Although all professions require a certain balance of skill and motivation, sales in particular relies more heavily on motivation than others. The reason for this is simple, sales is a numbers game.
Reps who are motivated to put in the time, who are always on the phone, researching prospects, and going above and beyond to close a deal– even in the face of constant rejection– are more likely to be successful.
When a sales rep doesn’t have the necessary selling skills, leaders have options. They can turn to coaching or training to get the offending rep up to speed. But when a rep lacks the motivation or drive to succeed, course correction becomes infinitely more difficult.
In today’s blog post, we’re introducing you to a performance management framework called the skill vs. will matrix. Then, we’re discussing why skill alone isn’t enough in sales and how you, as a sales leader, can create a more motivated sales force.
Let’s jump into it.
What is the skill vs. will matrix?
The skill vs. will matrix is a tool developed by Paul Kersey and Ken Blanchard. Managers can use the skill vs. will matrix to assess, coach, and enable employee performance. The goal of the matrix is to map a person’s skill– the core competencies required to do their job that can be learned, practiced, and developed– and their will– their willingness or motivation to do something– within a two by two grid.
Where an employee lands within the four quadrants dictates the way a manager might choose to work with this person. While the skill vs. will matrix can be used across functions and industries, it’s particularly helpful in the world of sales.
Let’s take a look at the matrix and explore what each of the four quadrants means:
Quadrant 1: High Will, Low Skill
An employee that lands in quadrant one has the motivation to work hard but doesn’t yet have the skills they need to do their job. This might be someone without a lot of experience or someone who hasn’t been in the role long. The best course of action to take with an employee in quadrant one is to invest in training or coaching to develop the person’s skill set.
Quadrant 2: High Will, High Skill
Someone who lands in quadrant two is a person that has both the motivation and the skills needed to do a good job. These are typically your high performers. The best way to manage someone in quadrant two is to delegate. Give people in quadrant two something to do and get out of their way.
Quadrant 3: Low Will, Low Skill
Individuals who land in this category have neither the skill nor the will to do the job. Employees in this quadrant can pose a challenge to managers. The best way to handle an employee who lands in this category is to direct them. Give them specific instructions and tell them exactly how and when you want something done. Work to see if this person is coachable or able to be motivated. In extreme circumstances, you might want to think about coaching this person out or letting them go.
Quadrant 4: Low Will, High Skill
Someone with low will and high skill isn’t engaged in their work. They have the skills to be successful in their role but for one reason or another, they aren’t motivated to put in the effort. Maybe this person isn’t being challenged or maybe the work just isn’t exciting enough. Whatever the reason, as this person’s manager, it’s your job to create motivation and get this person excited about their work.
How to create sales motivation when skill alone isn’t cutting it
The fact of the matter is this: In most sales jobs, employees who land in quadrants three and four simply won’t survive in their role long-term. That is, unless it’s recognized and remedied quickly. That’s where you, as a sales leader, come into the picture.
In this section, we’ll look at some tried and true techniques to manufacture sales motivation when a rep’s natural supply just isn’t cutting it.
Set SMART Goals
Sales goals are often closely tied to sales performance and incentive compensation. They’re also a good way to highlight important behaviors or outcomes for your team. While most sales organizations rely on goal setting as a means of motivating their sales force, some goals are more effective than others.
If you’re not sure how effective your sales goals are, use the SMART goal framework as your benchmark. Ask yourself:
- Are your goals specific enough? If the only goal you give your team is a quota, maybe you need to get more specific and set goals around the sales activities you want to drive.
- Are your goals measurable? Attach a number to your goals and make sure it’s something you can easily track.
- Are your goals attainable? Is your team struggling to hit goals because of their performance or is it that your goals are unrealistic? As a leader, it can be tempting to constantly set stretch goals in an effort to motivate your team. But as a team member, feeling like you’re constantly underperforming has the exact opposite effect.
- Are your goals relevant? Do your goals correlate with the organization’s overarching goals? Or, are your team’s goals created in a silo, separate from the organization’s goals? Without tight alignment with the rest of your organization, goals can feel meaningless.
- And, are your goals tied to a specific time period? And is that time period appropriate for the goal at hand? Think about it this way, if someone asked you to write your name 4,000 times in less than an hour, less than a week, or without any set deadline– the task seems entirely different depending on how much time you have to complete it.
We talk about this framework in more detail, here: The Ultimate Sales Performance Checklist.
There are two types of motivators– intrinsic and extrinsic. Extrinsic motivators are things that motivate from the outside. Common extrinsic motivators in sales are things like compensation, experiences, prestige, and power. The problem with extrinsic motivators is that their impact is short lived.
Intrinsic motivators on the other hand come from within oneself and are based in someone’s personal values. These are things like productivity, purpose, mastery, and autonomy. Surprisingly, research shows that intrinsic motivators last longer and actually do a better job at driving employee satisfaction than extrinsic motivators (source).
Purpose, in particular, drives our actions and impacts how we feel, both at work and at home. In fact, when employees feel like their work has meaning and a greater purpose, it positively impacts their attitude and performance.
Your team might know what they’re supposed to be doing. They might even know exactly how to do it. But, does your team have a reason to come to work each day– something they can lean on in tough times or use as their compass to guide difficult decisions? If your answer is no, your sales team might be lacking a sense of purpose.
Let’s look at a few vision statements some of the top B2B companies use to establish a sense of shared purpose:
- LinkedIn: To create economic opportunities for every member of the global workforce.
- ADP: To be the world’s authority on helping organizations focus on what matters.
- Zoom: Video communications empowering people to accomplish more.
As a sales leader, it may not be your job to create a vision statement. But, it is your responsibility to make sure team members understand the organization’s vision in a way that is meaningful and motivating to them.
To understand if you’re successfully creating a sense of purpose in your sales team, ask yourself the following questions:
- Does my team understand the organization’s vision and mission?
- Do they understand how their contributions and goals impact the larger organization?
- Do they see how daily actions help them achieve their goals?
- Do you share the “why” behind big decisions?
In life, it’s hard to invest time and effort into a person or organization you don’t trust to have your best interest in mind. The same goes for your sales organization. If you haven’t prioritized building a culture of trust between sales leadership and sales reps, it’s time to start.
So, how do you foster a culture of trust on your sales team? Unfortunately, there’s no quick fix or life hack that will help build trust instantly. But, over time, if you stay true to your word, and act with transparency, your team will begin to trust you. Here are a few of our top tips for earning the trust of your team:
- Have difficult conversations. Act with transparency even if it means saying the hard things. It’s never easy to discipline or call out someone’s poor performance, but doing so directly and without mincing words will help to build trust. Your team will know that you’re always shooting straight with them, without an ulterior motive or hidden agenda, even when it’s difficult.
- Put your trust in your reps. When you don’t trust your team, it often becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. You feel like you can’t trust your team so you start to tighten the reins and apply more pressure. As time goes on, this pressure only makes the situation worse and reps begin to crack. After a while, it can spiral out of control. Your reps are more likely to trust you, if you also trust them.
- Assume the best in people. It’s easy to create stories in your head about how or why someone behaves the way they do, especially when their behavior impacts you negatively. But the reality is that no one wants to be bad at their job and therefore there’s likely an innocent explanation for poor performance– lack of resources, misunderstanding, or miscommunication. Jumping to conclusions and acting out of frustration will prevent you from getting to the root of the problem.
- Seek out feedback. Asking your team for feedback shows you value their input and understand you’re not perfect. This creates less of a divide between manager and team.
Having a team that trusts you only makes your coaching and direction more impactful. In fact, research shows trust in leaders is the highest-ranked factor linked to employee engagement at 77%. It’s even higher than traditional motivators like organizational culture (73%) or opportunities for career growth (66%) (source).
Recognize Good Work
Sales isn’t an easy job– reps that have both the skills and motivation to be successful are a rare find. So, when you do see a member of your team who has the motivation and drive to close deals– call it out.
Recognition is a huge motivator and plays a role in many of the other motivators we’ve already discussed. Here are some small steps you can take to make your recognition more meaningful:
- Recognize both big and small wins. In order to reinforce the right behaviors in sales, it’s important to celebrate small wins on the path to bigger ones. Pay attention to small improvements and recognize growth on your team. Make sure your team knows you’re paying attention and recognizing those successes.
- Recognize both publicly and privately. Human beings are all wired differently. What’s meaningful to one rep might not be as meaningful to another. That’s why it’s important to recognize your team in public and in private. For some, the public recognition will be a huge accomplishment. For others, the one on one feedback might hold more importance.
- Be specific about your recognition. When praising someone for good work, be sure to give specific feedback about why their performance was good. General praise can feel empty or hard to replicate. Specific praise gives your team something to reproduce or replicate within future deals or calls.
Review Your Commission Plans
This wouldn’t be a Spiff blog post if we didn’t mention sales compensation at least once. If you’re struggling to motivate your team, take a look at your sales commission plans and ask yourself:
- Are your plans motivating the right behaviors?
- Is compensation tied to the most meaningful metrics?
- Is it too easy or too hard to earn a living wage?
Remember, the main purpose of employment is to bring home a paycheck. If your compensation plans aren’t created with motivation in mind, you might see motivation levels start to slip. We know money isn’t everything, but we’d be lying if we said it wasn’t an important piece of the puzzle. Sales compensation and commission planning are much more complex than simply paying your sales reps a “good” salary. It’s much more strategic than that.
We won’t spend too much time on the subject of sales compensation because we talk about this a lot at Spiff.
Instead, we’ll let you explore our top sales commission resources at your own pace. Here are just a few of our favorite to get you started:
- Building Your First SDR Commission Plan
- 3 Keys to Building an Effective Commission Plan
- A Framework for Your First SaaS Sales Compensation Model
- Data-Driven Commissions: The Easiest Way to Grow Company Sales by 20%
Provide Access to Well-Timed Information
Information is powerful if leveraged in the right ways. For sales leaders, providing your team with access to the right information at the right time will allow you to unlock new levels of motivation on your team.
Consider what types of information your team needs throughout any given day, week, or sales cycle. You might be thinking about intent data, buying signals, contact information, or behavioral events. And, all of these data points are what we’d classify as important information for sales reps.
But, more importantly, is the timing of this information. After all, if you receive an intent signal after an organization has already decided to go with your biggest competitor, that piece of information is no longer of use to your team.
With this in mind, we recommend partnering up with your sales enablement and RevOps teams to do the following:
- Review your team’s notifications. What types of notifications does your team get on a normal day? If you’re not paying close attention, notifications can pile up and become distracting, eliminating their entire purpose. Save notifications for only the most important data points.
- Build out dashboards. Poll your teams to see what information they have the hardest time accessing. Then work with the necessary parties to create new dashboards that make it easier to have the right information at their fingertips.
- Consider your tech stack. Do you have the right tools or are you creating confusion on your team every time you introduce a new piece of technology? The line between a good tech stack and a bad tech stack is thin– especially considering the sheer amount of technology available to teams today.
Spiff’s Commission Estimator
A sales rep’s motivation often increases as they get closer to winning a deal. After all, that’s often when they’re rewarded for the work they put into each sales cycle. But what if there was a way to help your reps maintain that same level of motivation throughout the entire process, from the very beginning?
With Spiff’s Commission Estimator, you can inject even more motivation into a sales cycle as your team builds quotes in Salesforce CPQ, giving your tea
ms access to:
- Potential commission. Motivate reps by giving them access to potential commission right within Salesforce
- Real-Time calculations. See the power of real-time calculations as reps build and modify quotes.
- Increased visibility. Give teams increased visibility into quota attainment.
Learn more about the power of Spiff’s Commission Estimator, here.
Spiff is a new class of commission software that improves trust across organizations by automating commission calculations and motivating teams to drive top-line growth. With an intuitive UI, real-time visibility, and seamless integrations with the systems you already use, Spiff is the first choice among high-growth businesses.