How to Motivate a Sales Team Without Money

Will Schmidt

April 9, 2024

10 min

Table of Contents

What's the best way to motivate a sales team? 

Ask around and I bet you'll get a common answer: money. True enough, money is strong when it comes to motivating a sales team and individual sales people. But it's not the only thing.

Plus, companies sometimes place too much emphasis on money as the primary incentive and means of motivating a sales team. When that happens, money can be viewed as a utility versus a genuine incentive.

That's because we all need money to live, and instead of spending that incentive money on ourselves we instead use it for living expenses. It just becomes another line item on the monthly budget.

Now, incentives are meant to show appreciation, inspire motivation, and let sales teams know their hard work is seen, heard, and valued. If your sales team sees cash incentives as a utility, how does that impact the sentiment you're trying to express to them?

We're not saying that you should never use money as a way of motivating a sales team. Far from it. The key here, like many things in life, is balance.

To that end, there are plenty of other things you can do to incentivize and motivate your sales teams that don't revolve around money. And if you're able to balance everything well, you can preserve the integrity and sentiment of your incentives.

Below, we'll show you seven new ideas that you can use to show your sales teams you're deeply appreciative of their effort and keep sales team motivation at an all-time high. Let's get after it.

1. Offer Extra PTO

When your sales team consistently delivers, or overdelivers, strong results, the case for an extra day or two of PTO is more than justified. Given the intense nature of sales jobs, it can be easy for your team to get caught up in their calendar of activities and stressing too much about hitting quota.

In those situations, the last thing they're often thinking of is taking time away from work. Show them you recognize how hard they've been working with the extra day off. Further, you can consider making it a mandatory day off where they have to stay away from Slack, email, and work-related matters in order to truly unplug.

Your team will come back refreshed, energized, and ready to keep delivering results. This is an especially potent incentive if your team accrues PTO over time.

2. Publicly Recognize Your Top Performers

In the highly competitive world of sales development representatives and account executives, providing public shout outs and recognition for your top performers can be a huge incentive. Consider posting a list of quota-crushers in your office, or make company-wide announcements in Slack or email that celebrate their achievements.

Knowing that the C-suite executives, sales leadership, and even board members will see their effort can keep your sales teams motivated to maintain their performance levels. Further, it can inspire your lower performing reps to work harder in order to have their work recognized publicly as well.

3. Empower Your Top Performers

If you want to take your sales team motivation beyond public shout outs with top performers, you can also empower them with responsibility. Consider giving them opportunities to train new hires or meet with the executive team to discuss strategy.

Anything that will help sew them into the fabric of your sales team's success and culture as a key player will work well here. Often, this can provide stronger and longer-lasting motivation, and it can increase your chances of retaining their talent for years to come.

4. Encourage Friendly Competition

Some sales managers have occasional competitions to push their sales team. Others publicly display closed deals or sales numbers as a rule. Bragging rights and the desire to be on top, or not at the bottom, can be a strong incentive for salespeople to hone their skills.

PhoneBurner’s live, self-updating leaderboards are a great tool for motivating via competition, or just keeping private tabs on your team.

Regardless of what tool you use to build your leaderboards, make sure you prioritize collaboration over cutthroat behaviors. An environment that's over-competitive and incentivizes individual achievement over team achievement can hurt more than it helps.

Consider the different ways you can use competition in ways that allow your teams to work together. For example, whichever team performs the best wins a company-paid team dinner or happy hour event.

5. Award High-Priority Leads and Passes

Often, sales teams operate on round-robin models where SDRs are awarded new leads, and AEs awarded passes from SDRs, in a sequential manner. When you get a high priority account come in, halt the cycle and reserve it as a special, timely incentive to boost sales team motivation.

Once you have it, you can host a same-day spiff where whoever sets the most meetings or demos by the end of the day gets the opportunity passed to them. Allowing everyone to have a fair shot at securing this lead can be highly motivating for a sales team.

Often, your top performers will rise to the top. However, you may have new team members or lower performing reps who buckle down and bust their chops at the opportunity to succeed.

6. Provide Wellbeing Stipends

Technically a wellbeing stipend is a cash incentive, but you're putting guidelines on how they have to spend it. For example, your sales reps are awarded a pool of funds that have to be spent on things that help them recharge and prioritize work-life balance. Some options include:

  • Exercise classes
  • Meditation or yoga sessions
  • Spa treatments
  • Cooking lessons
  • Masterclass subscriptions
  • Audio or print books

7. Donate on Their Behalf

Take the same cash incentive you would award to your sales rep, and give them the option to instead donate it to a nonprofit organization of their choosing. The power to make a positive impact for a cause they care about can be a powerful tool for motivating your sales team.

Motivate Your Sales Team With More Than Money

Even if you're set on the idea that money will always be your only incentive for motivating a sales team, we encourage you to branch out and mix in a few new ideas. After all, we love money but salespeople are often motivated by different things based on their specific sales personalities and sales personality traits.

It's crucial that your sales reps know they're seen, heard, and valued in a way that matters to them. This is especially important if you want to retain their talent for years to come.

So, as you think through how to motivate a sales team in the best way possible, remember that money is often a good place to start. But the best incentives sometimes go beyond money to offer something in the way of true employee appreciation and recognition.

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