How on Earth Do You Motivate Salespeople?

By Jeff Beals

It’s an over-used cliché, but managing sales teams has often been compared to herding cats.

Since the beginning of modern business history, sales leaders have struggled with how to motivate salespeople to go the extra mile and exceed their sales goals.

A rare few, perhaps 20 percent of sales reps, are naturally competitive and highly ambitious.  Those top producers consistently do well.  But what about everyone else?  How do you get the mid-level producers to do a little more?  How do you get the low-level producers to do at least something?

Motivation can be a tricky subject for managers.  Different people want different things from their jobs.  One person may be money-motivated. Another person may seek personal satisfaction and growth.  Others might be inspired to work hard because of the difference they are making in a clients’ lives.

In the 1950’s, psychologist Frank Herzberg set out to understand employee satisfaction.  He surveyed countless employees from various industries, asking them to describe situations in which they felt good and in which the felt bad about their jobs.

The result of this work became what’s known as Herzberg’s “Motivation-Hygiene Theory.  Herzberg discovered certain things are tied with satisfaction (motivators), while other things are consistently associated with dissatisfaction (demotivators):

Motivators

Achievement – The perception that a sales employee has that he or she is growing and improving.

Recognition – People love awards and intangible recognition as well.

Work itself – The best sales people simply enjoy the art of selling.  They enjoy products/industries.  To use this motivator to your advantage, you need find ways to add more meaning to the job.  One way is to link the rep’s work to a larger goal or purpose.  Help them understand why their work matters.  Be assured that people will find value in knowing how their work contributes to the goals of your company.

Increased responsibility – The desire to expand duties and authority.

Demotivators

  1. Company policies/procedures
  2. Supervision
  3. Working conditions
  4. Compensation

Are you surprised by the “demotivators” list?  Many leaders are shocked to see that compensation is not a motivator.

Herzberg calls the demotivators “hygiene factors.”  He uses that term, because hygiene is related to maintenance.  In other words, good hygiene is a daily thing you should do to stay healthy.  Hygiene factors, or demotivators, do not give us positive satisfaction or lead to higher motivation, but if they are absent from our lives, they result in dissatisfaction.

In other words, compensation is more of a base expectation, something you get in exchange for your work.  Because of that, compensation is not enough of a differentiator to make us stay at one job versus seeking another.

Plus, compensation is highly replaceable for top producers.  They realize they can get paid well anywhere they go because of their talents and work habits.  If money is an equalizer, they look for other quality-of-life factors.

What does this mean for you if you’re a leader of sales professionals?

Realize that fair and clearly communicated compensation packages are important, but they aren’t enough to motivate people.  Find ways to incorporate achievement, recognition, meaningful work and increased responsibility into your motivation repertoire.

Just like a prospective customer determines what is valuable to them, employees determine what they care about.  We need to be sensitive to what makes each person tick.

By the way, don’t confuse a lack of confidence with a lack of motivation.  If someone is underperforming, candidly assess whether it’s motivation issue or a confidence issue.  If confidence is the problem, the next step would be to look into increased training, coaching, field observation with feedback, role-playing and/or mentoring.

UNIQUE HELP FOR SALES LEADERS:

Being a sales leader can be a lonely existence. There are simply not a lot of places you can go to seek guidance without exposing your personal concerns and weaknesses inside your company.

That’s why my partner, Beth Mastre, and I have created the Sales Leader Mastermind Group.  It’s a collection of sales leaders who meet regularly, share ideas and grow in their profession.  The group has been meeting for a year and has been a smashing success.  We’re expanding the group from 8 to 12 members and are looking for a few sales leaders to join us.

Would you benefit from having such a resource?  If so, check out the prospectus HERE.

The Sales Leader Mastermind Group is a serious commitment, but it will change the trajectory of your career and your company.

Jeff Beals helps you find better prospects, close more deals and capture greater market share. He is an international award-winning author, sought-after keynote speaker, and accomplished sales consultant.  He delivers compelling speeches and sales-training workshops worldwide.  He has spoken in 5 countries and 41 states.  A frequent media guest, Jeff has been featured in Investor’s Business Daily, USA Today, Men’s Health, Chicago Tribune and The New York Times.

To discuss booking a presentation, go to JeffBeals.com or send an email to info@jeffbeals.com or call 402-637-9300.