The Future of Selling - Understanding This Crucial Sales Competency is More Important Than Ever

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Apr 12, 2017 @ 13:04 PM

Image Copyright donskarpo

While much about selling has changed in the past 10 years, most of the science behind sales excellence has not changed at all.  While there have been a few changes to the 21 Sales Core Competencies, most of them have remained the same as well.  Most of the average scores in those 21 Sales Core Competencies, as well as the percentage of salespeople with gaps in those Core Competencies, don't change much either.  However, Sales Motivation is one competency where the changes have been dramatic over a very short period of time and today I want to share those changes, as well as how the changes impact salespeople, sales leaders and sales organizations.

Definitions - Let's clarify the difference between Desire for Success in Sales and Sales Motivation. Desire is how badly a salesperson wants to achieve greater success in sales.  Motivation is the "what" behind that Desire.  What is driving that Desire?  Desire and Motivation are part of a triad of sorts, with the third, and most important piece being Commitment to achieve greater success in sales.  It doesn't matter how strong the Desire is if the Commitment isn't there.  And it's with that triad where some of the changes are occurring.  Many companies are hiring recent college graduates to fill inbound and outbound lead generation roles or, in other words, appointment setting roles.  Many of these kids haven't chosen sales and they tend to score low on both Desire and Commitment.  And that's where Motivation comes in.  At least there's that.  But there have been dramatic changes with Motivation.

Changes - During the time that Objective Management Group (OMG) has been measuring both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation in salespeople, we have seen a tremendous shift over a relatively short number of years.  For example, in 2007, 54% of the sales population was extrinsically motivated.  Four years later, in April of 2011, I reported that 50% fewer salespeople were money (extrinsically) motivated, bringing the percentage to just 27%.  Fast forward another 6 years to April of 2017 and when we look at the most recent 350,000 salespeople to have been assessed, the percentage is down an additional 70% to just 8%!

Would you like to see the data and the average scores in all 21 Sales Core Competencies?  You can!  Our brand new site shows you the average scores for all salespeople, the top 10%, the bottom 10%, salespeople in your industry, and salespeople at your company.  The scores are very interesting! See OMG's data here.

Impact on Companies - Most compensation plans are designed to provide incentives to salespeople that are motivated to earn commissions.  But if most salespeople are now intrinsically motivated, then most compensation plans don't work the way in which they were intended. There are exceptions but generally speaking, most companies must get some help from sales experts who understand the new trend, understand accounting, and have the ability to help you develop a new plan.

Impact on Sales Leaders - Most sales leaders have learned to motivate using the carrot - read commission - but that's not really in play to the same degree as it once was.  Intrinsically motivated salespeople respond to coaching.  Yesterday I wrote about how great sales coaching lets you off the hook on motivation, accountability and recruiting!  Intrinsically motivated salespeople also want to master their craft, love what they do, and be part of something bigger than themselves.  Sales Leaders must learn to become great sales coaches and motivate in all new ways.  OMG measures 7 additional ways in which salespeople are motivated, including whether they love to win or hate to lose, spend to perform or perform to reward, want recognition or self-satisfaction, want to be closely managed or self-manage, want to be pressured or apply self-pressure, have something to prove to others or to themselves, and whether they prefer competition with others or to compete with themselves.

Impact on Salespeople - Surprisingly, these changes have little impact on salespeople as long as they have strong sales motivation.  It doesn't really matter whether they are intrinsically, extrinsically or even altruistically motivated, as long as the motivation is there.  However, if sales leaders aren't motivating them accordingly, and companies don't modify their comp plans accordingly, then the impact on salespeople can be quite negative and limiting.  And you wonder why there is so much turnover in sales!

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales motivation, sales commissions, sales incentives, OMG Assessment, motivated salespeople

How to Run a Killer Sales Incentive Contest

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Feb 05, 2014 @ 23:02 PM

contestYesterday, we had a fairly sizable snowstorm that dumped a foot of snow and it reminded me of this article from last winter.

Also yesterday, in my article on the importance of rallying cries, I promised to discuss incentive programs.

Incentive programs are still very powerful as long as you make sure they don't last for more than 90 days.  There are other factors that can make the difference between an effective and ineffective program.  Consider the three most important concepts:  Everyone must believe that they can win the contest, there should be more than 1 winner, and the rewards must be motivating enough for them to go into overdrive to win one.

Let's begin with how you get them to believe they can win.

It's easier than you think.  Just don't base your contest on revenue.  When a contest is based on revenue, everyone knows, well in advance, who the likely winner will be.  So if not revenue, then what?  That's also easier than you think.  What would you like your salespeople to do more effectively?  Find new business?  Fill the pipeline?  Then base the awards on behaviors that you want to change.  And when you base it on more than one behavior, your salespeople will believe they have a chance to win!  Consider some or all of the following:

  • Most new meetings scheduled,
  • Most new opportunities added to the pipeline,
  • Most referrals and introductions received,
  • Most new accounts or customers,
  • Most new sales (that's number of new sales closed, not revenue),
  • Most leveragable new account, and/or
  • Biggest new opportunity added to the pipeline.

Won't every salesperson believe that there is at least one of those that they can win?

What about the award or prize?  How can you make that compelling enough so that they WANT to win?

That's also much easier than you think.

Eliminate any award, reward or prize that they can buy for themselves.  That gets nobody motivated.  Instead, focus on things that either wouldn't be practical, or wouldn't be safe for them to buy with family money.  For instance, some of your salespeople would simply love to participate in a week-long sports fantasy camp, but most of them would feel way to guilty to actually spend the money and go away for a week of fun.  However, if they were to win it, that changes everything.  Another way to get them excited about the payoff is to ask them to choose their prizes.  Give them a range and have them pick!

Finally, there are websites that will run your contests for you.  They're called gamification sites and you can find some of them here.

So keep it short, have multiple winners, reward the behaviors you want to change, don't reward revenue, offer guilt-free prizes and you'll have the killer contest that gets everyone motivated, excited and working hard.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales leadership, Sales Force, sales motivation, sales contest, gamification, sales incentives

World Series, Super Bowl and the Sales Force - The Rallying Cry

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Feb 05, 2014 @ 05:02 AM

This article was originally going to be just a single paragraph,  but it took on a life of its own as I wrote it.  I believe that amplifies the significance of this topic.

world series winnersWe saw it for the first time in October when the overachieving Boston Red Sox beat the talented Detroit Tigers for Baseball's American League Championship.  Then those same Red Sox topped a great St. Louis Cardinals team to win the World Series.  The most impressive element of the 2013 Red Sox is that what they lacked in talent, they made up for in chemistry, character, work ethic, intensity, commitment, and a rallying cry.  Those elements led to a unique culture of togetherness and a true desire to pull for each other.  They were not an untalented team; they just weren't the most talented team.

super bowl winnersThe Seattle Seahawks story is not significantly different from the Red Sox.  Their Super Bowl winning team was comprised of the same type of chemistry and character that led the Red Sox to the world championship of baseball.  Is character a substitute for talent?  Not at all.  But when you combine a strong dose of talent with a strong dose of the right character, it makes all the difference in the world.

With selling being such an individual sport, can any of this character and culture stuff be applied to a sales force?  Let's discuss it and figure it out.

If every salesperson is aligned around your rallying cry - the why we're all doing this - and they all pull for each other instead of competing with each other, you can get your talented salespeople to overachieve.  Of course, that is much easier said than done.

Let's discuss the rallying cry.  Every April, the state of Massachusetts celebrates Patriots Day and there are two special events.  The Red Sox always play a special 11 AM game while marathoners compete in the annual running of the Boston Marathon.  As you know, in 2013, tragedy struck when the Marathon was disrupted and people were injured and killed by what is now known as the Marathon Bombing.  There was a heartfelt and immediate response by the Red Sox players as people from around the world watched the events play out on live television.  

boston strong"Boston Strong" became the rallying cry of the Red Sox.  David Ortiz, their biggest star, addressed the crowd and on live television, famously said, "This is our f---ing city."  Even the FCC didn't mess up that moment, deciding not to assess a fine on Ortiz, the Red Sox, or NESN, the sports network that broadcasts Red Sox games, for his use of the F-Bomb on live television.

But make no mistake.  Those two statements - Boston Strong, and This is Our F____ing City - became the rallying cry around which the entire team aligned and that evening, they committed to bring the World Series championship to Boston. They pushed each other.  They pulled for each other.  They found a way.  They achieved.  They overachieved.  They persevered.  They did it.  They won.

How would things change if you could come up with something bigger and more important than money, sales, profits, commissions, metrics and personal achievement?  How would things change if there was something bigger and better than you and me and them?  How would their approach change?  What would happen to their sense of urgency?  When it's bigger than the one and the all, how important would it be for everyone to succeed?  

What could be your rallying cry?

meadowlandsI haven't written too much about incentives and contests, although I have some strong opinions.  I'll share those opinions in my next article.  But a rallying cry, that could be bigger than everyone, could be an event, location or thing where if the team succeeds, everyone on the team participates and celebrates.  "New Jersey" was a rallying cry of the Seattle Seahawks. Russell Wilson, their Quarterback, got the entire team aligned around, "Why not us?"  If the team achieves its goal, everyone on the team goes to New Jersey and competes, as a team, in the Super Bowl.

What could be your rallying cry?

duck boatIn addition to the team's World Series trophy and the player's share of the World Series money, there is one additional reward for winning the World Series in Boston.  The Red Sox and their families are paraded through Boston and into the Charles River on Duck Boats.  A third rallying cry for the 2013 Red Sox team was "The Parade" and "Duck Boats."  After the parade, pitcher Jake Peavy went so far as to purchase the Duck Boat in which he and his family rode.

What could be your rallying cry?

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales leadership, sales motivation, red sox, marathon bombing, boston strong, seahawks, sales incentives

Salespeople Must Use & Embrace Life's Most Embarrassing Moments

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Sep 27, 2012 @ 11:09 AM

embarrassedCan you remember that time, back in school, when you did something so embarrassing that you wanted to run away and hide forever?  Of course you do - it was all about you.  But I will wager any amount of money that you are the only one who remembers.  The others who were there that day and anyone you might have told have long forgotten.  It - wasn't - about  - them.

The same phenomenon applies to selling.

You and your salespeople have made dozens of horrible, embarrassing calls to prospects and companies.  While you and your salespeople remember your act of extreme failing, the prospects don't.  They wouldn't remember you, your salespeople or your horrible attempts if their lives depended on it.  Doesn't that mean you could try again and nobody would be the wiser?

Why not make it next month's initiative?

With prospects whom you thought you'd never call again:

  • Prize for most conversations,
  • Prize for most (qualified) meetings scheduled ,
  • Prize for most opportunities entered into the pipeline,
  • Prize for most accounts closed/opened/sold,
  • Prize for the largest sale and/or
  • Prize for the first sale.
Everybody wins!

They won't remember.  Treat it like a first call.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales management, sales targeting, sales prospecting, sales incentives, sales contests

How to Get Top Performance From Your Salespeople in December

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Dec 05, 2011 @ 09:12 AM

top sales performerHeading into the last week of the month, quarter or year, would you prefer to be ahead of goal or behind?  And what about your salespeople - would you prefer for them to be ahead of goal or behind?  

Are you sure?  I didn't ask how you wanted them to finish...

As an example, let's look at yesterday's Patriots-Colts Football game where the Patriots had around a 28 point lead in the fourth quarter.  Two things happened.  The Patriots thought they had the game won and they relaxed - they took their foot off the gas - while the Colts, with nothing to lose and no resistance, mounted a huge comeback.  The Colts didn't quite make it all the way back but they turned a game that really was a blow out into what appeared to be (based on the score) a close, well-fought game.

Over the years, I have observed the following to be consistently true:

  • Salespeople who have hit their numbers with time to spare go into cruise control, take their foot off the gas, and prepare for the next period.  You love their numbers but I hate the let down.
  • Salespeople who have been behind, but close for most of the period, pull out the stops and usually manage to hit their numbers.
  • Salespeople who have been far behind give in to the inevitable, stop trying, and allow the period to die on the vine.
  • Sales Management is usually far too reactive - too late - to change any of this.
  • Contests and Incentives, when well conceived, can have a short-term  impact.  

So back to my question.  Would you rather have your salespeople ahead of their number or behind the number as the end draws near?
A case can be made for both answers so why don't you weigh in and explain why?

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Sales Coaching, top sales thought leader, sales incentives, sales contests, top sales assessment tool, under achieving, over achieving, top performers

The Sales Manager as Ice Cream Man

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jun 27, 2011 @ 06:06 AM

ice cream manEven in the technology age, one decades-old summer tradition still excites young children.  They hear the bells and the music off in the distance and the anticipation builds.  As the volume increases you can hear the neighborhood kids yelling, "He's coming! He's coming!"

What's up with that?  Their parents probably have ice cream in the fridge.  If they don't, it's probably no more than a five-minute drive to find a place that sells or serves it - especially during the summer.  It costs much more to buy it off the truck.  So why does the daily late afternoon appearance of the ice cream man still have so much appeal?

This isn't a rhetorical question and I don't know the answer.  Maybe the ice cream man provides children with an opportunity to be kids! Maybe their parents encourage it because it reminds them of their own childhood thrills.  Maybe it's because it gets kids out of the house.  But here is what I do know.  That simple, inexpensive once per day treat gets kids excited enough that you can use it to change behavior.  There are two primary approaches:  

  1. If you show me good behavior or do this good thing, you can get something from the ice cream man.
  2. If you behave badly or do this bad thing, you won't be able to get anything from the ice cream man.

The power of the ice cream man!

Salespeople are the same way.  You may not be able to promise them ice cream in return for scheduling 8 new meetings this week, but I'm sure there is something that will motivate them to do it.  The question is, "what?"

What will get them motivated enough to do what they haven't been doing enough of?

What do you need them to do more frequently or more effectively?

  • Schedule New Meetings?
  • Ask More Questions?
  • Qualify More Effectively?
  • Stop Taking Put-Offs?
  • Push Back and Challenge?
  • Stop Presenting Early in the Process?
  • Close a Greater Percentage of Oppportunities?

The list can go on and on.

Simply pick one from the list and for each salesperson, learn about their personal equivalent to the ice cream man.

If 50 is the new 60 and small is the new big, then Sales Leader is the new Ice Cream Man. Just pass on the truck...

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales management, sales motivation, change sales behavior, sales incentives, ice cream man, change sales results

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:


The Future of Selling - Understanding This Crucial Sales Competency is More Important Than Ever

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

Why You Should Care That Sales Motivation Data Correlates Perfectly With Sales Performance


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

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Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker and Sales Thought Leader,  Dave Kurlan's Understanding the Sales Force Blog earned awards for the Top Sales & Marketing Blog for eleven consecutive years and of the more than 2,000 articles Dave has published, many of the articles have also earned awards.

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