How Managers Fail to Motivate Salespeople – and What They Should Do Instead

StrategyDriven Marketing and Sales Article | How Managers Fail to Motivate Salespeople - and What They Should Do InsteadHistorically, salespeople have been “given” their goals. Whether we call these goals, targets or quotas, it’s all the same. Sometimes the goal is arbitrary, as in, “I know you can do better, so next year I’m raising your target by 25%.” Other times it’s prescribed. For example: “Whatever you did last year, this year’s target is 10% higher. And, by the way, your bonus will be based on a percentage of quota attained.” Neither of these approaches deliver great results. Here’s why.

We assume that the fact that their bonus, or in some cases their very employment, is contingent upon making quota. We assume that this is motivating. In fact, the very opposite may be the case.

Two immediate (and all-too-common) situations come to mind. Consider the highly likely scenario that they may not buy into the target you’ve come up with. If they’re thinking, “There’s no way I’m going to hit that!” that’s not motivation!

Here’s the second situation: Assume they fall way behind after the first quarter. What will happen? Very often, they simply give up, knowing that the bonus (or whatever incentive you come up with) is lost.

The problem is that these are management’s goals, not the salesperson’s. There are two improvements we may want to consider.

The first is to include them in the process, and negotiate their targets, getting their input. Start by asking them what they think they can do next year or next quarter. Ready for a surprise? They will often give you a higher number than the one you were thinking of. In this case, when you suggest something lower, they love you and will work harder for you. If you need to negotiate the number up, that’s OK too. Just the fact that they were included in the process gets them on board. There’s an old saying: People never argue with their own data.

The second, and best, option is to have a private conversation with each person individually about what’s going on in their world. Forget about your revenue targets for a moment. Ask them about their personal life and their personal goals. What do they want their lives to look like a year from now, five years from now, and in retirement? Here’s the amazing thing: Just by asking, you are implying that you want to help them get there! That’s the magic, although of course it is most powerful when you really mean it. When they believe that you are willing to help them achieve their goals, they will, perhaps for the first time, be truly motivated to help you achieve yours – i.e. quotas and targets.

There’s one other side benefit to using this method. Every once in a while you will come across someone whose personal goal is to be you in a few years. A person who wants to grow in the company. Someone who is looking for a mentor and didn’t know how to ask. Now, how great is that?

About the Author

StrategyDriven Expert Contributor | Kevin ShulmanAs a certified Sandler trainer, Kevin Shulman has helped individuals, companies, and professional organizations set and attain important goals for almost 30 years. He specializes in helping business owners, sales leaders, and salespeople grow their base of business and reach their full potential.

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