Three top motivators for sales people – Money isn’t one of them

How to motivate sales people is a common debate among sales managers and compensation specialists.  It’s commonly assumed, by non-sales professionals, that sales people are money hungry individuals and that the more you pay them the better they’ll perform.  That would be wrong.

In my 33+ years of sales and sales management, I’ve worked with many sales professionals, and not one that I would consider incredible, counted income as their key motivator.  The joy of winning, helping and relating are the consistent traits I see in the incredibly successful sales people I’ve had the fortune of working with and learning from, in my career.

Joy of winning – Great sales people are addicted to competing and winning.  That addiction drives them to always be looking for that extra action to increase their probability of winning.  That joy draws them back to the battle no matter what the odds.  The reason these people work so hard, is due to a healthy paranoia not because they starve for the big payday.  When I talk to these people I can see and hear the joy and energy that surfaces when they talk about competing. 

Great sales people also know how to learn when they don’t win.  They clearly distinguish between losing and getting beat which is healthy and they learn from both.  Losing is the hardest to take because it means they didn’t do all they could and realized it too late.  Getting beat is when they know they’ve done everything in their control and still got beat.  (It’d be like me going one on one with Lebron James and getting off one shot he doesn’t block.  That would be a miracle.)

Joy of helping – Great sales people like to help people.  Whether it’s getting information on your product or getting information on great places to vacation, sales people have a need to be helpful.  It’s important here to distinguish between real help and manufactured help.  The latter is when people create crisis or situations that require their assistance.  This is not a trait of great sales people.  The former is when an action or sharing of information will make it easier for the customer to get their desired result.  This is the mark of a great sales person.

Joy of relating – Great sales people relate well to a diverse set of people.  This doesn’t mean they’re all extroverts or charmers, but more that they genuinely are interested in the knowledge they gain from relating well with others.  It’s more common than most think, for sales people to be introverted but still be very curious about what others know.  The joy of relating comes from the sales person’s desire to obtain knowledge from other people rather than from a book, film or blog.

So, great sales people aren’t necessarily the stereotypical smooth-talking, cut throat, aggressive, big personalities.  They aren’t the people that close the hardest during the interview and, in fact, many great sales people will tell you they don’t recall the last time they did a hard close. 

Look for those who are addicted to winning, enjoy helping people and who naturally relate to a diverse set of people.  These are the people who will sell the most for you and, consequently, they’ll be the ones who have the highest incomes, but not because money is their key motivator.

©2013 Rick Wong – The Five Abilities™


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