Using empathy to increase sales motivation

Using empathy to increase sales motivation

Sales is not an easy job, let’s face it. Some people take to it like a fish out of water, while others avoid it like the plague. It takes a certain type of personality to excel at sales. Salespeople must be confident, motivated and extroverted. They can’t have a fear of rejection because that’s a major part of the role. But how do you drive sales motivation in today’s highly competitive business landscape?

A major part of motivating your sales team is to practice empathy when interacting with your reps. Sales directors and managers must be empathetic to sales reps’ needs in order to keep them motivated. That means understanding their individual needs and providing them with the type of personal nurturing they need to feel part of a larger effort and stay motivated.

But what is the meaning of sales motivation and how do you achieve it? Below we cover key tips for using empathy to drive sales motivation. Follow these tips and you will be managing a highly-motivated sales team in a flash.

Recognize sales reps’ unique characteristics

Each rep is different and excels at different things. Some may be more sensitive to critical feedback, while others may wear emotional armor and have the capability to take any feedback you throw at them in a positive way.

Because of these differences, each rep has their strengths and weaknesses. As a sales manager or director, you must identify these strengths and weaknesses so that you can nurture and support the professional development of each rep. Doing so will help reps recognize their strengths and focus on them, rather than obsessing about their weaknesses, which will decrease sales productivity. As Oprah Winfrey famously said, “What we dwell on is who we become.” There’s your motivational sales quote of the day. So, ensure your reps are focused on their strengths, not dwelling on their weaknesses.

Once you recognize each rep’s strengths, you can encourage them to leverage those. You can mentor them to use those strengths in a strategic way to close more deals. Congratulate them on deals won and encourage them to continue using their strengths to produce positive results.

If a sales rep feels that their leadership values them for the unique characteristics they bring to the table, they will feel more motivated and invested in your company’s success.

Encourage collaboration

Sales managers and directors can pair reps that excel in different areas so they can learn from one another and develop the skills and strengths they lack.

A great way to do this is to introduce gamification of sales into your sales strategy. Gamification adds an element of competition to your sales process. Plus, you can create contests that involve pairing two reps together to complete a challenge collaboratively.

This lets you pair those with different skill sets so they can collaborate and learn from one another. But first, you must be empathetic to what each rep’s strength and weaknesses are so that you can pair them correctly.

If gamification of sales is a new concept for you, check out our article that discusses innovative tips to gamify your sales strategy.

Congratulate and provide positive feedback

When you use empathy to understand what each of your rep’s weaknesses and strengths are, you can focus on giving encouraging feedback to reps when they excel in their areas of strength.

If you can see that they leveraged one of their main strengths to close a deal, congratulate them for that. Perhaps, even congratulate them in front of the whole sales team. This will increase their motivation and encourage them to leverage those strengths even more.

You would be surprised how many sales leaders never stop by to praise their reps for a job well done. A little positive feedback goes a long way and can be the difference between a successful sales effort and a struggling one.

Addresses weaknesses with empathy

When a specific sales rep is struggling in a certain area, sales leadership must address that performance issue. There are many ways to do this. You can scold your rep and use fear to try to drive better results.

Or, you can use empathy and identify the reasons why they are falling behind. Then gently address those areas and ask—in a genuine way—what you can do to help them overcome that weakness.

You can ask them questions like:

  • Why do you think you struggle in this area?
  • You excel in so many other areas, what do you think is holding you back here?
  • What are the main obstacles preventing you from developing this skill?
  • How can I help you overcome this challenge?
  • What resources or additional training do you feel you need to beat this?

Asking questions in a gentle, empathetic way like this will avoid putting your reps on the defensive. If they feel defensive, they will not be able to focus on their jobs, their motivation level will drop dramatically, and they may just mentally check out.

For example, here are some examples of questions you do not want to ask in this situation:

  • Everyone else is meeting their quotas, why aren’t you?
  • No one else struggles with this, why is it so hard for you?
  • This issue you struggle with is a basic skill of a successful salesperson. Why have you not learned this by now?

These are questions that will decrease motivation and leave your reps doubting their own abilities. That will lead to poorer performance and uninspired employees. That’s a bad place to be because employee turnover is much more costly than building the skills of your existing employees.

According to Forbes, on average it costs a company 50% of an entry-level employee’s salary to replace them, 100% of a mid-level employee’s salary, and over 200% of an executive-level employee’s salary. Consider that when you are frustrated with a sales rep’s performance and are considering firing them. If there’s a possibility that you can train them and bring them up to speed quickly, always opt for that approach.

Build morale and sales motivation in meetings

Most sales teams have regular sales meetings to check in on progress, analyze the leaderboard, and discuss forward-looking strategy. These meetings may take place weekly, monthly, or quarterly. The more often you meet, the better.

If you are a sales leader, always focus on the positive outcomes your team is producing and discuss that in the team meeting. If a certain rep is struggling in one area, your sales team meeting is not the place to address it—particularly if you’re trying to build sales motivation.

Use the team meeting to focus on positive developments, congratulate individual contributors for their efforts, and keep the vibe positive and optimistic. A motivational speech for your sales team can go a long way to increase morale.

If you need to discuss a problem area with a specific rep, do that in a private, one-on-one meeting so you don’t embarrass them in front of the whole team. That will certainly kill sales motivation quicker than a hummingbird flaps its wings.

Read our blog article to learn more about running successful sales meetings.

Sales motivation trumps focusing on metrics

It should seem obvious, but many sales leaders don’t realize this. If you only focus on quotas and how each rep is performing against them, you create a cold, impersonal environment for your team.

If a rep is underperforming, don’t come down on them for not hitting their quota. Rather, focus on increasing their morale so they genuinely want to try harder to meet their goals. If you simply browbeat them, they will lose motivation and won’t care about the results of their work. Worse yet, they will start looking for another job.

If you maintain a motivated sales team, the results will come in organically. If your sales reps feel down about their performance and start to doubt their own abilities, you can say goodbye to increased sales productivity.

Ask yourself what you could improve

If a rep is underperforming in a certain area, you should take a step back and reflect on the situation. Ask yourself what you’re doing wrong that is leading to this lack of sales motivation. Don’t automatically place blame on the rep.

It’s possible that there is a fault in your managing style that is causing low motivation levels. If you don’t self-reflect, you won’t see this.

The performance of any team is ultimately the responsibility of the team leader. So, if a rep is underperforming, it’s possibly due to something you are not doing correctly.

Empathy involves putting yourself in the shoes of another. So rather than automatically placing blame for poor performance on your reps, think about how they feel. Perhaps they aren’t receiving the guidance from you that they need. Or perhaps another problem exists. Ask yourself what you could improve, make changes accordingly, and you’ll see improved results.


Sales is an aggressive and high-stress job to have. Sales reps are often stressed out and feel pressured to meet their quotas.

But rather than scolding them for not succeeding, ask yourself what you could do to improve their performance.

After all, you’re a team and this is a basic part of teamwork.

Do you have any anecdotes about motivating salespeople with empathy that you can share with our readers? Please post them in the comments section below!

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Gabriel Swain

Gabriel has nearly a decade of content and digital marketing experience in the software and technology space. He also has over 13 years of professional writing experience—both in the nonprofit and corporate spaces. His goal is to help small and growing businesses maintain insight into emerging trends and best practices, provide a stellar customer experience, and remain highly competitive in their respective industries.


Steave Smith

about 1 year ago

Nice Article


Gabriel Swain

about 12 months ago



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