You never hear the head of the accounting department ask about how to motivate their accounts payable clerks to pay the bills on time. Somehow, the accounts payable clerks can pay the bills without their manager having to motivate them. It's odd that only salespeople need to be motivated to do their work.
Before we explore how you can motivate your sales force, we need to define the area where salespeople seem to need help getting started. When a sales manager asks about how to motivate their sales force, most of the time they are concerned about prospecting, and specifically cold calls. You never need to motivate a salesperson to attend a meeting with a prospective client. Nor will you ever have to motivate them to pick up a signed contract.
For our purposes, let's assume you recognize your sales force needs you to motivate them to do the work that will ensure they hit their targets. By addressing this as a general lack of motivation, we'll find a solution for cold calling and any other task they might avoid.
Hiring for Self-Discipline
One way to avoid the problem of motivation at all is to hire people who do not need it from you. Having interviewed tens of thousands of people, I have distilled several rules about hiring. One rule is that you should never hire people who lack self-discipline. You don't have to motivate people who are disciplined about their work. The second rule is that you should avoid hiring people who are not optimistic. As soon as they confess they don't like rejection, reject them. Finally, the third rule is that you should hire people who are already intrinsically motivated.
Ask every candidate about their goals and what those goals mean to them. A person who doesn't want something or have their own goals will need a lot of motivation. Ask every candidate what else is important to them. Write the answers on their resume as you ask them what they are passionate about outside of work.
Forgive me for not giving you this sooner. It would have prevented you from needing the rest of this article.
How to Motivate Your Salespeople
People do things for their reasons, not for your reasons. If you believe your sales force wants—or should want—what you did when you were in their role, you are certain to feel frustrated. To motivate your sales force, you must let go of the reasons you believe your team should do something and instead identify what matters to each person as they do their job.
Without knowing what everyone on your team wants, you are left trying to motivate them with what you want, a strategy with a limited effect. In your one-on-one conversations, ask everyone about what they want so you can elicit what is important enough to motivate them.
In a conversation with a group of VIPs at the OutBound Conference, one participant confessed he quit his job because his sales manager didn't know he had three children, who were his greatest motivation. The sales manager tried to use his own reasons to motivate the salesperson, which led the salesperson to realize that his manager didn’t care about him.
Your enemy is comfort. People find a level of income and stability they find comfortable. Once they reach that level, many people let up and stop doing what they were doing to get there. That is when you need to remove their ability to be comfortable staying where they are. You never need to use negative force to motivate a salesperson to do their work when you have the leverage of knowing what they want.
Knowing each salesperson on a personal level (including the names of their children and spouse), you start your one-on-one meetings by asking about how they are tracking on their goals. As you have these conversations, you will notice familiar themes, like family, emerge. You will also find that different team members have different goals. One salesperson wants the recognition they will get when they make President's Club. Others want more money. Some want to retire early to play golf. Still, others want a beach house.
Many will claim they want more money but what they really seek is comfort. These people are the most difficult to motivate unless you can find something they want more than comfort.
The rarest of all goals for a salesperson to have is pursuing their full potential. There will only be one or two people who fall into this category, and you will never need to motivate them.
Motivating Your Sales Force to Prospect
When a salesperson is not making their calls and booking the meetings they need, your immediate response should be an intervention to remind them of their goals and dreams. The longer a person avoids prospecting, the greater the effort it will take to restart them. By tying the work of creating new opportunities to what the individual wants, you remind them of what's at risk.
The better you know your team, the better your ability to help them succeed. The more time you spend with your team, the more you will learn how to motivate each person. But there are also ways to motivate your team as a whole.
Motivating Your Sales Force as a Whole
Giving your team a mission can help you motivate them. When the team works together for a shared reason, they can tap into new energy and find momentum. One reason might be vanquishing an enemy, even if the enemy is another sales team inside your company. In addition to better sales, accomplishing this mission can give your team bragging rights of taking down Todd and his team, who always have the highest sales. (No one likes Todd, and everyone will be happy to see him taken down.) Another reason is revenge on your competitor for having poached one of your core clients. They took one of yours, so you ask your team to target their clients and take two of theirs.
Don't limit your motivation to individuals or teams. Use both to make certain your team succeeds individually and as a group.