How to Motivate the Quiet Quitters on Your Sales Team

1 May 23

Discover the reasons behind the quiet quitting trend, the potential impact on sales teams, and how to motivate salespeople with the MOTIVE framework.

The current phenomenon of “quiet quitting” has been gaining attention recently. It refers to the growing trend of employees who leave their jobs without making a formal announcement or creating a scene. Unlike traditional resignations, where an employee might submit a letter of resignation and have an exit interview, a quiet quitting involves simply leaving without any fanfare or explanation.

A 2021 survey by Achievers, an employee engagement platform, found that 52% of respondents said they’ve considered quitting their job without telling anyone at their company. Additionally, a 2020 survey by Glassdoor found that 60% of employees who resigned during the pandemic did so quietly, without making a formal announcement or holding an exit interview.

In this article, you’ll learn:

Let’s dive in.

Why Do Employees Quiet Quit?

There are several reasons why quiet quitting is becoming more common. Often, these employees have been feeling disengaged or dissatisfied with their job for some time and have decided to move on quietly rather than try to resolve the issues.

The rise of remote work has made it easier for employees to disengage from their jobs without anyone noticing. Without daily face-to-face interactions with co-workers and managers, it can be easier to slip under the radar and quietly disengage from work.

Some also point to the pandemic causing people to re-evaluate their priorities and goals. Another contributing factor to the quiet quitting trend to the tight labor market, which has given employees more power and leverage.

In sales, quiet quitting can be devasting. To achieve their goals, sales teams rely on collaboration, communication, and teamwork. When an employee quietly resigns, it can disrupt team dynamics and leave the remaining team members to pick up the slack. 

How to Stop Your Salespeople from Quitting?

Retaining top sales talent is crucial for the success of any business. Losing experienced salespeople can negatively impact revenue, customer relationships, and team morale. It’s important to identify why salespeople may be leaving and take proactive steps to prevent it.

If you’re a manager with disengaged salespeople, here are some tactics you can use to improve motivation.

Money as a Motivator

If you want people to perform better, you reward them. Right? Bonuses, commissions. Incentivize them. That’s how sales works. And research has shown that commission-based incentives can effectively motivate salespeople to increase their sales performance. It’s because the direct financial reward of the commission provides a clear and immediate incentive for the salesperson to work harder and sell more.

For example, a meta-analysis conducted by the International Journal of Management Reviews in 2018 analyzed 52 studies that examined the effects of financial incentives on sales performance.

The meta-analysis showed that financial incentives, including commission-based plans, significantly affected sales performance. The study found that incentive plans increased sales performance by an average of 27%.

But there are significant limitations you should consider with commission plans. First, the positive effects of incentives on sales performance were stronger for individual incentives (such as commission-based plans) than team incentives. Studies also found that the specific structure of the commission plan can impact its effectiveness. For example, a meta-analysis of 25 studies published in the Journal of Applied Psychology in 2004 found that complex commission plans can decrease motivation and performance in salespeople. The study noted that salespeople who needed help understanding their commission plan or felt that it was unfair had lower motivation and performance levels.

More importantly, research in sales and management supports the idea that commission plans may not work well in certain situations. A study published in the Harvard Business Review in 2012 found that commission plans can be counterproductive when the product sold is complex or requires a long sales cycle. It’s because salespeople may need to invest significant time and effort in building relationships and nurturing leads before a sale is made, and commission plans may need to provide more incentive for this type of long-term selling effort.

So, there may be better responses to low motivation in some cases than tweaking your commission plan. In fact, some quiet quitters don’t care about money.

Your Comprehensive Motivation Toolbox

Motivating a sales team is a complex process involving various psychological, social, and organizational factors. Here are six common factors that motivate salespeople (note the MOTIVE acronym):

common factors that motivate salespeople

  • Money. Money, or what money can buy, is important to most salespeople but isn’t necessarily the most important to everyone. It’s an extrinsic motivator, and other intrinsic motivators may be equally or more important.
  • Opportunity. Many salespeople are driven by opportunity. What constitutes an opportunity varies from person to person. However, motivational opportunities usually fall into the categories of challenges and the possibility of improving one’s situation on the job or in life. When you’ve recognized this motivation in members of your sales team, you should try to create an environment that offers opportunities such as showing how success leads to advancement or providing for a career pathing where possible. Providing opportunities for advancement, such as promotions or leadership roles, can also incentivize salespeople to work harder and achieve better results.
  • Teamwork. Many salespeople are perceived as hard-working go-getters who prefer to work alone to go after what they want to be successful. However, some don’t fit neatly into that stereotypical image. They’re motivated by the social aspects of being part of a team and contributing to its success. These people may get satisfaction from group problem-solving, contributing to a co-worker’s success, or even playing a significant role at a sales meeting. If you identify this motivator as a factor for several of your salespeople, you may get them involved in team projects or hold frequent sales meetings or social functions.
  • Independence. While some salespeople are motivated by teamwork, many value autonomy. It involves empowerment, independence, and freedom, enhancing feelings of power and control. Studies have shown that when employees feel they have autonomy or independence, they’re more motivated and engaged. This motivator should not be ignored or minimized because people belong to a team. Instead, use it to motivate your salespeople to be successful. You can delegate special projects or assignments (and then keep your hands off) or provide added responsibilities and authority (as it’s earned).
  • Visibility. Whereas opportunity comes from internal recognition of achievements, visibility involves recognition from others. This type of approval often drives salespeople. When a salesperson is motivated by visibility, applaud successes publicly, including to upper management.
  • Excellence. Excellence means the person takes great pride in achieving or surpassing personal and professional expectations. The difference between the “excellence” and “opportunity” motivators is that the excellence-motivated person wants to excel at what he does and is not necessarily seeking higher and more challenging goals and opportunities. To motivate a salesperson driven by excellence, establish personal and professional development goals that the salesperson will be able to fulfill and congratulate them on their achievements and progress toward these goals.

To read more about motivating your salespeople with the MOTIVE model, click here.


More employees quietly resign or quit without a formal announcement, and sales teams are not spared from the trend. The reasons behind quiet quitting include disengagement, dissatisfaction, and remote work.

As a sales manager, you’re ultimately responsible for creating an engaging and rewarding work environment for your team. You should identify why salespeople may be leaving and take proactive steps to prevent it from happening to retain top sales talent, which is crucial for the success of any business.

Salespeople who feel valued and supported are more likely to be motivated and engaged. It means understanding what motivates each team member, whether it’s money or some other factor.

Sales managers can use different tactics to improve motivation, such as the MOTIVE framework, which includes opportunities for growth, teamwork, and recognition, among others.

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