Culture matters. Growth matters. Mission matters. They all matter. You have to do this.
And that may be enough for most of your early employees. They may even be OK with low salaries, and not even care that much about money, or where it is all going, or who they’ll report to, most of your earliest folks.
But to a true sales professional, a successful one, really only two things truly matter at the end of the day to motivate them:
- They need to see the top reps making real money. Like, really good money. That will show everyone it is possible. That it can be done. And that maybe it isn’t even that hard if you hustle, listen and learn. Not everyone needs to make huge bucks. But the top 10%-15% do.
- They need a great VP of Sales / a great boss. Sales is a risky career. You can get fired at any time, and there is so much turnover. A great boss backs up her team. Promotes her top performers. Backfills those with promise, but gaps. Etc.
When I see a combination of (x) a great leader in sales + (y) the top few reps making real money … then I almost always see (a) almost no attrition on the sales team and (b) a high performing sales team (i.e., strong quota attainment + revenue per lead).
The difference isn’t small. I’d say roughly, these sales teams often perform 2x-5x better than other teams.
That’s a lot.
So by all means, hire someone everyone loves. Do the team bonding. And product absolutely does matter. But what a sales rep wants is a product with market pull. That the market believes in. That they can sell, and make real money.
And a few related effects:
- You can’t have a great sales team without a great VP of Sales. If your sales leader isn’t brining in great hires, and enabling a few to make real money — you’ll never get there.
- The best sales team do stay together, and have low churn. Sales reps know this combo is rare. They don’t tend to leave when they have it.
- Keep a great sales leader as long as you can, even if at some point you have to top them. If the time comes to bring in a CRO, so be it. But if you current sales leader is beloved and has a team hitting plan, make sure they have the same or even a bigger and better role when you bring in that CRO.
Quite possibly the best advice on this subject I've ever seen
I was on a sales team where the lead guy was literally making 50% of the ENTIRE COMPANIES profit into his pocket
One day they cut his pay plan and the air went out of the room, he left that afternoon
— Graham McBain (@grahammcbain) January 8, 2020
A bit more here: Your #1 Sales Rep Should Be Driving an M6 Convertible By Month 12. (And Not Buying a Panerai Watch.) | SaaStr
(note: an updated SaaStr Classic answer)
And a related post here: