5 Sales Motivation Ideas to Help Older Salespeople
Motivating your sales team is a challenge any time, but when you have different types of salespeople, with different personalities, ages and preferences, it can feel near impossible to provide the right amount or kind of motivation. Now, we’re not going to put your people in a box, because people will always break stereotypes, but for the majority of sales teams, the younger or newer you are, the more passion you have, which helps with self-motivation. But when you’ve been in any kind of business for a long time, and you’re comfortable with the stage you’re at, motivation isn’t at the top of your list of priorities. And if you’re managing someone in that boat, especially if you’re younger than they are, you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place – you don’t want to disrespect your older employees by assuming that they’re lacking in motivation, but you don’t want to allow them to stay stagnant if they’re not performing at the right standard.
Age Equals Experience AND Egotism
Most of the time, an older salesperson considers themselves more experienced than anyone younger than they are, but that doesn’t mean they have the best work ethic or that they’re using their experience in the most productive way. While there’s a lot of fire in a younger salesperson, that fire can easily turn into or stem from arrogance, ignorance or pride. For an older salesperson, their lack of fire can mean the same thing – they feel like they know best, they’ve been doing their job for “longer than these younger reps have been alive,” etc. Thankfully, some of your senior salespeople are using their talents to train the new generation of salespeople, but if they’re not, it’s time to find ways to change their approach to the job.
Appeal to Your People
Your senior reps can set the tone for an entire sales team, so using motivational tactics that appeal to them is needed. Here are 5 tips you can try to help motivate your senior salespeople:
Make them Mentor
If you have individuals on your sales team who have more than 10 years of sales experience, then they need to be sharing their experiences and “war stories” with the younger generation. Experience is our greatest teacher, and if you’re not utilizing the teachers you have right in front of you, then you’re doing your team a major disservice. Some people may think they can’t be a mentor – they believe their personality doesn’t lend itself to training, or they don’t feel like they have the time to put in the right amount of effort, or even that they don’t believe their experience can be useful to others. It’s time for some encouragement! Depending on the size of your team, you can institute a mentorship program between younger and older salespeople, giving them the opportunity to learn from each other. You can provide some training resources or leadership ideas, or you can see what grows organically between the pairs or groups. You may be pleasantly surprised at the outcome!
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Now, we’re not saying that younger people aren’t interested in reading, but the younger generations definitely rely on the internet, personal experience or even advice from those higher up far more than they ever would rely on a book. However, the more mature salesperson has probably read a book or two to help them advance in their position, mainly because, depending on their age, this was the best external way of learning when they were starting out in their career. It may be time to start using a book to reach your team – there are plenty of great resources out there, or you can ask your senior salespeople for their recommendations. You can give your team homework to go with the reading – they may complain about it at first, but once they see how much they can learn from the books they’re reading, they will be thankful.
Engage in Experiences AND Recognition
Back in the day (pre-2008), the majority of salespeople (54%) were motivated by money, according to data compiled by Objective Management Group – the majority were extrinsically-motivated. But today, no more than 27% would make the same statement. The majority of salespeople today are intrinsically-motivated, or motivated by satisfaction, fulfillment, and acknowledgment. It’s obvious that the standards for satisfaction in your employees have changed, but that might not be the case for your older salespeople. Because you’re looking at two different types of people, regardless of age, you want to provide incentives that can cover all of your bases. When giving incentives, find ways to engage your people in both experiences – free lunches, seminars away from the office, letting them leave early, etc. – and with monetary rewards, like a cash bonus for your top performer each week, or a quarterly bonus for the most improved team.
Prevent the Plateau
For your older salespeople, the possibility of a plateau is looming. While all ages are susceptible, the plateau phenomenon occurs most commonly in two groups: 45-50 year olds and 25-30 year olds. Some telltale signs that one of your people has actually reached a plateau (and aren’t having a slump of some kind) are:
- Routine paper work is lacking – missed or ignored deadlines, incomplete forms, redundant or mechanical reports.
- Work hours are waning – long lunches, frequent absences, late starting and early quitting times.
- Lack of interest – little or no participation at sales meetings, inability to solve sales problems, no enthusiasm for introducing new products or helping others.
- Performance – marked drop or flat sales (a steady level with little or no change), little or no prospecting activity, increased customer complaints.
As a manager, it’s your responsibility to ask these sales reps why things are the way they are – the worst way to handle this type of situation is by being passive-aggressive or by ignoring the issue. Sometimes, some straightforward and caring communication will do the trick. Between the company, you as the manager and the rep themselves, you can come up with a game plan to improve the situation. The rep will see that they’re not forgotten or irrelevant, and you will have an improved sales team.
Be Slow and Steady with Change
New technology and sales tactics will go over well with your millennials, but it’s not as easy for some senior salespeople. If you want to institute a change, you need to be intentional and accommodating, making sure your people fully understand what you’re changing, why you’re changing it and how it will help them. There are plenty of new options to help your salespeople, things like smartphone apps, new calling methods (like a predictive dialer), and updated conversational techniques, all of which can seriously improve your bottom line and make your salespeople even better at what they do, but you need to start slow and provide inclusive training when any of your reps have questions or concerns.
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