Advice: "My sales team doesn't feel urgency, how can I light a fire under them?"

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Dear Quota Team, 

I run a small sales team for a small-ish web development firm. We provide solutions for medium-sized businesses that want to outsource their dev work. I was a sales rep here for about six years, and did really well before I got promoted to run the team. 

The company has a pretty good culture. We’re not in or near a huge city, so a lot of the people in town and employees know each other from outside of work. My point is that I don’t think our company is ever set to become massive or anything, but it’s a good employer for the area. 

My only problem is that the sales reps who work for me aren’t hungry, like at all. They’re great guys for the most part, but they have no hustle in them. It’s like they’re operating at a different speed. They’re operating at the same speed as the other departments, when they need to be acting with a sense of urgency.

I’ve seen a ton of reps come and go, and I excelled because I always pushed and tried to avoid falling into the trap of treating it like a 9 to 5. But my reps seem happy to come in and punch a clock. Any advice for how to light a fire under these guys? Or should I just plan on replacing everyone?” 

Frustrated in North Carolina 


Dear Frustrated, 

It sounds like you got promoted not only because you got results, but because you operated with a sense of urgency – though the two are undoubtedly intertwined. It sounds like you have a mandate to get your team to operate at a higher level, since they seem to be acting like they work in HR or marketing. 

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to motivating individuals. Every single person is motivated by different things and in different ways. You need to learn more about your reps to find out what makes them tick. And don’t be surprised if what makes at least some of them tick is a laid-back job where they can come in, shoot the shit with their hometown friends, and leave at 4:45 to get dollar wings at the local sports bar (mmmmm… chicken wings). 

The point is that you’re going to have to get to know your reps on an individual basis, and tailor your approach accordingly. 

There is, however, a second component to this. You need to simultaneously raise the momentum of the entire team, and you’re going to have to do it in as positive a way as possible. It might be tempting to resort to threats or guilt to get people to do what you want, but they’ll just grow resentful, and you’ll turn your workplace culture toxic – never a good idea.

Instead, lead by example. Schedule prospecting sprints where everyone gets together and prospects for new business and cheers each other on. Order coffees for everyone; run contests and offer rewards. Review calls together (annoying but fun). Switch things up. Keep up the momentum. Some will step up and some won’t, but you should give everyone a chance to come along for the ride. And don’t be afraid to get to know everyone a bit better – maybe even over dollar wings… good luck!

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