Ineffective motivation of the sales team is not uncommon and it is the subject of one of the more frequent questions people ask me: “Tony, how do I keep my salespeople motivated?” My first response is normally a question in return: “Do you know what motivates your people?”
The most common answer: “Well, uh, yeah, I think so.” I cannot help myself when I ask, “Do you know or do you think you know?” Their most common answer: “I think I know.”
With that in mind, how do you possibly motivate people when you just think you know what motivates them?
What we know about motivating salespeople is that it has changed over the years. When we first started evaluating sales teams using the #1 Sales Evaluation Assessment – Objective Management Group Sales Evaluation and Impact Analysis – the findings told us that people were externally motivated. Motivation was money and the things money can provide. Today, however, we see a different set of results (Read this HBR article on motivating salespeople).
The current findings tell us that sales teams are highly motivated to succeed, but the source of motivation is internal rather than external. They are motivated by a job well done. They want to be recognized for success and they are motivated by achieving their own personal standards for success and achievement.
I was 9 years old when I walked off the football field the very first time. I had just finished practice and my dad was waiting on the sideline for me. He asked me what I thought and I told him I loved it. “Someday I’m going to go to college to play football.” Dad asked me if I was sure and I said “yes.” He then told me, “College football players are in great shape so, if you are going to play college football, you’ll have to be in great shape. Take off your helmet and shoulder pads and start running some laps.” I followed his advice and I ran laps every night after practice to get in shape to play college football. In February of 1973, I signed my letter of intent to go to the University of Connecticut to play for the team.
My dad – my manager – knew my goal and used that occasionally to keep me on track. Occasionally, when I would fall off the training wagon, he would ask me if I still planned on playing college football. I would always answer, “Sure!” He would then say, “Well, I wasn’t sure. I haven’t seen you run or lift weights in a while.” That’s all he needed to say. Off I went.
When you know what motivates your people, you can then have the appropriate discussions to keep them on track and get them to operate at their highest level for your organization.
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