If you’ve been a sales development rep, or have had a job that otherwise involves generating outbound demand by way of cold-calling, door-knocking, or e-mailing, you probably understand the difficulty in staying motivated and sustaining these activities for a long period of time.
For some, such as a small business owner, outbound may simply be the natural evolution in building your business, with the end goal being that you are able to operate on referrals, in-bound, and repeat clients. For the job of an SDR however, this isn’t the case. The SDR position was created for the very purpose of driving outbound demand, and those outbound activities don’t have an end date. The only end date involved in the role of an SDR is who is filling it; How long and how well they do is dependent on many factors.
Having had a lot of outbound sales experience, my goal here is to shed some light on how to best motivate your reps for performance and longevity.
1 – Give reps the opportunity to get in their ‘zone’
One effective way of conducting outbound activities — specifically cold-calls — is to set yourself a call block on your calendar. Usually someone can last an hour or so before then need to stand up and stretch. This is a time that, in effect, allows a rep to shut their email down, ignore distractions, and knockout a bunch of calls.
This is akin to an author sitting down for a writing session, or an engineer sitting down to program. A sales “pit” with loud music and rigid work stations might help some people hit their goals, but it may drive others crazy. If you want everyone on your team performing at their best, it will benefit to let them customize their work environment. If someone likes to stand all day, try to get that person a standing desk.
If someone doesn’t feel comfortable making cold-calls around others (this goes away with time, of course), don’t force them to do it. I’ve personally witnessed the quality of calls suffer because some reps were intimidated by others sitting around them.
2 – Use a simple formula for commission
Any sales role is going to have a substantial portion of the compensation tied to performance. The compensation formula should be as straightforward as possible and tied to the metrics that both matter the most and are easily tracked. If your intention in paying your reps commission is to incentivize them–as is presumably the case–then you should make it as easy to understand as possible. The more difficult the incentive is to understand for the reps, the less it will be effective at incentivizing them.
3 – Don’t reward activities that aren’t directly tied to the success of the company.
If the pay is determined by the amount of deals generated, or meetings booked, smart sales reps will figure out what it takes to hit those numbers. If pay is determined by the number of phone calls made, reps will figure out ways to make lots of phone calls. I’ve seen reps hit their goal for the day, say X number of meetings booked, and then spend half a day making non-strategic calls just to keep a manager off their case when their time could’ve been better spent preparing for the following day.
This situation is clearly counterproductive and will lead to higher turnover and lower morale among reps. If a rep likes making phone calls because it’s how they do their best work, let them make a bunch of calls. If a finds a combination of emails and phones to be the best strategy, let them do that.
There are many other practices for managing sales reps, but these are my top 3 tips if you want to keep the salespeople you worked so hard hiring and training happy. Let reps find their “flow,” don’t overcomplicate commission, and focus in the right metrics.