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Motivating Sales Teams Without Money

4 min read
Updated Aug. 25, 2021
Published Apr. 10, 2018

It’s no secret that salespeople are motivated by money. When you’re looking to reward reps outside of a structured commission program, other incentives may actually be even more effective. Think outside of the box when it comes to motivating sales teams without money.  Recognition, senior-level exposure, and extra vacation time can all be used as currency. It’s human nature to want to feel validated for our hard work!

A recent Gallup workplace survey asked employees to recall who gave them their most memorable recognition. According to the study, the most memorable recognition comes most often from an employee’s manager (28%). This is followed by a high-level leader or CEO (24%), the manager’s manager (12%), a customer (10%), and peers (9%). Interestingly, 17% cited “other” as the source of their most memorable recognition.

Where the most memorable recognition for employees comes most often from

Unfortunately, many companies aren’t taking advantage of the impact recognition can have. According to WorldatWork, “14% [of companies] indicated that their organization features [recognition] programs regularly when recruiting.” If your organization is in need of rockstar talent (and who isn’t?) try using recognition to show that you value and appreciate your employees.

Gallup’s data revealed that the most effective recognition is authentic and individualized. We’re quick to think of monetary rewards, but acknowledging excellence doesn’t have to be expensive. A handwritten thank-you card is a meaningful gesture that an employee is likely to hold onto for years.

We looked to the Modern Sales Professionals Community (a group of 4,000+ leading sales ops, enablement, and leadership experts) for their most creative reward ideas. Here were some of our favorites.

Sales Superlatives: Always Be Closing

Alternative Ways to Motivate Sales Teams

  • Present “Superlative” awards at quarterly meetings, for example: Most Improved, Best Coach, Best Team Player, Fastest Ramp Up, Most Likely to Find a Creative Way to Yes (pro tip: make them into a graphics to be posted on LinkedIn – it helps build both the company’s and the winners’ brands)
  • Gift a pair of branded boxing gloves to the rep who takes a client from a competitor
  • Print a life-size figure of the rep who lands a 7-figure deal and place it in the lobby
  • Bottom two managers have to take the top two managers to a steak dinner
  • Present an MVP plaque to the top reps each quarter
  • Send the highest performing rep in the quarter on an all expenses paid 4-day trip to Cancun (bonus: they brag about it online and their friends want to come work for you)
  • Award a top-shelf bottle of a favorite liquor in an engraved box to the top rep
  • Implement a tiered rewards program where employees can earn points to choose from a library of items or experiences
  • Treat a high-performing employee to an extra day off… and don’t email them at all on “their” day
  • Fly top performers and a “plus one” to headquarters for a nice dinner with management and weekend getaway
  • Hold special events for teams: Boozy Friday lunch and half-day reward (“Summer Friday”) where winners go to lunch with executive management and take the rest of the day off.

Keep in mind that there are more benefits to recognition rewards than just motivation. Multiple studies have shown that recognition increases engagement, productivity, and trust in leadership. It also improves retention, which we all know is costly. Imagine the money that could be saved in recruitment, hiring, and training when you could’ve just leveraged a recognition program!

Remember the 17% that cited “other” as the source of their most memorable recognition we mentioned at the beginning of this post? Recognition doesn’t have to be limited to manager-employee interactions. Consider your customers. They love to be recognized and appreciated as well.

At Salesloft, we’ve been known to do site visits. We send #saleslove onesies to expectant families, or a bottle of champagne to newlywed customers. We actually built a category of steps that can be added to Cadences for more “unique” steps. Salesloft “Other” steps have the flexibility to be used in limitless unique and creative ways!

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How do you recognize your sales reps?