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How to Get the Most Out of Your Sales and Marketing Teams

Managers please take note: it’s not that hard to get the maximum effort out of your sales and marketing teams. It takes four simple things: compensation, recognition, clarity, and trust. The first two, compensation and recognition are pure motivators, plain and simple. The third, clarity, is an important piece to keep team members focused on…

Date Icon Feb 26, 2015
Author Icon Rob Carter

peopleManagers please take note: it’s not that hard to get the maximum effort out of your sales and marketing teams. It takes four simple things: compensation, recognition, clarity, and trust.

The first two, compensation and recognition are pure motivators, plain and simple. The third, clarity, is an important piece to keep team members focused on the end goal. While these first three are generally associated with the success of a sales organization, they are becoming just as important to a marketing organization, as more and more CMOs implement performance-based goals for their teams.

The fourth, trust, is the most essential element to the relationship between you and whomever you are supervising – line salespeople, business development consultants, acquisition and retention teams, anyone.

In combination, these four elements are critical to motivating and engaging your teams to moving your business up and forward to the #TopRight corner of the market. Understanding them could not come at a more critical time – markets are more competitive, technologies advance at an increasingly rapid rate and both marketing and sales teams need to keep up. TopRight partners with the insightful Diamond Assessment behavioral toolkit to help employees in all functional areas and levels adjust their behavior to ways that benefit the customer.    Meanwhile, let’s explore these concepts and how they work to motivate teams.


Good salespeople like to get paid like salespeople – the harder they work; the more sales they make. The more sales they make; the more money the company makes. The more money the company makes; the more the salesperson should make. Simple. This is true for anyone on a performance-based comp. What’s a little more complicated is in what form the compensation is given – it can be cash or equity or some combination thereof. Cash can also be a combination of base salary (and possibly a draw formula), commissions, and bonuses. What’s crucial is that the salesperson’s compensation be clearly defined (I cannot make this point enough), be comfortably agreed to by all involved, and be fair and generous (as the expert once said, “it’s like this: if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys”). Whatever margin the company can responsibly afford should be maximized as compensation to the sales team. Compensation, for most sales people, is the number one motivator and it’s how salespeople have chosen to make a living. Management: understand that, honor that, and don’t mess with that, and if someone on your sales force makes more money than you do, they should be praised and heralded, not resented. The more money they make, the more money you and the company make (assuming the formula isn’t haywire). And the marginal dollar that the sales person makes further up the compensation scale costs you marginally less (they don’t drink any more coffee or absorb any more heat), so there’s no need to ever cap a salesperson’s compensation – that’s just a de-motivator.


The other top motivator is recognition. People – especially sales and marketing people – like to be praised and recognized for their hard work and successes. Yes, as stated above, compensation is #1, but it won’t cost you any (or at least not much) more to acknowledge publicly or privately, permanently, and even sometimes frivolously, that a sales person or marketing team has closed a deal. The good will, respect, and appreciation a manager shows will pay off handsomely in terms of motivation, commitment, and engagement – on top of plain being the right thing to do. And besides, as James Manktelow, Founder and CEO of Mind Tools, says in his article “Giving Praise:”

Research shows that when we hear something we like, a burst of dopamine is
released in our brains. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter, and it’s associated
with feelings of joy, pride, satisfaction, and well-being. When you praise
someone else, not only does that person feel great, but it leads them to want
to experience that same feeling again. Giving praise cements good working
habits and behavior, both chemically and intellectually.

So find the time to acknowledge your teams for a job well done – a company-wide e-mail, a meeting announcement, a celebratory meal, a private “thank you” if that’s more appropriate, a cheap trophy for the office shelf…just something.


An essential piece to any successful sales and marketing operation is clarity. Sales Management – in concert with the sales team itself – must set very clear, metrics-driven goals for each member of the sales force so that they know exactly what is expected of them and in what time frame. At the same time, as referenced above, management must clearly define what compensation looks like – it must be very clear exactly how much each member of the sales organization is going to make (base and commissions/bonus) if they hit certain (clearly defined!) bogeys. There can be no ambiguity here, and it is also essential that each member of the sales team help craft and be comfortable with the metrics – both sales goals and compensation – and agrees to them. Yes, in writing! (Key B. School concept/mantra: “People support what they help to create”. Hat Tip to Professor Erik Winslow.) Let’s face it, most people in business development (and that includes me) don’t necessarily possess the keenest minds (me, again). So, the concept of very clearly defining what’s expected of a sales person and very clearly defining what they’re going to get out of it, and getting them to sign off on the whole unambiguous package, is crucial to everyone’s success. Then, the typical non-intellectual sales person (me) can just “push play” and go forth and execute without too much thought and little to no anxiety (except to avoid the dreaded “CLOSED-LOST”, of course. Yikes.).


It seems intuitive, but believe me, the concept of trust is elusive for some managers. After accomplishing everything discussed above (especially compensation), please know that a sales person must be able to have airtight confidence that their manager is going to honor the deal no matter what. (It’s one of the basics that my wife and I – and probably all parents – try instill in our young kids: a deal is a deal. Right?) The terms of the deal cannot change arbitrarily, the goalposts can’t be moved further away in the middle of the drive, and the manager must defend the salesman’s agreed-to, understood, accepted, and approved deal no matter what. That trust will go miles and miles in motivating a salesperson, and breaking that trust, for whatever reason, will immediately and irreversibly destroy a salesperson’s commitment to the manager and the cause, his engagement in the effort, and his motivation to succeed.

This embrace of these four elements has be part of the culture, and managers must make a commitment to walk the walk with any performance-based employees, not just sales people but marketers and anyone responsible or acquiring and retaining clients. As sales and marketing, and really, all customer-facing roles, become more collaborative, social and digital, it’s more important than ever to understand the principles behind employee motivation.

Motivated employees help to motivate customers, too. The TopRight Customer BuyWay is our methodology to understand, map and optimize the myriad touchpoints that make up a customer journey. Just as with high performance teams, understanding the motivations of your customer – and then meeting or exceeding them every day – is the only way to move your business to the #TopRight quadrant.




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