The #1 Top Key to Keeping Salespeople Motivated Revealed Here

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Sun, May 06, 2012 @ 23:05 PM

Old JalopyOver the years, you have worked with many salespeople and oftentimes their success, or lack thereof, didn't correlate as much to their skills as it did to their Desire or Motivation for sales success.  Desire is how badly one wants to succeed, and Motivation is what drives them to success.  I've written many articles about Sales Motivation, but let's take a slightly different path today.

What is actually behind sales motivation?

I'll skip over intrinsic motivation (pride, mastery, satisfaction, recognition, love of the work) and go straight to extrinsic motivation (awards, rewards, money, trips, spiffs, bonuses) and specifically, money motivation.

Money-motivated salespeople are the easiest to understand and it's relatively easy to get them to perform.  But are money-motivated salespeople always what they appear to be?

I conducted an informal analysis of the dozens of salespeople, who I have known really well over the past three decades, and when I whittled them down to the ten most successful salespeople I have ever known, a factor which I had not previously considered came into play.  

All ten appear to be very money-motivated, but money-motivation was the effect, not the cause.  In these cases, it was their spouses who drove their motivation for money!  That's right.  Whether they were earning $100,000 or $1,000,000 annually, whether they had one home or more, whether they had 2 cars or more, their spouses were never quite finished with homes, decorating, landscaping, boats, vacations, parties, cars, philanthropy, wardrobes, private schools, summer camps, swimming pools, theater, restaurants and country clubs.  Their spouses were so good at maintaining the pressure on these salespeople that their sales managers never had to.

You can't legally ask about marital status during an interview, but you can ask about what a salesperson is working toward - their purpose - what they need to earn and how they would use those earnings.  If you happen to learn about a very ambitious spouse, who wants more and more of what they already have, urge the candidate to talk more about it.  If their spouse turns out to be someone who does for a salesperson what pressure does for water and what wind does for a sail, you may have found exactly what you may not have been looking!

Think about your most successful and unsuccessful salespeople.

Do the ambitious spouses play a role in the success of your best people?

Do your struggling salespeople have spouses who are not as ambitious, who don't pressure them enough to make a difference?

We would love to hear your experiences!  Please comment on this subject.


Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales motivation, sales drive, sales desire, sales success

Sales Team Morale is Overrated

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Mar 02, 2012 @ 09:03 AM

sales moraleSomeone over at posted the question, "Are you already behind on your 2012 sales goals?".

One responses was another question, "What are some different ways you keep morale high when the team is behind on goals?" 

I responded to this question with the following answer:

"I don't expect many to agree with this answer and my opinion can't be changed. Are you sure you want a team that's behind on goals to have high morale? They should be quite upset with themselves, feeling the pressure and doing what it takes to fix the problem. I sure wouldn't want them feeling too good about their performance.

Morale is overrated. You want them to feel good about the company and themselves, but don't overcompensate when they fail to perform or you'll find them falling even further behind.

Instead, you want their future successes to change their morale.

So stop worrying about morale and begin working on cause and effect. What has caused them to fall behind? Do you have the right people? Does the model work? Is it the process? Is it the methodology? Is it the target audience? Is it their skills? Is it their DNA? Is it your sales management?"

I would be concerned if they weren't motivated, but even motivation is misdiagnosed.  I receive at least two calls each month from executives who want help motivating their sales force.  My first question is always, "How do you know they aren't motivated?"  Their answers are usually that they aren't closing enough business.  There is no correlation between closing and motivation.  I've seen very motivated salespeople who can't close a door, and an equal number of unmotivated salespeople who are tremendous closers.

As always, the key is to make a correct diagnosis and there are two things you must absolutely not do when attempting to solve problems related to performance:

  1. Make Assumptions - As you can see from this example, a wrong guess will lead you down the wrong path and fail to solve the problem.
  2. Lump Everyone Together - From among the dozens of issues that the typical sales force has, it's rare when everyone suffers from the same issue.  While sales issues like model, methodology, process, pipeline, metrics and selection tend to be management issues, skill gaps and weaknesses tend to be more individually targeted.
To make the proper diagnosis and identify the underlying causes of what you observe, a sales force evaluation is the single most effective step you can take.



Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales force evaluation, sales management, sales motivation, sales selection, sales assessments

How Can Strong Salespeople Lack Desire for Success?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Oct 20, 2011 @ 06:10 AM

franconaThis question is kind of funny to me.

Using Objective Management Group's Sales Candidate Assessment, a company could assess 1,000 salespeople, understand that Lack of Desire for Success in Sales causes an automatic "Not Recommended", and not be tempted to interview a single candidate who lacks Desire.  That is until they introduce a sales candidate that they "know" into the mix.  When they introduce a known candidate, it is usually someone with a good track record or a well-liked salesperson with whom they are familiar.  When the known candidate lacks Desire, everything changes.  "How could it be?"  "Is it validated?"  "There must be something wrong with the test!"
  "Have you checked this problem out?" "Can you walk me through how you could have come up with such a finding?"  

We have assessed 1831616 salespeople and we have the strongest predictive validity in the business so it's a lot like the old Smuckers tag line - "it just has to be good".  So why the contradiction?

We think we know people.  We've had a drink, heard about them, received referrals, gotten to know them, we like them, they have good industry experience, they were the salespeople of record on those huge accounts, so how could they lack Desire?

Think in terms of a before and after picture.  Everything you know about that person is the before.  The assessment findings are the after.  Instead of questioning the assessment, which on matters of Desire is always correct, why not ask yourself, "I wonder what changed?"  or "Could I really have known how little Desire he had?"

I can name a few strong, talented individuals who at a particular point in time lacked Desire.

I am writing this on October 20, 2011 so the first two names are timely as of this writing.

Terry Francona recently stepped down as Manager of the Boston Red Sox.  He was very strong but I'll guarantee that at the end, he lacked the Desire to continue - at least with the Red Sox.

Steve Jobs recently passed away.  No one was stronger than he was but I'm sure at the end of his battle with Cancer he lost the Desire to continue innovating.

These aren't sales examples and you don't know these people personally so they should be examples that are easier to understand.

I have observed many very strong salespeople - they had both sales skills and sales DNA - for whom sales success was no longer the most important thing to them.  And when Desire goes, the incentive to do what is difficult, time consuming, painful, scary, or disinteresting goes along with it.  That includes doing it your way, development, being receptive of coaching, being resilient, tackling the biggest challenges and the list goes on and on.

So next time, instead of questioning the assessment, simply ask how well you really know this person and whether you really know what makes this person tick when it comes to their will to sell.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales force evaluation, sales motivation, sales candidates, leDesire in sales, sales assessments

Red Sox and the Sales Force - Winning and Losing is Contagious

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Sep 21, 2011 @ 09:09 AM

redsoxThe Red Sox began the 2011 baseball season by losing 10 of their first 12 games.  So what?  Before the season began most experts predicted that the 2011 Red Sox could be the best team ever!  Yet despite all of their star power, they just couldn't seem to win during those first two weeks of April.  Losing is contagious.

And then they turned it around and it only took one team win to do that.  They proceeded to win so many games during May through August that they were the best team in baseball for those 4 months. Winning is contagious.

Then came September.  I think they won something like 5 games this month while dropping around 15.  They are playing badly, performing badly, and losing badly as a team. It has been embarrassingly bad. Losing is contagious.

In sales winning and losing is contagious too.  When salespeople are scheduling a lot of new meetings it raises the bar, creates enthusiasm and nobody - even those for whom prospecting is a challenge - wants to be left out.  When salespeople are closing sales, deals and accounts it creates optimism, enthusiasm and confidence; and nobody - even those for whom closing is a challenge - wants to be left out.  Success sends a sales force wide message:  

"We are doing this, it is working, we can see the difference between the winners and the wannabes (won-a-bees), and if you aren't one of the wannabes very soon you'll be on the street looking for a new position."

Of course you can coach, train and develop SOME of the wannabes, but only if they are Committed, Motivated wannabes, that you can hold accountable.

Either way, winning is contageous  and you must do everything in your power to create a winning environment where success is expected and anything less is not acceptable.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Sales Coaching, sales motivation, Sales Accountability, sales winners

Tenure - Could it Possibly Be a Good Thing for your Sales Force?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jul 25, 2011 @ 08:07 AM

  How do you feel about tenure?  Is it ever a good thing?  Is there value in helping people feel secure about their employment stability and financial future?

To a point.  It's good when people feel positive about their situation, allowing them to perform their most brilliant work.  It's bad when their sense of permanence causes them to do as little as possible.  It's good when it makes the company appear stable to those prospective companies who would consider doing business with you.  It's bad when their sense of entitlement causes them to believe that the work that must be done is now beneath them.  And so goes the tenure argument.

What about tenure with salespeople?

I am not aware of any company that awards their salespeople with tenure.  That said, many companies may as well be dishing out tenure with some of the silly things that they do.  Here are ten examples where the company's philosophies have the same effect as tenure:

  1. Salespeople can only be terminated for lying, stealing or cheating;
  2. Quotas are negotiated;
  3. Under performance does not cause a reprimand or termination;
  4. Quotas are only guidelines and are not enforced;
  5. Salespeople who migrate to account management in lieu of new business development are not confronted;
  6. Compensation is salary with little or no bonus or commission;
  7. Management defends and protects bad hiring decisions;
  8. Salespeople are left to their own devices - for better or for worse;
  9. Company is reluctant to develop a true sales culture;
  10. Salespeople are considered family.
Can you think of any additional examples?
By the way, some of you may have become discouraged from leaving comments because my Blog was getting spammed for a couple of months and if you checked the box to be notified of any comments after yours, you would have received the spam too.  That problem has been rectified so you can safely leave comments again.  I apologize for the aggravation!

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales management, Sales Coaching, sales motivation, sales compensation, complacency

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

Little League and the Sales Force - It's more Than Trophies

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Apr 18, 2011 @ 08:04 AM

LL Baseball LogoIt's Little League time in my neck of the woods.  That means parades, six weeks of baseball games, practices, coaching and awards.

The awards I got when I played Little League were for being selected to the all-star team, and leading my team in batting, period.  Today, every kid gets a trophy - the same trophy.

There are certainly positive aspects to the "trophies for everyone" philosophy.  Awards build self-esteem by making the kids feel good about themselves, helping them feel like they contributed, and helping them feel special - even if they were the worst baseball player in the league!

On the other side of this argument, the truly gifted, talented kids who outperformed everyone else don't receive exclusive recognition for their outstanding achievements.  In addition, the weaker players aren't provided with an incentive to practice, improve and achieve because they are already being recognized.

Let's switch gears and move to sales and salespeople.  You might recall my very popular post about Money Motivated Salespeople Becoming a Dying Breed.  Today's discussion ties in quite nicely to that post.

The concept of an award, plaque or trophy - extrinsic motivation.  The recognition that goes with it - intrinsic motivation.  The piece of plastic is nice.  The feeling of being recognized - praised for ones accomplishments - that's priceless.  And that goes a long way toward motivating salespeople and keeping them motivated because the feeling lingers on.  Just remember that the contest for which the awards are presented must be shorter than 90 days in duration.  Like Little League, it helps if many can win awards but unlike Little League, not because they simply partcipated in the contest.  Create as many award catagories as possible and make sure that none of them are about most total sales.

Remember, the underlying premise for a contest is to change behavior that will drive revenue!

Challenge your salespeople, provide incentives for them to modify behaviors to drive revenue, and reward them for leading the way.  It's a formula that can't be beat.


Topics: sales motivation, little league trophies, sales mankurlanagement, sales contests

Money Motivated Salespeople a Dying Breed

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Apr 07, 2011 @ 23:04 PM

Silver Medal Top Sales & Marketing Blog Post  2011

motivationThat's right. Today, fewer salespeople are motivated by money, to such a degree that Objective Management Group (OMG) will eliminate the Money Motivated finding in its sales and sales management assessments. In it's place, OMG will show whether a motivated salesperson is either intrinsically (pride, satisfaction, joy, mastery, recognition, etc.) or extrinsically (money, awards, things) motivated. The science supporting this change has been around for several decades but it hasn't been widely embraced. Most recently, Dan Pink, in his book, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, brought the science back into focus. The data shows that intrinsically motivated people will generally outperform extrinsically motivated people for extended periods of time, while extrinsic motivation may work for shorter periods of time.

I mined the data on 150,000 salespeople that were assessed in the past three years, a period of time that includes both the pre and post economic crash. I noted that the only data point that has changed for salespeople is the percentage that were Money Motivated.

50% fewer salespeople are money motivated today as compared to the findings from 2007.

Should you change your compensation model? Probably not. Salespeople still measure their success by their commissions, and a payoff for a closed sale or account is still good. It's just money is not necessarily the be-all, end-all that motivates them to take action. Awards and contests are still beneficial if they run for short periods of time.

Salespeople that still fit the old description of "hungry" will perform as you expect them to.  But salespeople who simply love selling and want to master its challenges may perform even better!


Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales management, sales motivation, sales assessments

The Effect of Momentum on the Sales Force

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Feb 25, 2011 @ 06:02 AM

momentumMomentum has a magical effect on salespeople.

When salespeople are doing well, there is pressure on everyone to keep up, carry their fair share, compete, be successful, and contribute.  It causes salespeople to remain focused, be at their best, and put forth the extra effort.  It contributes to happiness, fulfillment, excitement, confidence and success.  That's all pretty good, huh?

On the other hand, when salespeople are struggling, rather than all of that good stuff we just identified, people can justify their struggles ("well, nobody else is selling anything"), rewrite history ("since I've been here we haven't sold those things to those size accounts"), develop self-fulfilling prophecies ("it's impossible to sell this stuff"), talk themselves out of working hard ("nobody is interested in this right now"), and basically cause a mass self-pity party.  It has the opposite effect of positive momentum and contributes to depression, helplessness, inaction and failure.  That's all pretty bad, huh?

When things are going well, praise everyone, don't let them get distracted, share successes, force them to take some well-deserved short vacations, make sure their calendars are full BEFORE they leave, and keep things going!

But what can you do when things aren't going well?  How can you change the momentum from negative to positive?  What can you do when it's a team-wide or entire sales force slump?

Go for easy wins. Let them multiply. Share the good news.  Gradually build on it. Hold short, exciting contests that anyone can win. Don't base it on revenue - anything but!  Most new meetings, most new accounts or orders, first new order, biggest new order or account, most leveragable account, best referral, biggest margin, biggest account increase over last year, etc.  Have multiple winners, create buzz, keep everyone posted every week.

In addition, work with them more, coach them more frequently, harder, deeper and wider.  Get them refocused.  Keep them motivated, hold them more accountable. Help them succeed until you accomplish positive momentum.

What are some of the things you have done to successfully change the momentum on your sales force?

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales management, sales motivation, motivate the sales force, sales effectiveness

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

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jun 07, 2010 @ 09:06 AM

Money MotivationA Sales VP and his CEO were in the conference room and each time the CEO brought up a problem, we asked the Sales VP to elaborate.  Each time he began with, "Well I'm a sales guy so I know this stuff..."

Yes and No.

Yes, he's a sales guy.  But no, he doesn't know this stuff.  If he knew this stuff the problems and challenges in their organization wouldn't exist and the two of them wouldn't be sitting in front of us in the conference room.  This isn't at all unusual either. 

Most Sales VP's, Directors and Managers have egos so large that they can't ask for or readily accept the help that most of them so desperately need.  Most CEO's don't expect their Sales Leaders to be trainers, they expect them to arrange for the training.  Most CEO's don't expect their Sales Leaders to be experts in Sales Force Evaluation and Sales Candidate Selection.  They expect their Sales Leaders to identify the tools that will help them.  Most CEO's DO expect their Sales Leaders to implement sales processes, create realistic metrics, hold their salespeople accountable and coach them to be more effective.  And most Sales Leaders just aren't very effective at this.

I just looked at the data on about 50,000 sales managers that have been assessed by Objective Management Group and on average, sales managers have only:

  • 37% of the attributes required to be effective coaching coaching salespeople;
  • 58% of the attributes required to be effective holding salespeople accountable. 
  • 47% of the attributes required for developing people.

So it's clear that they need the help but most of them say the same thing -- "I'm a sales guy - I know this stuff..."  Yeah right.  Most of them know what their salespeople must achieve for results but beyond that, don't have the skills, strategies, tactics, experience, and understanding to help all of them do that consistently and effectively.

Another thing Sales Leaders don't know very well is compensation.  Only 20% of the sales managers in our database know what motivates their salespeople and only 42% of the sales managers are even personally motivated to earn more money!

My guest on last week's episode of Meet the Sales Experts was Sales Compensation expert Dick Dauphanais.  You need to listen to every word of this show but a few of the things that Dick said that I thought should be included here are:

  • "Well designed compensation plans have a life expectancy of 3-5 years max."
  • "Take people off of commission during aberration (economy in the tank) years."
  • "You need to understand the difference between pay and recognition based compensation plans."

If you're a CEO, communicate to your Sales Leaders that they are supposed to get help and you expect them to.

If you are a Sales Leader, get your ego out of the way and ask for the help you need.  That's why we are here!  Don't be embarrassed, think about how you'll look when you're smashing past the goals!


Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales management functions, sales motivation, sales compensation, dick dauphanais

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Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker and Sales Thought Leader.  Dave Kurlan's Understanding the Sales Force Blog has earned medals for the Top Sales & Marketing Blog award for eight consecutive years. This article earned a Bronze Medal for Top Sales Blog post in 2016, this one earned a Silver medal for 2017, and this article earned Silver for 2018. Read more about Dave.

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