Going Beyond Money to Motivate Sales Reps

I recently visited with a client and the subject of motivating salespeople came up. In this discussion, one thing I observed was the client consistently coming back to and focusing on compensation as the only driver to motivate his sales professionals. When I brought up the topic around other motivators that could drive his desired performance and behaviors, I felt like I could literally see a light bulb go off above his head (like in the old Tom & Jerry cartoons!).

Although this is one factor, I think it’s important that we first all agree to put to rest the myth of the sales person who is only driven by money. Yes, same as anyone else, sales people like to make money. But they’re also motivated by a feeling of accomplishment, by a sense of self-actualization, and by picking up the gauntlet of a good challenge. Based on this recent client conversation, I wanted to share some other key things that drive success in sales people.

Show Them Recognition
Along with making a decent living, what sales people desire is praise from higher ups and peers. Ringing the sales bell is as much about a closed deal as it is about getting the applause, the pats on the back, even the funny email with their head superimposed on the body of an action hero or popular movie star. Sales people work hard and—again—like almost anyone in any profession, they enjoy hearing the words “Great job!” and “Way to bring it!” and “You nailed it!

Be sure to extend the recognition by highlighting big wins in more formal ways as well—post a rep’s accomplishment in the company newsletter and openly praise them in team meetings. Giving top performers public recognition can inspire them toward even bigger wins. Seeing all of that praise, their teammates, who may be lagging behind, will find ways to reach a higher performance level as well.

Create Healthy Competition
If an individual has chosen sales as a career, it’s a good bet they’re naturally competitive. What do competitive people like? Contests and games. Encourage competition by gamifying the art of the deal. To foster participation and success, keep things simple and use only a couple of pivotal performance indicators as the basis for the competition.

Cultivate Flexibility
The average sales rep is an autonomous self-starter who values a solid sense of work-life balance, along with a fluid schedule that allows them to take personal time during work hours. Individual contributors on the sales team will appreciate, be thankful for, and be motivated by this kind of open schedule.

Wine and Dine Them
Your top performers work hard. They establish and nurture great relationships with customers—often repeat customers. Make it a point to invite both the sales person and the customer out for drinks and dinner—or to a special event. This honors the client and sales rep alike, and it will make the rep feel proud in front of both their boss and their customer.

Reward Them by Broadening Their Territory
Next time a sales rep has a big close, why not offer them a chance to own an account that would normally be beyond the borders of their territory? Ultimately, the reward will be yours too, because they’re likely to make you proud by embracing the challenge and creating a win there as well. There’ll be motivation to succeed because you’ve entrusted them with a choice account and they won’t want to let you down.

Reassigning a lead is also a good reminder to the reps who have let those leads grow mold that the leads are the organization’s “territory” and can be moved from rep to rep.

Provide Professional Development
Sales folks are motivated by the interest you take in their professional development, even if that translates to something as simple as recommending an inspiring sales book, video, podcast or blog. Or maybe you help them grow by taking them along to a local Tedx talk or enrolling them in a training workshop for promising sales professionals. That interest you show signals to them that they’ve got something to offer in who they are professionally.

The best way to understand what motivates your sales reps is to recall what motivates you. Remember how good it felt last time you stood up in front of a roomful of colleagues and received praise for your work? Any rep anywhere wants to have that same experience. There’s no money in it—just a fortifying feeling of pride and gratitude that can’t be quantified. Point is, we’re all human, and most of us take pride in a job well done. To really get your sales team working at a higher level, you need to show them more than the money.