals.

There are numerous training and coaching opportunities out there that will help your team members rediscover their sales inspiration. You can find more ideas by exploring sites like Chorus.ai to learn more about coaching on discovery calls or closing deals.

Tailor inspiration based on experience level

These motivation tactics should work for a wide variety of team members, but keep in mind that what inspires sales agents often depends on their experience. An entry-level agent may need small rewards on a regular basis as they build their confidence, while experienced agents might expect more valuable incentives less frequently. Tailor your approach based on how long agents have been selling and their baseline level of performance.

And no matter what, encourage your agents not to give up. Peter Collins, a well-known mentor and sales strategist, says the best way to get through a slump and find your sales inspiration is to keep going.

“You need to keep getting in front of prospects, keep presenting, and above all, keep doing all the activities you are aware of that lead to getting sales across the line,” Collins says.