Sales Motivation: Cutting Out Barriers, Helping Salespeople Thrive

For sales managers wanting to help their salespeople elevate their performance, here are some fundamental truths:
Sales Motivation: Cutting Out Barriers, Helping Salespeople Thrive
Dave Mather
Dave Mather

For sales managers wanting to help their salespeople elevate their performance, here are some fundamental truths:

• You cannot motivate other people. What you can do is provide a motivating environment in which they motivate themselves.
• People do things for their own reasons, not ours.
• People tend to pursue personal payoffs. (They ask, “What’s in it for me?”)
• Lack of motivation is usually a response to a feeling of helplessness

In addition, some people are outer-directed while others are inner-directed. Outer-directed people feel they have no way to impact outside forces that affect their lives. In contrast, inner-directed people believe they have the inner qualities they need to be able to shape their environment and control events. Both are right—to a point. There are things we can control and things we cannot.

Effective salespeople tend to have an inner-directed style. They believe they can significantly control the results they achieve. However, if they are extreme in this orientation, they will be prone to discouragement.

Sales managers may also be unaware that much of what they do with their salespeople is demotivating rather than motivating. Our contention is that we can significantly increase salespeople’s motivation if we remove some of the barriers we place in front of them, such as excessive paperwork, unrealistic sales targets, or by over-controlling or under-managing.

And it’s important for managers to understand the difference between what motivates, what doesn’t, and what are maintenance items. Here is a list of motivators:

Training and Support

Selling is a scary business. Part of a sales manager’s job is to relieve some of this fear by providing training and support to the sales force. When salespeople know what to say and what to do, fear is minimized and motivation is boosted.

Recognition for a Job Well Done

We all know recognition is important, but how do we really behave toward salespeople? It’s still a common scenario where when you do it right, nobody notices, but if you mess it up, everybody knows!

I have found that sales managers often treat this powerful motivator lightly, such as by presenting sales awards poorly—or worse, presenting them in a frivolous way. I advise managers to develop the habit of giving regular, supportive feedback to salespeople. Remember SANDI: Salespeople Always Need Daily Inspiration.

Fringe Benefits

If fringe benefits are not kept current, they will become demotivators. It’s wise to review your company’s benefits package and be sure it still provides what people want from their jobs.

Small companies cannot compete with larger ones in this regard, and often lose people to them. But they can be realistic and offer the job to those who will appreciate the benefits of working with their organization.

One company I know looks for young people just out of college and offers them a sales opportunity. Its benefits do not compare to those of the multinational corporations, but it does offer plenty of training and support, along with opportunities to excel and advance within the organization.

This company also does not actively recruit people with high financial obligations. Most people can’t support a family on the pay it offers. Younger people are better able to live on this compensation package and improve their performance (and pay) as they learn the business of professional selling.

Challenging Work

Selling is a challenging, ego-driven position. If salespeople are allowed to whittle the territory down to familiar accounts, the job becomes less challenging. Push salespeople to invest a specific amount of time on new business development, rather than allowing them to stagnate.


Money is a motivator—temporarily. Highly productive salespeople do not evaluate their effectiveness based on income alone. They are demotivated, though, if they feel the compensation package is inequitable. Productive salespeople like to be rewarded for performance. They are demotivated if they feel they are subsidizing non-producers.

Dave Mather is a 40-year veteran Dale Carnegie business coach.

Dave has been a business coach for over 40 years. He has travelled across Canada, the United States, England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Australia, and South Africa giving presentations and coaching business people to improve performance and create breakthrough results. Dave specializes in helping senior managers/owners turn desired outcomes into viable business realities. Dave’s clients have created millions of dollars of tangible short-term results on behalf of their long-term visions.
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