As sales leaders, we're often tasked with "motivating" our sales teams. We create contests and special clubs to reward the top performers. We create stack rankings to guilt the low performers. We create Performance Plans to help either increase performance or move people out the door. We invest in the "new sales paradigm" sales training of the moment and schedule weekly 1:1s to provide insight into how our people could make more money. And then, inexplicitly, we sit in Sales Leadership Meetings, looking at a Power Point slides that illustrate low sales activities, sub-par quota performance and 50% or higher salesperson turnover rates. Then the ideas are passed around like the cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving - Maybe a new contest? Maybe tweak the comp plan? How about a sacrificial firing to get everybody on their toes? None of it works - we're stumped. Why can't we motivate our sales people?
Newsflash - not everyone, not even salespeople, are motivated solely by MONEY. And if they are motivated by money, they won't be for long.
Let’s be frank here (Hello, Frank!), even though you may THINK motivating top performers with MONEY is “easy”, I would bet a dollar to a donut that yo
u’ve had TOP PERFORMERS who were getting all the spifs and winning all the contests who ended up LEAVING your employ, leaving you physiologically disheveled muttering “Wha happened?” like somebody who went to a work picnic and woke up in jail next to Charlie Sheen and a goat.
That’s because even for your people who are motivated by MONEY, once they make ENOUGH MONEY, the MONEY won’t motivate them anymore!
You may know about the Hierarchy of Needs - years ago, some cat named Maslow figured out the following hierarchy of human needs. In simple terms – once I have enough food, I need stability and safety. Once I have that I yearn for relationships and a sense of community with others. Secure in relationships I concentrate on feeling good about myself. Once that happens, I can start concentrating on being a better ME!
As sales leaders, we tend to concentrate at the bottom of the pyramid. This is where MONEY and JOB SECURITY live. So we use both c
arrots and sticks to attempt to "motivate" our teams. Contests, spifs, leader boards, performance plans, threats of termination, begging, crying...all this in the bottom two rungs of the pyramid.
Here’s the problem - whether they are a top sales performer or a solid B or C player – once your people have what they personally and individually perceive to be enough money to eat and sleep and aren’t afraid for their job, psychologically they start yearning for belonging, self-esteem and self-actualization. And if you don’t have a program to help meet those needs, your people de-motivate themselves.
So let’s say you buy into all this – what can you do? I’m not going to sit here and tell you that you have to start asking your people what motivates them or where they fall on the Maslow Scale. We as salespeople have TOO MANY internal non-selling meetings already and adding another to your calendar may get you trapped near the Inner Circle of Fault.
So how can you create opportunities to inspire your sales teams in ways that hit different levels of need on the Maslow scale at the same time?
Here are a few things you can do:
Ok, you may think this is a bunch of hokum jibber jabber – that none of this will work at YOUR company.
Here’s the real deal: 90% of sales managers don’t meet their FORECASTS – let alone their quotas. That’s a fact.
And it's getting harder and harder to differentiate yourself and your company’s offering to the rest of the world. Customers have endless choices and automation makes their information gathering process pretty easy. Those are facts too.
Now, more than ever, we need salespeople that possess the MOTIVATION to chase and close business. And what we're doing now isn't working.
Here’s the last bit to keep you up at night: GenXers and Baby Boomers are leaving the salesforce – it’s called aging, look it up.
Millennials are on the rise, and it’s apparent to me as one who hires and manages sales people that they look at the world differently – they seem to be pre-coded to live higher up on the Maslow Scale from the get-go. I never heard the question “What’s the quality of life here?” asked before “What’s the commission structure?” in an entry level sales interview until a 24 year old interviewee said it to me a few years back. I looked at him like he was speaking a foreign language. Not anymore. Now I'm ready for that question. Are you?
These young go-getters are wired differently. And either you can sit at the hotel bar and complain about it to all the other gray haired old fogies, or you can act your way into a new way of thinking and dealing with your people to build a stellar sales team. If it’s the latter, I hope this article helped illustrate some ways you could do that.
If it's the former, thanks for the resumes!