How do I motivate my sales team?

How to revive disillusioned employees

Q: I have been running my business – a successful online magazine – for just over five years. However, with the problems in the economy, we are now more reliant on the sale of online advertising than ever. In the past 12 months, I feel like my sales team have become a bit disillusioned with the increased rejection, as more companies reduce their advertising budgets. Having just taken on a couple of new sales staff, I am keen to pick up the pace again but am not sure what to do to encourage them. How can I get the most out of my sales team?’
Andy Marshall, director of the corporate sector at Virgin Media Business, answers:

There are some things you can do to help encourage your sales team to dust themselves down and get back to selling hard. But I suspect that there are broader considerations here, given the sweeping changes that have altered the landscape in publishing in recent years.

You’re more reliant on online advertising than ever … and probably too reliant on it. While more and more publishing is online these days, being so tied to the fortunes of one revenue stream may be adding to the doubts your salesforce seem to be feeling. That may be the main reason they feel a bit disillusioned.

There is no simple fix here, but the important ingredient that I’ve seen turn this scenario around is vision. You need to work out where your business is going in the short, mid and long-term, and the revenue model that will make it resilient as your market changes.

Publishing is a really interesting area, particularly because of the rapid rise of social media over the last few years. But … rather than pose a threat … for me this has shown that the British public has an enormous appetite for content. Advertising may give short-term gains but you should look at a broader strategy for delivering a range of revenue streams.

So, establish a clear vision of what you want your business to look like a few years from now, and set out some realistic steps for getting there. You then need to communicate this vision to your sales team, or better still, all of your staff. That way they will begin to understand how what they’ll be selling will evolve, and what’s in it for them.

I don’t expect that you’ll suddenly have a super-motivated sales team just because you do this, but it’s a really important step towards making that happen. It will show them you’re doing all you can to steer the business in the right direction and create opportunities that will allow them to succeed.

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