Our friends at Objective Management Group, which I always call Kurlan, have new data about what motivates salespeople. I find the data interesting and useful in terms of understanding that salespeople are actually human and individually motivated by different things.

Here are the highlights of their research:

  • 47% are intrinsically motivated.
  • 25% are extrinsically motivated.
  • 13% are altruistically motivated.
  • The remaining 15% are somewhat balanced between 2 of the 3 styles.

Now, I’ve known for a long time that the way outdated belief that “the only thing salespeople are motivated by is Money and Recognition” is a bunch of hooey. But, all too often, “let’s have another contest” wins out over my central argument to “develop sales leadership so they have the skills and wisdom to truly understand core motivation and how to leverage it with both sales people and prospects.”  Yes, I put prospects into the conversation because–duh!–learning to understand and work with motivation comes in pretty handy when selling as well as when coaching sales people to close more business.

“Let’s adjust their commission or their territory, or fiddle with their goal” are all standard approaches many take to increase sales results. Sometimes they work, and sometimes they don’t, usually because they are a one-size-fits-all solution to the diverse motivational challenges salespeople face.

So, let’s look at what salespeople face on a daily basis. They are coping with what feels like personal rejection. They are trying to connect with prospects who are initially guarded and have a low level of trust. Their success rates are front and center for many in the organization to see, meaning they are heroes when they win but feel like the opposite if they find themselves on a losing streak.

It’s a complicated equation to sort out supporting–and holding accountable–many different people with unique motivations and individual aspirations. It takes a level of leadership that few have mastered, though most would love to because then they could negotiate the motivational terrain with patience, precision, and proficiency.

If you want to know more about this topic – give me a call. I would be happy to have a conversation. You can reach me on my cell at 301-639-9779 or send me an email at mawampler@transforminc.com.

By Mary Anne Wampler,