What Actually Motivates a Sales Team to Sell?

2 min read

Would your team perform better if you promised them a reward for meeting their objective?

According to Daniel H. Pink, author of the best seller “To sell is human”, offering an incentive for high performance is no longer a recommended technique. He explains why by examining the puzzle of motivation – and makes a case for transforming our entire business operating system.

Yes, selling requires motivation. But a desire to succeed and secure a big customer doesn’t come about through rewards – or penalties to correct bad habits. The secret lies in an innate invisible force: a force that drives us to do things because we’re interested in doing them. That motivates us to go out and sell… because it matters to us.

Pink defends his position in a Ted Talk. Here’s what he says.

Business is still rooted in conditional rewards (i.e. if you do this, you’ll get that bonus). In other words, companies are based on operating systems built entirely around extrinsic motivators: rewards and punishments. Yet it’s a model that no longer works in the 21st century and, as Pink demonstrates, it often does harm and hampers creativity.

Several decades ago, without the benefit of automated systems, we worked by following simple rules with a clear objective. Rewards, by their very nature, narrow our focal point and concentrate the mind. Which is why they worked so well.

However, with the arrival of the internet and a raft of technological advances, we outsource and automate analytical work, accounting tasks, financial analysis and programming. In the software era, it’s now conceptual, creative and intuitive capabilities that are really important. We’re no longer working according to a set of rules, and looking for a single solution. There may be various solutions – surprising ones that aren’t obvious.

It’s vital, therefore, that we let go and learn to look around us to find the solution. The old reward system, says Pink, narrows our focus and limits the chance of doing just that. Intrinsic motivation, on the other hand, is the desire to do things because they really matter to us. Because we like doing them, or because they’re interesting.

Pink sets out a new operating system for business, which revolves around 3 building blocks:

  • Autonomy: the urge to direct our own lives
  • Mastery: the desire to get better at something that matters
  • Purpose: the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves.

How does your company fare? Are you building your sales with these cornerstones in place?

Intrinsic motivation, says Pink, is not present in the majority of businesses looking to increase productivity. Certain companies, however, have been piling up successes for years by encouraging self-direction. Take Google, for example.

Google’s engineers are completely free to spend 20 per cent of their time on something they really want to work on. They have autonomy over how their time, their task and their team. This flexibility is anything but a waste of time: around half of new products in a typical year – including Gmail, Orkut and Google News – were conceived during that 20 per cent time.

Freeing up time for creativity is what motivated us at ForceManager to build a light and simple sales force management system, based on mobility. The ForceManager solution automatically records all phone calls, emails and visits a sales rep makes. The result is total transparency.

Putting into practice intrinsic motivation, the salesperson no longer needs to report their activity manually to sales management, as everything is recorded through inverse reporting. The consequent sales report includes both quantitative and qualitative measures of activity.

Automating all sales interaction saves huge amounts of management time and results in a sales rep who’s more motivated, efficient and fully dedicated to actually selling. Having more autonomy means they can develop their instinct to find out where the ideal customer is, work out how to present their product, and identify what makes for an impeccable customer experience.