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  • Duane Cashin

Sales Motivation - Why Understanding The Nature Of This Core Competency Is So Important



“I just can’t seem to motivate my people,” is one of the most common laments I hear during my conversations with CEOs, presidents, and vice presidents of sales.


They talk about their salespeople being complacent, unable to get to the next level, being stuck, not looking for new business, not having a sense of urgency, and a host of other symptoms. And, they blame themselves for the mess.


“What’s the best way to motivate them?” is a question I get asked over and over.

If it’s any consolation, sales motivation is a really good thing to worry about. Kudos to all who understand its importance.


Motivation is critical to a salesperson’s success because sales is a really tough job. Many days, it just plain stinks. Showing up day after day to hear ‘no’ more often than you hear ‘yes’ requires a person to have a huge “why”, and that’s what sales motivation is.


It’s the incentive to do what is required in sales. A salesperson’s motivation, their “why”, might be rewards, recognition, personal satisfaction, or a host of other things -- it differs by person -- but what’s important to understand is that, without it, absolutely no one will pour themselves into selling each day.


If desire is how badly a person wants to achieve greater success in sales, motivation is the “what” behind that desire.


Of course, neither desire nor motivation matter without commitment, but that’s a topic for another day.


What’s worth noting about sales motivation is how dramatically it has changed in recent years and how those changes impact salespeople, leaders, and organizations.


Objective Management Group (OMG), of which I’m a certified partner, has been measuring both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation in salespeople for years, and it’s reported a significant shift over a relatively short number of years. Consider the following:

  • In 2007, 54% of the sales population was extrinsically (money) motivated.

  • By 2011, just 27% were extrinsically motivated.

  • By 2017, the percentage of extrinsically motivated salespeople was down to just 8%!

This is a tremendous change over very few years.


We could come up with a host of reasons for these numbers, but that’s really not the point. The point is that, where motivation is concerned, it’s not usually a question of whether salespeople are motivated but how they are motivated: intrinsically or extrinsically.


Perhaps even more important is how CEOs and sales leaders can craft incentives that speak to both extrinsically and intrinsically motivated individuals.


Spending the time and energy trying to come up with a single, unique, “perfect” thing that the whole team will embrace will likely backfire. While some team members may be motivated, your plan could serve to deflate others.


Part of your job will be determining what each of your employees seeks as a reward for great performance. With most salespeople now intrinsically motivated, most compensation plans won't work the way in used to.


Companies must get help from sales experts who understand the new trend, understand accounting, and have the ability to help you develop a new plan.


As an OMG partner, we have access to tools that can provide real insight into your team, including 7 additional ways in which salespeople are motivated: whether they love to win or hate to lose, spend to perform or perform to reward, want recognition or self-satisfaction, want to be closely managed or self-manage, want to be pressured or apply self-pressure, have something to prove to others or to themselves, and whether they prefer competition with others or to compete with themselves.


Still, the best way to determine the real cause of poor sales performance is to have your sales force evaluated so that you can provide the right motivation and avoid the vicious turnover cycle. Give us a call to get started.


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