Motivating Sales People: It’s Not Just About the Money

13 Jun 12

Motivating sales people isn't just about paying them more money.

Motivating sales people is an ongoing challenge for sales managers.  Give them more money and a few months later they come back and ask for even more.  Is it just about the money?

The NBA Finals are finally tipping off this week with Miami’s “greedy” LeBron James leading the Miami Heat into battle against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

One of the main raps against professional athletes is that they are greedy individuals who are only concerned about making the most money possible. The same can often be said of salespeople. In fact, many people believe that a salesperson will say whatever it takes to make a sale.

We believe that this stereotype (like most) only applies to a few bad apples. Based on our experience, most sales professionals are committed to helping their customers address business priorities by providing them with solutions that address their business needs.

That being said, good sales professionals are well compensated because their success translates into sales growth for their employers, and sales growth is a key driver of a company’s market value.

As sales leaders we need to think about what it is that really motivates sales people to perform their best. This generally comes down to one or two of the following six motives:

  • Money (I never said it wasn’t important)
  • Opportunity
  • Teamwork
  • Independence
  • Visibility
  • Excellence

LeBron James has received his fair share of bad PR following his Decision announcement on live television; certainly not his one shining moment. However, he didn’t simply leave Cleveland for more money. In fact, he’s actually making less per year than if he’d stayed with the Cavaliers.

So why did he move to Miami? James has been clear: His motives are Opportunity, Visibility, and Excellence, such as that obtained by former NBA legends Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, and Larry Bird.

Just as motivations can vary both in terms of underlying factors and intensity for professional athletes, we need to make sure that we take the time to understand what motivates each sales person. To accomplish this task, we simply need ask (not tell) them why they chose sales as a profession and what they enjoy most about their chosen profession. Based on this knowledge, we can then motivate each individual towards excellence and build a winning sales team.


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