How to Motivate Your Salespeople

Are your salespeople engaged in their work? It’s critical to know because you can’t motivate someone who’s not engaged in their work. In fact, real, long-lasting motivation comes from within.

Several years ago I worked with a company selling anti-virus computer software. Most of their sales reps sold over the phone, making outbound calls to customers. The sales manager wanted to push the team with a contest. He decided the grand prize would be a jet ski. This company happened to be located outside of Chicago near Lake Michigan, so it seemed like a good idea at the time. However, if you’ve ever lived near Lake Michigan, you know that the water is cold and that there is a short season for any sort of recreational activity on the lake. Aside from that, only a small number of people are really in the market for a jet ski.

Only one salesperson in the anti-virus software company wanted the jet ski. That person worked like crazy, while the other 20 salespeople just kept doing what they were doing. The sales manager is still wondering what went wrong with his motivation plan.

External motivation is great. Cheering your team on is great. Words of appreciation work well, but again all that is coming from you. If you want to encourage your sales staff, you have to ask them what motivates them.

Have your salespeople answer these questions:

  • How much money do you make annually?
  • How much would you like to make and by when?
  • What number signifies the gap?
  • At your current rate of pay and commission, what will it take to close that gap?
  • How will you keep track of your progress?
  • What will you do if you’re not on track to hit your goal?
  • What will you do with all the money you make?
  • What motivates you? (Use a visual.)Here’s a sample set of answers:
  • I make $60,000 a year.
  • I would like to make $100,000 per year by January 1, 2006.
  • The gap is $40,000.
  • At my current rate of pay, I would need to sell four more systems per month. In order to do so, I need to do more prospecting. Four more systems per month equals 48 more per year. To make this easier, I will also need to get more referrals from my current customers.
  • I will make a chart with the number of systems I sell each week.
  • I will ask for coaching from my sales manager. I will make sure to ask for referrals from my satisfied customers.
  • I will put up half the money in my retirement account and the other half into home repairs.
  • Right now those are the things that will motivate me to sell more. My visual is a graphic that signifies saving money for retirement and photos of the parts of my house I want to fix up. I will bring those in and hang them in my work area, so that I can see them every day.Is the $40,000 the motivator, or is it the growing retirement account and fixing the house? Now you know something personal that motivates this salesperson and that you can cheer this salesperson on to achieve.You should do this exercise at least once a year, because most of your salespeople will achieve their goals and will have new ones to set their sights on. Along with having your salespeople verbalize and visualize what motivates them, you may also want to ask them for suggestions on what type of sales contests would appeal to them and what ideas might inspire the team.Consistently recognizing your salespeople for things they do well—along with providing some of your undivided attention—will help you learn what works for them and in what areas they need some coaching. Engaged, motivated salespeople are the ones who most often exceed their quotas.Vistage Associate Alice R. Heiman is president of ARH Consulting, LLC, a sales consulting and sales management firm based in Reno, Nev.

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