How to Keep Your Sales Team Motivated During the Holidays

By Paul Slezak - Dec. 14, 2015
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The holidays are meant to be fun. Right?

Technically yes. But for anyone running a sales team, the holidays (whether it be the Christmas holidays, Summer holidays, Chinese New Year holidays … hopefully you can see where I am going here) can be a pretty stressful time if you’re stuck in the office staring at a revenue goal you may have set perhaps even 6 – 12 months earlier.

Your prospective clients may already be taking time out; your SDRs may be getting bombarded with ‘out of office’ replies to many of their automated emails; sales appointments may be down; and there may just be an imminent sense of gloom settling in amongst the team.

Even at a quiet time of the year, it is definitely possible to keep your sales team motivated.

Trust me … as someone who has managed sales teams through more holidays than I can actually remember, I’ve prevented many sales folks from falling into the proverbial ‘downward spiral’. But I can recall closing one of my own biggest ever deals on Christmas Eve one year. So it can definitely pay off to be part of the ‘skeleton staff’ working in the lead-up to the holidays.

What makes a tenacious, driven, ambitious, (and perhaps even egotistical) individual tick at this time of the year? There will usually be a gap between an individual sales person’s motivations and the company’s motivations. As a sales manager it’s your job to balance the goals of the individual and the needs of the business.

Last week I hosted a #RecruitLoopLive webinar on how to keep your sales team motivated during the holidays. Of course you can listen to the full recording linked below, but here’s a snapshot of what I talked about. And before you even ask, no it’s not too late to implement some of these ideas into your teams even if we are half way through December!

1. Motivate your individual team members

You know full well that you have different personality types making up your sales team. It’s during a holiday period or quiet time that you have to focus on these individual personalties more than any other time during the year.

Has your “money machine” suddenly lost all confidence in her ability to close a record number of deals consistently? How can you support her through this time?

What about the “prima donna” whose ego is huge a the best of times? Is he suddenly in a complete panic and blaming everyone else around him for the fact nobody is returning his calls?

And then there’s ‘the hopeful’ who even on December 31st will desperately hold on to the belief that the deal of the year will miraculously appear before close of business.

It’s up to you to motivate them individually and help them maintain at least some level of ‘holiday cheer’.

My final piece of advice here is to have daily catch ups with everyone at this time of the year.

2. Motivate the team as a whole

Of course you then have the responsibility to keep the team focused and up-beat as a group.

During the ‘festive season’ it’s important to shift your focus away from specific KPIs around revenue and focus more on morale, attitude and energy. You might also want to shift the strategy away from new client wins to perhaps trying to re-connect with customers you may not have worked with for a while.

Encourage your team to get out and about. Client Christmas parties, industry networking events, etc. Rather than sitting in the office all day literally counting the hours passing by, at least they’ll be out of the office building relationships face to face.

Having your team meetings offsite will also help prevent the team falling into a slump as will running group coaching and training sessions. Having everyone listening in on sales calls and de-briefing together, or letting individuals sit with different teams also helps shake things up a bit.

3. Create an element of healthy competition

Sales people are competitive by nature. Right?

So why not create some additional healthy competition while it’s quiet? You can initiate competitions within individual teams (eg the SDRs, Account Executives etc), or within your entire team.

However it’s critical that everyone knows exactly what the goals are; when does the competition kick off and when does it run through to? What’s the prize? And who’s invited to play along?

You can run a competition for a day, a week or a month. Just make sure that if you have a prize up for grabs (whether it’s a gift voucher or cash) that you are able to hand it straight to the winner as soon as the deadline has past.

Winners hate waiting for their prize. (I’m sure you can relate!)

4. Embrace the the ‘coach / cheerleader’ double act

Throughout the year you’re probably able to separate the times that you spend in your role as coach from that of the cheerleader.

But right now it’s as if you need to be wearing both hats all the time.

You’re rolling up your sleeves and getting down and dirty with the team – leading by example; getting on the phone yourself; running spontaneous training sessions etc.

But you’re also carefully watching over everyone – anticipating the denial and preventing the despair at this time of the year.

You’re revving up the team, and celebrating every win – no matter how small. You’re keeping the wolves from the door and preventing the ‘Negative Nellies’ from dragging down the rest of the team (please excuse all the clichés here!).

5. Remember that sometimes it’s the small perks that matter

As a sales manager, I used to personally let all my team take a half day off for Christmas shopping at this time of the year. I can also remember one particular hot summer back in Australia when every Friday during that particular December I had several tubs of ice cream delivered to the office since it was honestly too hot to go outside.

Ask your team what they’d like. It’s not always related to the dollars.

A few hours out shopping or the chance to sit around as a team with a few scoops of ice cream can have a huge impact on someone’s motivation.

Enjoyment is key in any work environment. But energy and excitement can really help a sales team stay focused … especially around the holidays.

Cofounder and CEO at RecruitLoop. I've been a hands on recruiter, manager, trainer, coach, mentor, and regular speaker for the recruitment industry for nearly 25 years.


Paul Slezak

Cofounder and CEO at RecruitLoop. I've been a hands on recruiter, manager, trainer, coach, mentor, and regular speaker for the recruitment industry for nearly 25 years.

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