Want to motivate your employees & improve sales performance? Know your data

Employee meeting

​​This post was authored by our friends at EasyTeam, who provide payroll-ready solutions for retail teams running on Shopify POS and remote teams.

Sometimes employees feel unmotivated. Maybe the job has become repetitive or they are not feeling involved enough or incentivized. Whatever the reason, unmotivated employees can lead to lackluster sales performance. Many employers are on the lookout for the best strategies to boost or maintain their sales momentum, motivate employees to track their time, and motivate their employees in general, and there are many out there. 

But you’re probably already familiar with the typical motivational strategies. So let’s dig a bit deeper.

So your employees are unmotivated, now what?

Finding the right strategy to motivate your team is a challenge, and there is no simple one-size-fits-all model out there for every business. 

So how do you find the right one? The first step is knowing what motivation is all about, and how you can leverage that to assist your sales team in meeting their goals. 

Start with the psychology of motivation

Yes, psychology. 

TL;DR: Human motivation in life (and work) comes from our individual psychology, and there are many factors and approaches. Knowing the basics can help you ensure your sales team has their foundational needs met and help you to find what will motivate them.

So, motivation is important. Why?

Finding ways to increase motivation is crucial because it allows us to change behavior, develop competencies, be creative, set goals, grow interests, make plans, develop talents, and boost engagement. Applying motivational science to everyday life helps us to motivate employees, coach athletes, raise children, counsel clients, and engage students.

Let’s break it down (briefly). 

Theories of motivation come from a branch of psychology called positive psychology. Within this, there are several categories that theories of motivation fall into:

  • Content theories 
  • Process theories
  • Cognitive theories

Additionally, there are categories specific to business and sports, among others. 

Content theories focus on what motivates people, and has to do with their specific needs as motivators. So here there are two primary (and conflicting) ideas:

  1. In general, our basic needs must be met (satisfied) in order to be productive at work. 
  2. Needs are developed and learned rather than satisfied and can be developed — for example, achievement, affiliation, or power. 

Some examples are Maslow's Hierarchy of needs and Hertzberg’s two factor theory

Process theories, on the other hand, focus on how motivation happens in the first place, and how it changes or progresses. This includes things like reinforcement, equity, expectation, and goal setting. So for example: 

  1. Positive reinforcement is a better motivator than punishments. 
  2. Employees focused on equity and expectations will see the value of their work if they see results from putting in more effort. These people like to see increasingly better results, and will probably respond well to challenges. 

Some examples are Locke’s goal-setting theory and Adams’ equity theory of motivation.

Cognitive theories state motivation is not innate, but motivated by beliefs and thoughts. Behavior is the result of interpreting and considering information. So for example: 

  1. Motivation is intentional, and people are motivated when they expect to do well or value something.
  2. Humans are capable of learning and changing, if they believe they are capable of growth. 

Some examples of this are expectancy-value theory and growth vs. fixed mindset.

Popular theories of motivation in business and management are often specific to job satisfaction, employee motivation, and productivity, and include:

Remember, theories are developed over time and build upon each other, so read up on what came before and after each theory for a fuller picture.

This was an overview of the many theories of motivation, there are many more that you can read about in depth if you are interested. No one theory is the “best,” rather the multitude of theories can help us better understand human motivation as a whole. Some may be more helpful than others when it comes to business

Most importantly, motivation is about psychology, so work with it instead of against it. 

Phew. Ok.

So how does this work in practice? Well, all of the tried and true strategies for employee motivation are also based on psychology.

Consider tried and true strategies

If you’re looking for tips to give your sales team a little push in the right direction, there are a lot of motivational strategies for doing just that. These strategies include anything from setting clear goals to giving recognition and awards, and they are all rooted in the psychology of motivation. 

Here are some examples:

  • Set and increase goals (for those who are goal/task motivated)
  • Be personal, know your team (for those who are motivated socially)
  • Bonuses or rewards (for those who are financially motivated)
  • Offer courses of opportunities for development (for those who are learning motivated)
  • Set the bar higher and higher (for those who are thrill seeking motivated)

There are many to choose from, as described by others. It’s important to choose carefully and specifically, based on your company goals. If you are managing a larger team, using a variety of strategies can target different motivational styles. 

But you’ve done your homework and already know about these kinds of strategies, right? So how do you know what to choose and what else can you do? Enter data. 

Collecting and analyzing data can help employers find out what the best strategies are for their team and track the progress. 

Let’s dive into using data to boost sales performance and motivate your employees. 

Level up by knowing your data

It’s not enough to just make “educated guesses” anymore. You need data. 

So let’s talk about how you can leverage the power of data to motivate your employees and get the best possible sales performances for your business. 

Consider these data points as an example:

  • sales counts 
  • sales amounts
  • commissions 

Knowing and using these kinds of data points can tell employers a lot about the productivity of their team. This can show employers where performances could improve, where they are already doing well (opportunities), and inform them about what the staff needs are in order to meet store goals and continue to get good sales. Knowing these data points can help employers motivate their team and get better sales performances overall. 

With the right tools (apps and software), employers can track informational points and determine key performance indicators about their store, employees, and sales performances. These days there are a ton of options already built into point of sale software and other add-ons to help track different kinds of data points. Essentially, choosing the right app or software tools means less charts, math, and headache for you. Good tools will have many options for data collection, and all you and your employees need to do is enter the correct information as you go and analyze it later. 

Data can be used for many things, but here we will focus on how to use data to increase sales performances and motivate employees specifically.

Great! But how? 

Make data-based decisions in 5 steps

Start with these 5 steps:

  1. Set a sales performance goal
  2. Collect the data
  3. Analyze the data
  4. Make a data-based decision
  5. Track the progress 

It’s important to have a set goal in mind before you begin, otherwise the data will become overwhelming and lead everywhere and nowhere. You also need to follow up on your goals and make adjustments, so keep tracking and collecting the data continuously.

Example 1

Here is an example from sales and commissions. 

1. Sales performance goal: Increase overall sales amounts next quarter.

2. Gather your data: You choose one or several tools and services that track data from your employees. It calculates the following data points for you: 

3. Analyze the data: Because of your goal, you are interested in some data points over others. For this goal you look specifically at: sales count, sales amount, average amount per sale. The data shows you have three top employees in sales counts, but their sales amounts are low overall, leading to their average amount per sale being low overall. You also have three top employees in the average amount per sale, but their sales counts are low. 

4. Data-based decision: Try scheduling your employees accordingly. Your top sales count employees would perform well outside of peak hours, while your top average sales amount employees would perform best during peak business hours.

5. Track the progress: How did it go? Did you meet your goal? Do you need to make adjustments for the following quarter? Is it time for a new goal? 

You can share your findings with your employees and create incentives or specific sales goals for them. In this scenario, your employees are motivated by a healthy dose of competition and goal setting. 

Example 2

Here is an example from time-tracking.

1. Sales performance goal: Increase productivity of your employees while on the job, decrease paid overtime.

2. Gather your data: In this scenario, you choose tools that can track some of the same measures plus some time-tracking measurements. Now you know the following data points: 

    • sales count
    • sales amount
    • average amount per sale
    • sales amount per labor hour
    • commissions - step commissions and goals setting

You also now know:

    • when your employees clocked in and out
    • their break time and frequency
    • vacation days taken

3. Analyze the data: Cross examine their productivity (sales performance data points) with the time-tracking data. Are your employees getting their needs met? Are they productive at work or are they taking overtime or experiencing dropping sales counts and amounts? You notice some of your employees are not taking their breaks, vacation time, and starting to put in overtime at the company. 

4. Data-based decision: Overtime costs more. It’s better for the company if your employees are productive at work and don’t get burned out. You decide to send notices to overworked employees to take their vacation and breaks, and send them home from work before they hit overtime. Give them time to recuperate outside of work so they can be productive at work again.

5. Track the progress: How did it go? Did you and your team meet the goal? Do you need to make adjustments for the following period or for those employees? Is it time for a new goal? 

Time-tracking data can create a sense of transparency and accountability while increasing productivity and decreasing costs. Your employees are motivated by a healthy work-life balance and time off.

Try new strategies based on the data

So now that you know how to gather and analyze data to learn about your sales team and make data-based decisions, what other factors impact employee motivation? Let’s look at what kind of answers this data can give you and other factors to consider.

What kinds of answers can you get from these data points? Well, these are quantitative data points, aka numbers, and numbers can only tell you so much. This kind of data answers “what” questions, not “why” questions. So for example, the numbers can tell you that sales went down and by how much over a period of time (what happened?), but not what led to the decrease or why your employees are unmotivated (why did that happen?). 

What does that mean? External factors can have an impact on “why” your employees' sales are down. Decreased motivation and sales could be related to an unexpected upset in their personal life, that customers are simply not coming into the store, or something else. There may be temporary events to account for, or something bigger that needs long term adjustment. 

As the coronavirus pandemic of 2020-2021 has shown us, unexpected circumstances can create an environment where motivation is difficult or sales numbers change significantly. No matter what data-based decision you chose, unexpected events like a global pandemic can make an impact! Be aware of these factors, as they are also data points that answer “why” those numbers are the way they are and help you to pick the right strategy to address it. 

Nothing is static, and even in a pandemic, employers can motivate their employees while working remotely. It’s up to you to collect and analyze all of the available information to make data-based decisions. You may need to collect different data points or adjust your decisions and strategies based in part on external factors, so don’t be afraid to try something new and experiment until you find what works for your team.

In summary

Data gives both employers and employees an honest look at their sales performance. Employers can leverage this knowledge to know what’s going on in their team and help their employees stay focused and motivated to reach their sales goals. 

Follow the five steps, look at the data from all angles and pull what’s most important for your business and team. Don’t be afraid to be curious, adjust, and test out different strategies or collect new data points. Remember to consider any external circumstances that may be impacting your team’s motivation and adjust your strategies and data collection based on this information. 

These were some ideas to get you started with data, so give it a try and see what works for your sales team. 

Simplify retail and staff management with the payroll-ready solution from EasyTeam

EasyTeam offers effective and easy-to-use retail staff management solutions to help retailers and their employees stay on track. There are a multitude of amazing features including time tracking, scheduling, sales performance, checklists, and commission support - all in one place. The payroll-ready solution is designed specifically for teams running on Shopify POS and those working remotely.

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