Motivating sales teams in today’s demanding media environment ranks among the foremost challenges for most sales leaders. Understandably, given that inspiring their team is a pivotal aspect of a sales leader’s role, and that drive itself stands as a fundamental trait of a successful salesperson.

Motivation serves as a potent force in shaping behaviour and propelling us towards our goals. Thriving sales teams exude energy, passion, and enthusiasm, which heightens their productivity fuelled by their hunger to achieve. However, our enthusiasm can often fluctuate, particularly in the face of challenging markets, escalating client demands or rival offerings.

But what truly ignites us? While it’s often thought that monetary rewards are the prime catalyst, this notion is somewhat outdated and short-lived. In reality, incentives don’t last long and can mean little when the environment is difficult. So, monetary rewards are not a sustainable strategy to entice your team.

Research indicates that enduring motivation stems from the fulfilment of our fundamental psychological needs. These are the bigger driving force that might explain why some salespeople aren’t that committed when they are paid well. Let’s delve into these four key needs that apply to all individuals including those in sales. And the great news is that they don’t have to cost a thing!

1. Align purpose

Recognising your purpose is a powerful driving force. Yet when there is synergy between individual purpose and the organisation’s purpose, this amplifies the effect, providing meaning to people’s roles. Sales teams particularly benefit from understanding the effect of their product or service on clients – this awareness can increase their ambition. When they witness how their work contributes to a larger goal, they find greater meaning in their role. This alignment of personal purpose with the organisation’s overarching mission not only sets a clear pathway to success but can also support salespeople through challenging times.

2. Build competence

Competence reflects our urge to expand our knowledge and hone our skills, so we foster a sense of capability in our roles. We gravitate towards employers who foster our growth, empowering us to reach our full potential. Rather than succumbing to the weight of constant challenges, we want to feel that we have the mastery to overcome them. A long-term career path that allows continuous advancement is also crucial. To motivate sales talent, it’s imperative that they are provided with opportunities to learn, grow, and develop in their roles. These avenues could include formal options like workshops, coaching or mentoring, alongside informal methods like offering feedback, role-shadowing, role rotations, and exposure to challenging work.

3. Provide autonomy

Autonomy within our roles involves the freedom to control and choose how we work, when we work, and with whom we work. This sense of freedom energises and satisfies us, enhancing our overall motivation. Achieving autonomy doesn’t necessarily equate to remote work, as this may not be viable for everyone. Instead, it may manifest through flexible start, break, and end times, or the opportunity to choose the type of work to undertake or who they work with. This also helps us to feel energised and satisfied in our roles.

4. Strengthen belonging

Relatedness delves into our inherent need to belong and form meaningful bonds with those around us. Given the substantial portion of our lives devoted to work, fostering strong relationships with our colleagues is essential. These connections not only energise us but also enhance our productivity, satisfaction and engagement – qualities that are particularly valuable in today’s demanding environment. Higher motivation also leads to stronger relationships with clients.

When these four essential needs of purpose, competence, autonomy, and belonging are fulfilled – salespeople exude high levels of commitment and dedication. Conversely, when these needs go unaddressed, it’s harder for sales teams to be inspired, and they are more likely to be disengaged and depleted over time. A team of intrinsically motivated salespeople not only performs better but also fosters a more productive and positive work environment that encourages better collaboration internally and externally.

However, if salespeople feel disconnected from the company’s purpose, overwhelmed by performance pressure, or their needs remain unmet, their motivation will wane. Hence, it becomes imperative for leaders to cultivate an environment that nurtures these needs, thereby empowering sales teams to thrive.

Anna Glynn is a sought-after speaker, author, and coach.