Twenty years ago, any given salesperson was responsible for every step of the sale, from researching potential clients to setting meetings, following up, and closing.
Today's practice of segmentation--that is, designating those various parts of the sales cycle to different roles--makes the process less burdensome for the sales team and allows companies to close more deals in a quarter. But it's also created roles people expect to graduate from quickly. When that doesn't happen, motivation tanks.
The creation of the Sales Development Representative role (the person who sets sales appointments) is a prime example.
Competitive pay and the promise of commissions help keep these salespeople motivated. But most of them are after promotion, and since every company grows at a different pace, quickly advancing someone to the role of Account Executive (or "closer") isn't always possible--not within the desired timeframe, at any rate.
So how can sales leaders keep their turnover low and make these employees feel valuable? While there isn't one "magic" solution, I've seen several tactics work across many different types of sales teams all over the world. Here are three of the top ways to keep Sales Development Representatives motivated, whether you can offer a promotion or not:
1. Get the entire company excited about their accomplishments.
You can always send your employees a "thank you" email for booking all those meetings, but that only goes so far in terms of making them feel valuable and appreciated.
It's more rewarding to instead grow a sales culture where everyone's aware of how much work that Sales Development Representatives actually do. Get them to share and discuss the different ways they approach cold emailing, campaigns, and call scripts. Everyone loves getting praise on company-wide email threads, but how much more impactful is it when everyone from the Account Executive to the Vice President knows how vital an entry-level salesperson was in kicking off that big sale?
Then, try this: next time your employee makes big progress on a key account, have someone from sales enablement create a quick video interview on how they did it. Even a short take with a smartphone counts. Send that video to everyone in the company, including the Chief Executive Officer.
If you want to get really ambitious, hold a monthly contest where the Sales Development Representative with the most strategic break in activity gets to have lunch with the Vice President of Sales to discuss career goals and growth.
2. Make your sales victories their sales victories, too.
Commission is already designed to reward those who book qualified meetings that close. But what if the top Sales Development Representative from every quarter got to run one deal as their own?
Most lower-level salespeople long to close their own deals; it's one of the reasons the pressure to promote them exists. Tell these people they can jump-start that portion of their career by proving they excel at their existing tasks. Then, at the end of each quarter, the person who books the most qualified meetings gets to run one deal in parallel with the Account Executive and the Vice President.
Yes, it might cost you a little more to do it this way, but consider what you'll gain. Entry-level employees with the chance to distinguish themselves on a deal will be so much more engaged on every level of their work. Your team should see an uptick in things like solid research and number of meetings booked. Meanwhile, the entry-level employees' victories will feel less like a pass off and more like a stepping stone.
3. Turn feedback into a team-wide project.
Let's face it, sometimes there are Sales Development Representatives who once were great and now struggle. Or they've become just plain lazy.
Before you fire them and move on, consider this: feedback motivates people, and feedback is often more readily accepted from peers than from managers. So create a culture where constructive feedback is encouraged.
Okay, obviously. But how?
Stop making criticism direct. Instead, make key accounts, templates, strategies, campaigns, and calling a 100-percent group endeavor.
Encourage this behavior first with Sales Development Representatives, but also urge them to collaborate with Account Executives on everyone's activity and accounts.
Suddenly, the game is no longer a solo practice. Going beyond sharing templates in your email-automation software, think of ways that you can gamify and democratize the outreach process, so that no individual ever feels like they're in it alone.
The more you can make sales employees feel like their activity is part of an overall unit of behavior the more they'll readily accept critiques and feedback.
In an ideal world, every single Sales Development Representative in your company would be satisfied with these kinds of rewards and acknowledgements. In reality, there will always be one or two people who just want a better title and a bigger paycheck. If they deserve an eventual promotion, do it. If not, don't consider it too great a loss when they move on to another job. Chances are, you still have plenty of other employees willing to play their part, in whatever form that takes.