Sales Team Motivation

It is a tough job to motivate employees now-a-days– especially the ones involved in sales. Research show again and again, companies are spending an incredible amount of money and time in sales training, yet many sales teams fail to deliver . There are numerous examples of sales team succeeding well and there are sales team failing spectacularly, whether in small and medium businesses or in large multi-nationals. Throughout human history, it has been a mesmerizing question- why people do what they do? Knowing the answer to this question and applying them across the organization today, no matter how small of large it is, has huge payoffs.

There are numerous examples of sales team succeeding well and there are sales team failing spectacularly, whether in small and medium businesses or in large multi-nationals. Throughout human history, it has been a mesmerizing question- why people do what they do? Knowing the answer to this question and applying them across the organization today, no matter how small of large it is, has huge payoffs.

At the deepest level of understanding human motivation of engaging in any act, these are the three drivers to consider:

  1. Expectancy. It is the perception the salesperson has toward the effort that it will lead to performance. Basically, it is the belief that the likelihood of a particular action ( sales call, making sales plan etc.), will be followed by particular outcome (new account, commission etc.). A sales team must be trained to believe in their sales process they follow that it will give them good result if they take actions. Therefore, a sales team leader’s main role is to convince the team members that the outcomes are highly probable. A person or a group of persons will take actions even if they know that there are many events or variables out of their control. For example, a person or a group will buy many lottery tickets multiple times for a $100 million knowing that many things are at odds for them to win. But they believe that there is a “likelihood” of winning. Similarly, a salesperson must believe in this likelihood of winning.
  2. Instrumentality. This is the salesperson’s perception of the overall probability that performance of actions will lead to a certain outcome. This is the tendency in salespeople to attach a probability percent in their minds toward a “win” or “no win” outcome of their actions. A team leader must train its members not to prejudge the outcomes without a proper qualifying process. Many cases, a salesperson will loose the motivation to call certain prospect without having the chance to ask the prospect the right sequence of qualifying questions.
  3. Valence. It is the salesperson’s perception of the attractiveness or unattractiveness of of an outcome from certain actions. In other words, this is when a person has assigned preferences among the outcomes. If a salesperson thinks that a sequence of actions will bring an outcome, and he or she paints to the outcome as attractive (+) or unattractive (-) mentally, there is high probability that the salesperson will act accordingly. A sales team leader has to keep an eye on the attractiveness of the outcomes and keep the team focused. Team members must learn how to detach from the outcomes. In business and life, best results follow when detachment from outcome is practiced.

To put all these in a summarized formula:

Motivation= f ( Expectancy X Instrumentality ) X Valence
T​he sales team leaders and managers must pay close attention to these drivers to build-up the foundation of their sales team. Sales managers responsible for team performance, many times fall into one of two traps. Some will act like a traditional boss, and tell the team what to do and how to do it. The other type will try  the “empowering approach” by maintaining a hands-off policy. Neither approach works without the understanding of these drivers and balancing appropriately with the team in terms of authority.

What does all these mean in practice? In each organization, managers must spell out the team’s objectives unambiguously and unapologetically. That way team members do not have to make any guesswork on what they should be doing. Then using these three drivers as the backbone, customize the sales training in the organization to maximize each member’s full potential.

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