Top Tips to Motivate Your Sales Force

How to Motivate Your Sales Staff

Motivating your sales team is not merely a matter of reaching for your wallet and offering more money. In fact, money is one of the less effective predictors of employee success.

Instead, you can reach for a more lasting impact by considering the emotional and psychological factors that drive performance.

Maslow Has the Answer
At college, you may have studied Maslow’s hierarchy in Psych 101; this familiar, colorful triangle demonstrated the fundamental human needs beginning at its base (physiological needs — air, food and water, sleep) and ending at its point (self-actualization, or achieving wisdom).

Near the top of the triangle are two more layers: social needs and esteem needs. Down much lower on the hierarchy comes money, as part of the “safety needs” that include job security and medical insurance.

What does Maslow have to do with closing sales? You can use the hierarchy to get a better handle on motivating your sales team. And because different people are driven by different needs, you will call upon your human resource and managerial skills to recognize the motivators among your staff in these categories:

  • Social needs include the drive to attain friends and belong to a social group. Sales people, who are typically outgoing and gregarious anyway, might respond well to small gestures you make — sending a thank-you card on behalf of the company, showing up with a birthday cake, or granting an invitation to join a new-business strategic team, task force or some other “exclusive” group.
  • Esteem needs are driven by the desire to gain recognition, status, attention and a sense of accomplishment. It’s easy to imagine many sales reps seeking such validation. You can fulfill esteem needs by publicizing a great sale, making promotions publicly known, by interviewing a top performer for the company newsletter or blog, or asking him or her to mentor new employees.
  • Finally, self-actualization refers to those motivated by such intangibles as truth, wisdom and meaning. Few people achieve and maintain this level of awareness in life, much less in business, but if you recognize such traits in a sales rep, you can foster it by enrolling her in special training to grow her skills, by giving him your most challenging customers (and letting him know why he was chosen), or by asking her to assess the entire organization’s sales tactics in pursuit of better results.

Does Money Talk?
So is there still a place for money as a motivator? Yes and no. A bonus or raise can prompt short-term performance, but money on its own is not a long-term motivator, even in a volatile job market. Once a sales rep reaches a comfortable living wage, he or she is less likely to see more money in the same desirable light as, for instance, more responsibility or more recognition.

Say It Right
In any recognition you offer, make your gestures sincere, specific and timely.

  • For instance, “You did a good job today” is a general compliment, while “Denise, you did a good job today addressing that unhappy customer” is specific.
  • Be aware of whether a sales rep desires public recognition — some people don’t. If they appear uncomfortable being the center of attention in a staff meeting, for example, save your praise for a one-on-one meeting.
  • Don’t wait to recognize accomplishment — make recognition a priority, not an afterthought.