Sales Team Motivation & Management

Understanding how to keep a sales team engaged

Jonathan Hubbard
Jonathan Hubbard
March 1, 2024

Keeping a sales team engaged is a sales leadership fundamental: a salesperson’s willingness to get up and fight for sales must be sustained. Unfortunately, without a strategy for building sales engagement, sales leaders may struggle to retain their sales people; no one enjoys exit interviews! 

However, unbeknownst to some sales leaders, despite their good intentions, it’s their behavior which can cause the most harm. In this blog, we’ll look at two clear signs you’re disengaging your salespeople, and a simple solution: the stay interview.

What sales leaders can do to keep a sales team engaged

Sales leader: is your behavior disengaging your sales team?

Prevention is the best medicine. Before we explore our cure, let’s unpack two common behaviors sales managers perform which contribute to sales team disengagement.


“To me, micromanagement highlights that a sales leader doesn’t trust their people” Mike Stokes

A micromanager is someone who manages situations, or their employees, with excessive control while fixating on small details. Micromanagement is a fairly common behavior, stemming from a very human condition: distrust.

We’ve all got a memory of a time where we trusted another person to do something for us, and it didn’t work out: why didn’t I keep an eye on them, I should’ve done it myself!  Yes, sometimes it’s best to give more guidance, or do things ourselves. However, constantly overseeing others, or refusing to delegate tasks isn’t sustainable. You should trust the people you work with that they’ll do their best and give them enough guidance to achieve goals without interference.

Recalling his past, Mike Stokes, founder of sales leadership development firm Indicator, shares his own experience with micromanagement. “One of the things I used to recognize was when I’d go out on calls with salespeople as their manager, I would be too eager to jump in and fix the problem.” Despite positive intentions, Mike’s old behavior made his salespeople nervous, and prevented him from properly developing their skills. “We need our salespeople to take some initiative: you’re going to have to let them fail a few times.”

Too much correction, not enough praise

“Give them that praise. If there are things going wrong, have those discussions, but don’t forget the praise element.” Mike Stokes 

Correcting a person when you’re teaching them a new skill is natural: how else would you expect them to know when they’re doing it wrong? However, Mike argues corrective feedback isn’t the most effective teaching tool. If you want to efficiently embed new behaviors, it’s better to lead with praise.

Everyone needs correction once in a while, but giving too much correction can harm a sales person’s motivation. If we’re always told we’re not doing something right, it’s much easier to give up and try our hand at something we’re more suited to. Giving feedback, whether correction or praise, is about being there to support your salespeople and develop their capability, not wear them down. “The most important thing that salespeople want from their sales leaders is they want to know they’ve got their back.”

The easiest way to keep a sales team engaged? Use stay interviews

Stay interviews are short 1-on-1 conversations sales leaders can have with their sales people to discover why they’re staying in their role, and what could be changed to improve their work experience. If a sales leader is suspecting disengagement in their sales team, a quick 20 minute stay interview is a simple way to learn what’s working, and what isn’t. 

Mike explains “we are now very encouraging of stay interviews… if you can start having those conversations early, you can start to pick up on those red flags.”

Unsure where you should start? Check out the infographic and Mike’s question list below:

keeping a sales team engaged with stay interviews infographic

Starting out: I love what you’re doing, we see you as a critical part of the business and we want to keep you engaged. 

  • What is it that spins your wheels at the moment?
  • What excites you?
  • What are the things which are going to keep you excited for the future?
  • What is it that you struggle with?
  • What would help you get to where you want to be?
  • What is it that you’d need to stick with the business?

Summary and your key takeaways:

Don’t wait until your salespeople are coming to your office for their exit interviews. Retain your best talent and build engagement by:

  1. Regularly check your behavior to ensure you aren’t creating disengagement by micromanaging or giving too much corrective feedback.
  2. Take initiative: book in a few 20 minute stay interviews for each salesperson in your team to learn what they need to keep working at their best.

This blog was inspired by the stories and advice shared by Mike Stokes for SalesHitch Episode 2. Learn more about Mike’s process for building sales engagement in your sales team in this article here.

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