Money is not a silver bullet to motivating sales people

Contrary to popular belief, money does not motivate salespeople; not all, not unendingly. In other words, increased monetary rewards (typically from increased targets) are not guaranteed to incentivize all salespeople. Even human resource personnel admit that money in itself is not a motivator. “How?” you wonder. “But money (present or absent) is a central theme in everyday discussion!” It’s even at the very core of Sales. Well, that’s not for the Sales Manager to wonder; just know. For the Sales Manager, this should be cause for pause. Especially when it comes to the importance of sales contests. Different salespeople are motivated by different things. So, using the formula for calculating the area of a triangle, to that of a square, will give a wrong result. Surprised? Read on.

Motivating salespeople: What really works? Money?

Now then. “Targets get sales people moving.” Do they really? How I wish it were that simple. Any Sales Manager will tell you it’s not. It may fire a spark, but is unlikely to sustain a blaze. Much like merely setting laws doesn’t mean they will be followed. Hence why there is enforcement (motivation). And enforcement doesn’t necessarily imply batons, bullets and bashings.

Sometimes all it takes is a voice of reason. Like what, then, Acting Senior Superintendent Joseph Nthenge did. Contrary to GSU ruthlessness, through dialogue, this officer convinced (motivated) armed demonstrators to stop destroying property in Nairobi during the height of 2007-8 post elections violence. Incidentally, he was named United Nations Person of the Year for this.

Examples of sales incentives because money does not motivate salespeople

“You will earn more money” or “You will make as much as you want” are typical methods of motivating salespeople. And they are true. The only problem is they are a false reality. The reality is that targets only excite (motivate) the goal oriented sales person to rocket propel for the stars. The rest are happy seeing the stars from atop a building or mountain depending on how high up they feel sufficiently motivated to climb, while reaching for ‘more money’.

Money does not motivate salespeople

You see, theirs is a different cup of tea. To thrust their ignition, might mean public recognition. As one Sales Manager once shared, “Following his winning the sales contest, it is remarkable what displaying his picture, as ‘Salesperson of the Month’ did for Karani. The man had a glint in his eye and spring in walk for days! He even spoke up more in meetings and prospected harder.”

Interestingly, such recognition could backfire for the sales person whose motivation engines are revved through learning.  This one hungers for knowledge the way the goal-oriented salesperson hungers for attaining the goal. “Juma, if you meet your targets this month I will buy you this book (or pay for this course) you told me you want”, could get Juma salivating and Karani bored. These knowledge seekers are always learning and are happy to share their knowledge with others. So, for them, this could also work: “I’ve slotted you in as a facilitator for next month’s internal training, but I need you to lead by example. I cannot have you train people who doubt your ability to sell. So go for it.”

Other non-monetary sales motivation tips for sales people

“Why did you choose selling?” or “What does meeting targets mean to you?” Such soul searching questions stimulate (motivate) the sales person who thrives in one-on-one (heart-to-heart) talk. Such sellers tend to be quiet, thoughtful individuals, who love their own company, and are not easily excitable. Being understood motivates them.  A public “high five” or such continual overt shows of attention and affection backfire on them, but inflame the passion of sellers that are sanguine about everything. This sanguine kind feeds off attention and is people-oriented.  

So, what else besides money motivating sales people

Money does not motivate salespeople; not all, not infinitely. Believing otherwise is a fallacy. After all, if money did motivate everyone why are the vast majority of earning persons likely to end up poor than rich? Anyway, now what? All the foregoing are proven ways of motivating a sales team.  But what to use when? How to really motivate sales people on a natural level, calls for the sales leader or sales manager to study his sales people and experiment with different methods. Demanding results because, “Your job is on the line”, or “You will make more money” is not a silver bullet, and may actually backfire, with some salespeople getting demotivated. 


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