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Sales Motivation Drivers

December 8, 2015

If you have worked in a sales environment, no doubt you have heard the term “Prima Donna” used to describe at least one member of the customer service/sales team. If you are part of a successful organization, it is likely several of these colorful personalities exist and thrive. And if your company is like most, you have experienced “not so good” times in which the sales motivation of even the most gifted employees has suffered, and along with it, the morale of all who come in contact with them.

So, as the general manager, sales manager, or owner, how do you maintain a high level of sales motivation within your team, even during the occasional downturn that is sure to materialize? According to Ziad Y. Khoury, author of Frontline Profit Machine, motivation demands an ongoing focus on three related human drivers and desires: compensation, recognition, and accountability.

Compensation (Incentive) – Impact your employees’ standard of living

Most salespeople are highly motivated by money. There’s no shame in this. In fact, if you don’t have someone on your sales floor who wants to make more money, chances are, you have the wrong person.

Your compensation or commission plan needs to allow your employee to satisfy his or her ego and upgrade his or her standard of living. It should provide them the opportunity to drive a better car, send his or her kids to better schools, live in a nicer house or neighborhood, or plan for that great vacation they have always dreamed about.

The key metric in developing a performance-based compensation plan is not what you pay; it is instead the sales revenue generated by your employees and what you end up keeping as company profit. The commission plan should be weighted so their performance will have a greater influence on what they keep beyond their base salary. And finally, it needs to have an impact on their day-to-day life. We live in an “instant gratification” world and salespeople will not be motivated by a plan that makes them wait for an extended period of time to reap the rewards of their efforts.

Basic Principles for an Effective Incentive Plan

  • Keep it simple – if a salesperson cannot calculate their current commission earnings in five minutes or less, it is too complex.
  • Make it easy to measure – if you can’t easily and precisely measure it, don’t pay for it!
  • Tier it but make it attainable – the right plan needs to be realistic and based on a sliding scale that translates into more money as performance increases.
  • Be generous – Your top producers are worth it. Pay them well or they will be producing for someone else, maybe the competition!
  • Do your homework – it is essential to take into account the current environmental situation in order to minimize panic and chaos.

Recognition – Play on Ego

To some, recognition is a bigger motivator than money. Dale Carnegie, author of How to Win Friends and Influence People wrote, “Be hearty in your approbation, lavish in your praise.” The ego is a very powerful thing. Employment studies of Fortune 500 companies state the number one reason employees leave companies is that “they did not feel appreciated.”

Key Recognition Guidelines
Recognition can take on many forms. It can be conveyed verbally, in writing, and/or in public. Here are a few things to keep in mind the next time you show appreciation for a job well done:

  • Be specific – if you tell someone, “good job”, tell them specifically what was good about the job they did.
  • Convey positive feedback publicly when possible – this accomplishes two things. It gives the recipient a tremendous sense of pride and gives others who witness it a hunger for the same recognition.
  • Use varying forms or methods to show your satisfaction with a person’s work – one day it might be an “atta boy” a virtual “pat on the back”. The next time it might be an impromptu lunch or other token of appreciation.
  • Verify that the recognition you are providing is legitimate and warranted – nothing is worse than calling together a sales huddle to recognize success that was unwarranted or undeserved.

Accountability – The FEAR factor

Accountability, which adds a subtle fear of poor performance and subsequent consequences, gets people’s attention. The plain truth is that most people are motivated by fear more than by any other outcome.

Key Accountability Guidelines

  • Establish and communicate standards of performance
  • Choose appropriate measurements against these standards
  • Quantify the individual’s potential service impact
  • Continue to quantify the individual’s sales impact
  • Keep integrity in the equation

Measure it, quantify it, share it, and then do what most companies don’t; do something about it! It is no coincidence that accountability is the last of the elements we discuss with regard to sales motivation. It is placed here because once you have implemented and invested in everything else, it is time to expect a return on that investment. So hold your team accountable. Most will get stronger while others will go away. Both will thank you over time.

In a recent article in INC. Magazine, Kevin Plank, the founder of Under Armour wrote, “Employees are more motivated when they feel needed, appreciated, and valued.” Remembering the three elemental drivers of sales motivation will help you achieve your personal and professional goals and along the way you’ll build a team that will go to battle for you, driving themselves and your organization to success.