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Motivating Sales People: What Does it Take?

Posted by Tony Cole on Fri, Dec 07, 2018

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Frequently I am asked the following question: “How do I keep my salespeople motivated to sell?”

My response 100% of the time is: “You cannot motivate your salespeople. You can only recruit and hire motivated salespeople and create an environment in which they motivate themselves.”

Many years ago, I saw Mark Victor Hansen at a Cincinnati Life Underwriters Annual Meeting. During his presentation he said, “Motivation is an inside-out job”. In other words, motivation comes from within a person. We cannot motivate someone from the outside. I believed this then and I believe it more now.

As some of you know, I grew up on a blueberry farm in New Jersey. My dad, Ray, was the foreman of the farm and if he hadn’t been a foreman, he would have been a drill sergeant. Does that give you a picture of the type of guy he was? Dad was a “no-excuses”, get-it-done, “if you want to make more money, work harder and longer” kind of guy. He didn’t just teach his kids this discipline. He lived it.

I benefited genetically, environmentally and in countless ways from him. No doubt, his leadership and encouragement enabled me to attend and graduate from the University of Connecticut where I played varsity football on full scholarship. Earning this scholarship did not start when I entered high school. It didn’t start when I made starting center position my junior year. It didn’t start when I was named co-captain my senior year. It started when I was born with Dad’s DNA and a nurturing but disciplined environment that cultivated a relentless desire and commitment to succeed.

This commitment to succeed was present early on, when I worked alongside grown men, performing the same job, at the age of 10. It was probably evident long before then when I refused to be less than the winner of any game I played with my older and bigger brother. And the commitment to succeed was certainly present when I told my dad that I wanted to play football at the age of 9.

When he asked “Why?”, I replied that it looked like fun. When he asked me if I was sure and reminded me that if I committed, I must always give it my best effort, I was sure. He told me it would be hard and, that while he would get the name and number, it was up to me to call and tell Coach Gazzara I wanted to play.

My dad met me as I came off the field after my first practice and asked me what I thought, to which I replied, “I loved it. I’m going to college someday so I can play football!” Once again he asked me if I was sure and told me that college football players work hard to stay in great condition and that I would have to do the same. I said “okay.”

He helped me remove my practice jersey and shoulder pads and then told me to start running laps around the field. When I asked, “How many?”, he said “I’ll tell you when to stop.”

Fast forward 13 years to the afternoon I played and lost my final college football game against Holy Cross. Oh, was I sad. I cried like a baby because I knew I’d never again play this game that I loved and that had led me to a college degree, the unique and fulfilling camaraderie of team work and experiences far beyond the reach of a poor and uneducated farm boy.

Of course, since then I have found other different, age and life appropriate, “games” at which to succeed. My personal history is an example of internal motivation. I didn’t know about scholarships. I had not thought about a college education. I had no idea that I would fly on an airplane for the first time when I was 18 years old. I might never have gotten to travel, to visit Bangor, Maine or The Military Academy in Annapolis. My motivation was to play football and I was willing to do everything possible to do this and do it well.

  • Do you have an internal desire and commitment?
  • Do you have salespeople on your team who have these necessary traits?
  • Have your motivational techniques and incentives had any long-term impact on changing behavior, improving skills or moving the sales-results needle?
  • How many salespeople do you have who will do the things they need to do? How many will perform as necessary?

Through the Sales Effectiveness and Impact Analysis (SEIA), we have learned that motivation is as much internal as it is external. There was a time when we thought that salespeople were externally motivated (money, recognition, etc.) but now the data that tells us that as often, the motivation of sales people is internal (satisfaction). This means that we must find those who have the drive, those who have the desire and who have the willingness to do whatever it takes. 

Topics: sales motivation, motivating sales people, Motivating, building sales team, sales advice

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    About our Blog

    Founder and CLO Tony Cole has been working with financial firms for more than 25 years to help them close their sales opportunity gap.  He is a master at using science based data and finely honed coaching strategies to help build effective sales teams.  Don’t miss his weekly sales management blog insights.

     

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