Sales Motivation: 5 Keys to Managing Sales Team Behavior and Driving Results

Editor’s note: This article has been adapted from a video series recorded with sales and sales management expert Rich Chiarello.

There are many variables that can influence the success of a startup or expansion-stage company, but no matter how well these areas are addressed, ultimately the sales team needs to perform.

How can you generate the right sales motivation to help your team reach its highest potential, accomplish its goals quickly and efficiently, and bring in the results you need for your company to grow and prosper? A competitive compensation plan certainly plays a big role, but as Rich Chiarello, President and CEO of Above the Line, LLC, explains in this video series, other factors such as recognition, accountability, and psychology can also have a major impact, and — when managed the right way — can yield significant results, as well. Watch the videos below for five keys to managing sales team behavior to maximize performance.

1) Boosting Sales Motivation with Recognition

While sales professionals who are largely focused on compensation often make competent employees, those who don’t need to be valued differently. To reach the employees who want adulation, you must have a best practices process in place.

After all, money isn’t the only form of motivation when dealing with sales reps. Often, recognition can be just as effective.

“You need to know your people,” Chiarello says. “Purely motivating someone on money, when their ego requires the public adoration or ‘job well done,’ really is missing the boat. When you have someone who is motivating by money, and it comes that time of year to say, ‘Here’s your new territory, it’s a little less than last year because we’re growing, and by they way, the quota’s a little bit higher,’ — how do you motivate that person?”

Chiarello goes on to explain that whenever significant changes are made it’s important to connect the change in job functions to the amount of compensation and recognition, thus keeping your sales team a motivated, high-performing machine.


2) More Accountability Equals Greater Sales Performance

Nobody wants to slave away in their sales position without ever being recognized for their sacrifices and contributions.

As a CEO or senior manager, if you ignore sales accountability and recognition you’re only creating an inefficient sales process, says Chiarello. When you ignore the dedication of your employees, they ignore the need to be dedicated. Setting up an accountability system via meetings, a dashboard, or any other organized method can greatly improve accountability and morale.

“By the CEO keeping actionable data that spans across the entire company, it makes the monthly meetings for the team very simple,” says Chiarello.

Each department is then able to use their departmental scorecards to determine where they are succeeding and where they are failing, keeping themselves accountable while reporting to higher-ups and providing another way to motivate their sales team.


3) Harnessing the Power of Your Compensation Plan

Understanding the direct impact of your compensation plan on your salespeople is imperative.

As Rich Chiarello explains, it’s the supervisor’s duty to maximize the correlation between reps’ profiteering spirit and the benefit to the sales process. In other words, when the salespeople make money, the company should be making money too.

“I’ve always been amazed how people who are in sales find other ways to motivate the sales force’s behavior other than money,” says Chiarello. “Typically you have people on the accounting side of the equation, who have never been in sales, trying to find the best way to motivate a sales force by doing just about everything but paying them.

Since sales compensation is budgeted every year, saving money in that area isn’t a primary concern. Rather, the key is making sure that the compensation plan is helping to motivate sales staff.


4) Managing Sales People Through Transactional Analysis

In the heat of a workplace argument, it can be easy to let your emotions get the better of you. Chiarello explains how the transactional analysis theory can be applied to sales to predict how people will act when they’re displaying the characteristics of a specific mindset. Behaviors can run the gamut from child to adult, and as a sales manager you should know how to handle all of these personalities when a debacle is on the horizon.

“One style, all the time, with any individual, typically doesn’t work,” says Chiarello.

Instead, Chiarello suggests you need to be emotionally cognizant when someone is acting childish, or you risk trying to mend potentially irreparable fences later.


5) Maintaining Sales Motivation While Expanding

One of the more daunting challenges tethered to company expansion is maintaining your infrastructure and performance levels as you grow.

“You’ve created a culture by now, and that culture is built to sustain and probably reflects both your view and your senior leadership team,” says Chiarello.

When you’re scaling a business, things can quickly get derailed. Your sales process may not easily translate to a larger platform. Perhaps your employees aren’t prepared to work in an expanding arena. Whatever the case is, it’s your duty to keep goals aligned.


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OpenView, the expansion stage venture firm, helps build software companies into market leaders. Through our Expansion Platform, we help companies hire the best talent, acquire and retain the right customers and partner with industry leaders so they can dominate their markets. Our focus on the expansion stage makes us uniquely suited to provide truly tailored operational support to our portfolio companies. Learn more about OpenView at
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