Practical motivation - Sales Management

From the practical perspective the starting point in looking at motivation of a sales teammight be considered as looking at issues of job dissatisfaction and satisfaction. This, as the reader will recall, is basically looking at the motivation-hygiene theory as it applies to the sales environment. Ideally factors that cause demotivation should be neutralized or otherwise tackled if they are seen to detract from efforts to input positive motivation. Then we can move forward with a framework for practical positive motivation.

Job satisfaction

Every job will include a number of interesting (motivating) and uninteresting (demotivating) factors, and each individual performing job functions is likely to have different views on which factors fall into each category. To maximize individual and team productivity, and continuously improve performance, managers must develop job content and provide an environment seen by each salesperson as motivating and rewarding in terms of each of their collection of personal drives and needs. As a starting point to positive motivation we must analyse the job functions, activities and working environments, and establish the typical motivating and demotivating factors.


Demotivating factors should be eliminated or neutralized before motivation can begin. Figure highlights a range of typical demotivators, which can most frequently can be categorized under the headings of:

  • job uncertainties
  • job imbalances
  • inadequate management
  • inadequate working environment
  • poor compensation
  • poor prospects. The sales manager should constantly be aware of any signs that there are problems in the motivational aspects of his sales team. Frequent signs of demotivation include:
  • increased absence
  • higher incidence of sickness
  • complaints about demotivating factors
  • deteriorating performance
  • requests for transfers
  • active job hunting
  • increased staff turnover
  • non-compliance with administrative
  • increased cynicism (at meetings).


In addition there are a host of attitudinal indications through changed or modified behavior the manager might spot.

It is a useful management exercise (sometimes monitored by a human resource department) to record and plot demotivationalindicators that can be quantifiably measured (such as absence, sickness, staff turnover). These might be graphed, and variations from levels considered normal can be highlighted for further investigation of root causes as a precursor to corrective action.


Now that we have identified a range of potential demotivators, some of which can be labelled as hygiene factors, a basic practical approach to motivation of the salesperson is to focus on providing:

  • an understanding of what is expected of him or her
  • confidence that he or she has the skills to do the job
  • training
  • feedback on company and personal performance
  • security in the job
  • pride in the company and job
  • a good working environment
  • fair reward.

We will build on these in the next section.

A framework for practical motivation

Before the sales manager can start to motivate a salesperson to achieve anything, the salesperson must know what is expected of him or her. The table following highlights some things the sales manager can address in developing a motivational selling environment. Then the sales manager can work at motivation by recognizing the major motivational drives within each salesperson (see Table), and working to help the salesperson increase the satisfaction of his or her main motivational drives.


The manager’s motivational role

The sales manager is key in the motivational process. He identifies the motivational drives within his team, and offers ways to increase satisfaction of personal needs. The sales manager has a range of tools he or she can use to motivate the sales team, including those listed below.

  • Counselling Use counselling to direct motivation to key performance indicators.
    Frank, honest counselling builds trust and a relationship of respect between a sales manager and the team.
  • Recognition Provide a forum for recognition for specific efforts and outstanding results.
  • Praise Give sincere and timely praise as a form of personal recognition for a job well done.
  • Involvement/participation Involve the salespersons in activities beyond day-today routine. The more a person is involved in a wider range of functions, particularly those that hold an interest, the greater the commitment to achievement of goals and objectives.
  • Delegation Give authority to take specific decisions or positive action, increasing motivation within those salespersons who have stronger needs for responsibility, power, personal growth, achievement, and so on.
  • Training Provide training in all the requisite skills for the job, and recognize and
    respond to the additional training needs of high fliers.
  • Promotion and self-development Create an environment where progress is possible and promotion is recognized as on merit. Encourage personal development through reading, study and networking with colleagues who have other skills and experiences to share.
  • Team building Develop teamwork aimed at achieving common goals and objectives.

The manager’s leadership role

The sales team will look to their sales manager for leadership in addition to motivation. Leadership means providing direction (particularly by example), and guiding actions and opinions. The authority that accompanies leadership may derive from severalsources:

  • electionby peers to hold a position of authority in a group
  • appointmentby higher-placed persons who believe they are in a position to exercise judgement about skills, experience and personal qualities, and to appoint a person to a leadership role
  • knowledge, where an individual has a degree of specialist knowledge on a subject that is critical to group performance, and can command the attention and respect of team subordinates
  • structure, where an organization is structured such that it is clear which jobs are more senior to others, and which subordinate positions report to each higher management tier
  • personal authority, where an individual has personal characteristics and attributes that command attention and respect within peer groups (for example, exhibiting high levels of energy, enthusiasm, leadership, influence, intelligence, integrity, determination, and so on).

A manager’s claim to leadership is commonly based on a mix of these factors.

Recognition as a leader commonly comes when team members realize the manager can and does help them achieve their own goals and objectives. As a leader the sales manager must:

  • achieve the group’s goals and objectives
  • maintain a team committed and motivated to achieving the group objectives
  • satisfy the personal needs of individual team members through achieving the group’s goals and objective
  • lead in a fashion that motivates staff through their personal commitment
  • be seen by staff as decisive, rational and consistent
  • be objective and impartial
  • accept full responsibility for the actions, activities and performance results of team members
  • lead by example and exhibit the highest standards of personal integrity, reliability, dependability, loyalty, etc.
  • be seen as a constant source of motivation and stimulation while exhibiting high levels of personal energy, enthusiasm,commitment and work effort.

Motivation through involvement in decision making

The management style adopted may be influenced by the manager’s views of the ability of team members to understand issues and make constructive comment. Some managers believe that they alone have the skills and experience to make decisions. This somewhat cynical view is unlikely to be very motivational.

If you, as sales manager, want your sales team to take ownership for decisions and their implementation then it is important to involve them whenever appropriate in the decision-making processes. Discussionamongst team members who have experience and relevant input to make on subjects usually produces better decisions, and active involvement helps produce a more cooperative environment and a team committed to implementing the decisions they participated in making.

In deciding whom to involve in the decision- making process, consider:

  • Whose problem is it?
  • Have I the authority to decide and act?
  • Is there time to consult and communicate with other interested persons?
  • Are there alternative courses of action?
  • Who else has information, knowledge or experience that can contribute to an evaluation of alternatives?
  • Who else is being committed to involvement, participation, action or decisions?
  • Who might benefit or suffer from any course of action?
  • Who might benefit from the experience of involvement in management decision making processes?

In arriving at decisions within the sales team it is often useful to check that each of the stages in Figure is covered.


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