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Motivating the Salesforce: Whose Job Is It?

Anthony Iannarino
Post by Anthony Iannarino
January 18, 2010

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Yesterday I posted my monthly contribution to The Sales Bloggers Union site. The post was titled How To Reach Your Sales Goals and Make Commissions, and I though it uncontroversial. In fact, I believe it is uncontroversial still, but for a single negative comment.

The negative comment doesn’t bother me, and it comes with the territory when you share your ideas in a public forum like this. What bothers me is the content contained within the comments.

Reading Between the Lines

Buried between the ad hominem attacks were a couple points worth considering. The first is worded, referring to the sales manager, as follows: “Wow, so pray tell what IS the manager’s job?”

After rereading my post, I could see how the commenter could mistake my post as minimizing the sales manager’s role in planning. The first paragraph ends: “Management’s plans and goals are rarely a source of motivation.”

They’re not.

We know them as quotas. It’s hard to be motivated by your quota. It is easier to be motivated by exceeding your quota. It is easier to be motivated by having your personal best year in sales.

One of the running themes of all of my writing and my work with sales effectiveness is that both effectiveness and development are primarily the responsibility of the salesperson. By placing the responsibility with the salesperson two things are accomplished.

First, by placing the responsibility for sales effectiveness and personal and professional development with the salesperson, it eliminates the ability to blame someone else for any failures or shortcomings. There are many people who are more than willing to help you, but the responsibility for your results is ultimately your own. Blaming others eliminates your responsibility for the outcome.

Second, by placing the responsibility with the salesperson, the salesperson is empowered to act accordingly and invited to be engaged at a much higher level with their results, their activities, and their results. This is the opposite of blaming others. This is understanding and acting on the idea that you can influence things and persuade people to change, and that change can make a difference.

The Second (and More Troubling) Quote

The second quote is more troubling. It reads: “I have to motivate myself? So, why do I need a manager?”

It’s hard to count the problems in those short two sentences. First, there is the problem of the salesperson believing that it is their manager’s job to motivate them. Second, there is this salesperson’s belief that he shouldn’t have to motivate himself. Third, there is the problem that the salesperson believes their sales manager serves no other purpose outside of motivating them. Finally, there is the salesperson, (who, as you’ll remember believes it is someone else’s job to motivate him) suffering from the mistaken belief that he doesn’t need a manager at all.

This post isn’t a defense of sales managers. I’ll write that later. Right now let’s tackle whether it is the sales manager’s job to motivate the salesperson.

Who’s Job Is It To Motivate Me?

Have you ever wanted something for someone else?

Have you ever wanted something for someone else that they didn’t want for themselves? How’d that work out for you?

As I have written here in the past, I don’t believe anyone can be motivated by anyone other than themselves. You can surely be persuaded to act. That persuasion to act can even be done well enough to act upon the internal biological, neurological, and sociological enablers to be damn effective.

Even this form of external motivation is driven by speaking to the voice that you alone can hear.

You have to want it for yourself.

The Voice That Only You Can Hear

The voice that only you can hear is the greatest motivating voice in your life. Or, it is the worst, demotivating voice in your life. The choice, of course, belongs to each of us because we are the one’s writing the script.

That voice is there when the sales manager is gone. That voice is there when it is just you, your list of prospects, and the telephone. That voice is there when you receive your quota and it is higher than last year’s, even in a down economy. That voice is there when you lose the deal that you worked tirelessly and should have won.

That is the voice that helps you make decision to take the disciplined, focused sales actions that create sales results. At least it can be.

When your sales manager speaks to you, he is really speaking to that voice. If that voice agrees with what he says, then it will tell you he is right and that you should take action. If that voice disagrees with your sales manager, it will tell you that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about, he doesn’t know the territory, he doesn’t understand the challenges, or some other excuse.

When you hear Winston Churchill or Anthony Robbins speak to motivate, even they are only speaking to that voice. The reason great motivational speakers ask questions is because they know that voice inside you that answers is their true target. When they ask a question like: “What would you do if you knew you could not fail,” who do you think they are talking to?

Cut Out the Middle Man

There is no reason to wait for someone else to speak to the voice that only you can hear to find motivation. Instead, cut out the middle man and write the script for that voice yourself.

Is it really your sales manager’s voice that you want to hear when you need inspiration? Motivation?


I have worked for a number of spellbindingly good motivators as sales managers. All of them helped me to be better than I would have otherwise, and a few pushed me to do more than I should have been able to. Looking back, all they did was tap something I already had inside me. Mostly, they gave me permission to win and maneuvered the resources I needed to deliver for my clients.

It isn’t the sales manager’s job to motivate their salesforce. It is their job, however, to hire self-motivated salespeople who will take the action necessary to win every day, with or without them. You can easily be one them!


1. Is the voice that only you can hear a motivational force, or is it an anti-motivational speaker?

2. What scripts have you allowed your inner voice to use?

3. What scripts need to be rewritten?

4. What scripts need to be burned?

5. What would you say to someone to motivate them? How is that different than what you say to yourself?

6. Whose job is it to motivate you?

For more on increasing your sales effectiveness, subscribe to the RSS Feed for The Sales Blog and my Email Newsletter. Follow me on Twitter, connect to me on LinkedIn, or friend me on Facebook. If I can help you or your sales organization, check out my coaching and consulting firm, B2B Sales Coach & Consultancy, email me, or call me at (614) 212-4279.

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Mindset 2010
Post by Anthony Iannarino on January 18, 2010

Written and edited by human brains and human hands.

Anthony Iannarino
Anthony Iannarino is a writer, an international speaker, and an entrepreneur. He is the author of four books on the modern sales approach, one book on sales leadership, and his latest book called The Negativity Fast releases on 10.31.23. Anthony posts daily content here at TheSalesBlog.com.
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