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How to motivate your sales team: 12 trends for 2019

Written by: Walter Ruckes
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1. New year, new generation

Just when Baby Boomer and Gen-X managers started to figured out Millennials, along comes Generation Z and a whole new set of rules.  Born sometime between 1995 and 2000 (depending on the article you read), these kids are all about change. They’re digital natives so multi-tasking is their way of life. They’re focused and independent, so think twice before having them hold hands with their Millennial teammates. And they’re highly entrepreneurial so challenge them to create their own future, before they head off to create their own company.

72% of high schoolers say they want to start their own business some day. (Source:


2. Warm up to marketing.

For many years, sales has given the cold shoulder to marketing.  By now, most organizations have seen the value in content marketing. If you don’t teach customers about your products and services, someone else will. This extends to the sales process as well. The Challenger Sales approach tells us to “teach, tailor and take control of customer situations.” If sales and marketing are teaching different things, the result will be a confused customer (or more likely, an ex-customer).

Content marketing will be a $300 billion industry by 2019, helping sales as well as marketing departments. (Source:


3. Build a culture of learning.

No one ever disagrees with the statement that salespeople sell what they know. However, nearly every data point says that one of the lowest priorities for companies is ongoing learning for their sales teams.  Long-term success in sales requires a culture of learning.  Make it easier by breaking learning into ongoing bite-sized snacks, facilitating events where team members can teach each other and creating “learn & earn” incentives to reinforce training completion. 

One BIW client reported that over a two-year period, sales reps who took all of the training offered in their LMS were selling more than those who didn’t.


4. Make a good first impression.

Most sales organizations take special care of their top performers. And more and more leaders are recognizing the importance of motivating and moving their middle performers. But new team members continue to get lost in the daily shuffle of priorities. By giving a new team member a great onboarding experience, they’ll be far more likely to go above and beyond their job description, stay with your organization longer and give their best ideas every day.

One BIW client found that new-hire reps who participated in a newly implemented onboarding effort sold more after one year than tenured reps.


5. Show, don’t tell.

A mid-year slowdown is common among most sales teams. When you need your team to recommit and refocus, help them see where they’re at – literally. Instead of using spreadsheets and emails, use a tool that tracks and visualizes performance so they can see where they stand, what kind of progress they are making and where to focus their efforts.

Our brains process information in two significantly different ways: System 1 uses less energy, reacts faster and relies on feelings and emotions. System 2 takes more time and energy and is more rational. Switching between the two can help us make better decisions and take more effective action.


6. Create unforgettable customer experiences.

If you’re in sales and you aren’t paying attention to customer experience, you probably won’t be in sales for long. Not only do companies and brands need to differentiate themselves, every salesperson needs to make sure that each customer has a fantastic experience every time they interact with you or your company. Your goal is to create advocates who will help you tell your story to the world.

There’s nine times more to gain by elevating positive customer experiences than by eliminating negative ones. (Source: Forrester Research & The Power of Moments)


7. Treat the launch of a new product as a starting point.

There’s nothing like having an awesome new product to sell and companies are launching new products at a faster rate than ever before. If that’s the case, why do so many salespeople have trouble selling innovative new products?  One theory is that after huge investments in R&D, many cultures celebrate immediate impact and sacrifice long-term growth. Companies and sales teams that take a long-term view of innovation are most successful.

A study we recently conducted showed that field reps who are working with the sales organization in a new product launch can make a huge difference in how well reps embrace new product launches and associated programs, including incentives designed to focus the field on the launch.


8. Enjoy the social side of sales.

It used to be that social selling meant inviting prospects or customers out for a drink or dinner. Although that still happens frequently, social selling is all about using online tools and social media like LinkedIn to let the world know who you are, what you do well and how you help your customers grow.

According to recent research, many companies still struggle when it comes to using social media to support the efforts of their sales organization. What’s your strategy and how is it working?


9. Don’t be afraid to test.

In the world of customer experience, the message we’re hearing is “experiment, then refine” or “test, then optimize.” Most likely this trend comes from the world of agile software development, where MVP’s (minimally viable products) are introduced to the world, then improved based on user (or customer) feedback and experience. It’s only a matter of time before your customers will be asking you to do the same for your solutions. Will you be ready?

Marketing uses AB testing frequently — so should sales! For example, we recently did an AB test with a national sales organization to determine which rewards drove the most inspiration and effort. The results of the test informed an effort that drove significantly better results.


10. Embrace artificial intelligence.

The future of pretty much everything seems to include artificial intelligence these days. The world of sales is no different. AI can help price your solutions based on a variety of influencers. It can help sales managers forecast better. Having trouble up-selling and cross-selling? AI is ready to help. Plan your territories better. Manage salesperson performance. Develop and score leads. There is virtually no end to the ways AI can support the sales effort and identify ways to grow faster and be more productive.

In 2017, only 33% of customers believed they were using artificial intelligence; turns out over 77% were actually using it.


11. Sales recognition is for everyone, not just top performers.

Over the last decade, corporations around the globe have tapped into sophisticated social recognition systems to make it easy for managers to thank employees for a variety of activities and results. Why should your sales teams and channel partners be any different? Smart sales managers look for every opportunity to recognize achievements big and small. Some ideas include: completing training, getting up to speed quickly on a new product, helping out a team member, reaching a short-term goal or hitting an anniversary with the company.

Based on results from our client programs, turnover is 17.7% lower among employees who experience at least one recognition moment.


12. Get in touch with your emotions.

Experts keep predicting that the investment in sales automation will start paying off…soon. Although the investment in technology and analytics will continue, and customers will continue to hide online, there is definitely room to build relationships, create experiences and connect with customers on an emotional level. Behavioral scientists would call this the difference between the slow and the fast brain. Why not try a little fast-brain selling in 2019?  Set an audacious goal. Nurture existing relationships. Build new ones. And focus on the priorities that will make you successful this year — and in coming years.

Salespeople who get to choose their own goals are more likely to stretch, and achieve, than those who are assigned goals.


Walter Ruckes

Walter Ruckes

As Vice President of BI WORLDWIDE’s Sales & Channel Engagement Group, Walter Ruckes' primary focus is to develop sales and channel engagement strategies and solutions that change the behaviors of sales people, distributors, dealers and channel sales representatives. An expert in sales incentive strategy, he educates sales professionals around the world on how to best engage their sales force through sales engagement strategies, solutions and best practices.

Learn more about The New Rules of Engagement.

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