The Simple Truth About Sales Motivation

Recently at a conference I was chatting with a senior leader of a well known organization, and he lamented that his sales weren't where they needed to be.  He told me his sales managers were doing all the right things.  Sales calls were handled primarily over the phone so every week the sales manager would "review" the week's calls with each rep and point out areas where the rep had gone wrong.  

"The reps just aren't getting it,"  he said.  "Even when I add contests and bonuses, the results just don't improve.  I just don't know what else I can be doing.  I train them, I coach them.  I motivate them.  But still results are flat."  He was ready to literally fire his entire sales team.  

I let him know that rather than fire everyone, he might reconsider what he describes as coaching and incentivizing.  

We often think of sales as being a single task.  But in truth, selling is an outcome, or a lagging indicator, of a lot of best practices applied consistently over time. Adding more incentives to accomplishing a complex outcome people don't understand how to do in the first place will only drive his team to fail more frequently - without any learning or improvement, while becoming even less motivated in the process.  

I told him that what's key - and what will really motivate his team - is if they are given skills they can work on incrementally, so improvement is visible and measurable even before the sales begin to improve.  

It's important to identify those best practices (your leading indicators), isolate them, and train and coach to them.  Only when you do that will you see your sales results improve.

How You Can Apply This

What are  the "leading indicators" your sales reps need to do, to accomplish their sales targets?  

Itemize them, from number of cold calls per day, to the specific leading questions they should be saying in just about every sales conversation.  Then, coach to those skills incrementally.  You can choose the sequence, either from easiest to most intricate, or you can start with the most impactful single skill.  

By focusing on the skill, rather than the outcome, your sales reps will have a chance to learn how to meet their targets, and your sales results will be where they need to be.