What We Think about Sales Motivation is All Wrong

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Sep 16, 2009 @ 14:09 PM

Arno was kind enough to point my attention to this great video presentation from Dan Pink on the science of motivation. 

Dan uses science, examples and case histories to tell us that almost everything we thought about motivation is wrong....or is it?

He never mentioned sales, selling, the sales force and salespeople specifically, but we do know that he said this:

"When the focus and goal are clear - incentives work great."  

That condition is certainly in play for incentive programs, contests, rewards and awards.  And it's in play for many compensation plans too.  But are the focus and goal always clear?  When salespeople take our assessments, one of the questions asks by how much they exceeded or missed their quota or goal.  The data shows that a significant percentage of salespeople don't have a goal or a quota!  He also said:

"When you don't want the worker focused, and you want them thinking on the periphery, then incentives don't work."

That condition is certainly in play for new companies and start-ups who are finding their way, finding a market, finding partners, and have no existing revenue stream.  A salary is the appropriate way to compensate the first salespeople on board in this scenario.

If we look at the data from the 450,000 salespeople who have been assessed by Objective Management Group, the percentage of findings which show lack of money motivation (especially among higher income earners) has been increasing each year.  It's not that they aren't money-motivated anymore, as much as they aren't as money-motivated as they were earlier in their career, when their money-motivation got them to their current income level.

The bottom line for your salespeople is that everyone is different.  Everyone is motivated by different things and for those who are clearly motivated by money, and where you have a clear goal and focus for them, their compensation should and must be commission-based.  When you have people who are motivated more by recognition, awards, competition, time-off, public service, or philanthropy, your compensation program should be flexible enough to compensate them in an appropriate manner too.

If you found this article helpful, you might find these articles on the subject of sales motivation helpful too:

How Coyotes are at the Heart of Sales Motivation

Sales Warfare: Love to Win or Hate to Lose? 

7 New Ways to Motivate Salespeople Through 20 Old Hurdles

How Do Sales Professionals Stay Motivated?

Getting Reluctant Salespeople to Fill Their Empty Pipelines

How the Right Sales Leader Can Turn Around Sales Performance

Can the Right Music Motivate and Improve Sales Performance?

Basketball and the Difference Between Sales Studs and Sales Duds

The #1 Top Key to Keeping Salespeople Motivated Revealed Here

A Different Look at Sales Compensation

A Different Look at Sales Compensation

Are Women in Sales Less Trainable?

Sales Team Morale is Overrated

How to Use Playlists to be More Effective at Selling

Great Sales Management Advice from Football's Greatest

How Many of Your Salespeople are Receiving Welfare?

Hiring Salespeople Who Are Not Money Motivated - The Offer 

The Difference Between Sales Commitment and Motivation

But I'm a Sales Guy - The Story of Motivation and Compensation

Now How Can You Motivate Your Salespeople? 

5 Ways to Motivate Your Salespeople

Cultural Differences with a Sales Force Evaluation

The Challenge of Developing Sales Engineers

Motivating Your Unmotivated Salespeople

Motivation and the Sales Force

10 Factors for Getting Salespeople to Over Achieve

Sales Complacency

Money Motivated Salespeople

Compensation - The Unchanging Role

 

Topics: Motivation, dan pink, sales compensation, money motivated salespeople, sales incentives

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About Dave

Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker and Sales Thought Leader.  Dave Kurlan's Understanding the Sales Force Blog has earned a medal for the Top Sales & Marketing Blog award for six consecutive years.  Dave's Blog earned a Bronze Medal in 2016 and this article earned a Bronze Medal for Top Sales Blog post in 2016. Read more about Dave.

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