If sales managers have a perceived weakness, it’s most likely their ability to motivate everyone on their team. This key competency requires that individuals need to be inspired individually.

Instead, many managers and leaders have a one-size-fits-all approach. One that’s not entirely their fault.

Does Money Motivate?

The common belief is that salespeople are in sales because they are money-motivated. So, managers naturally default to using the compensation plan to motivate behaviors. But the most recent data revealed by Objective Management group on 493,000 salespeople tells a different story. Below is a chart that shows where these salespeople fall on the motivation spectrum.

The good news is that 92% of salespeople are highly motivated, regardless of how they are motivated.

What Sales Managers Say

However, if you ask sales managers, they’ll likely tell you that the vast majority of their sales people are money motivated (or extrinsically motivated to use our language). I know, because I asked them during a recent presentation to a group of sales leaders.

But it isn’t true. The data shows that only 10% are extrinsically motivated (which would include money, rewards, and public recognition). Rather, 79% are intrinsically motivated, meaning they do things for their own reasons – for the satisfaction of doing the right thing – for taking care of the client – for being the best they can be, etc. This relying on folks being money-motivated kind of throws a wrench in most managers’ ability to actually motivate.

Latest Data

These stats are hot off the presses – just updated with 2018 data. Prior to this update, the results showed that 9% were extrinsically motivated and 80% were intrinsically motivated, with the other two buckets staying the same. My prediction is that we will continue to see this trend continue – a slow shift back to salespeople being more money motivated as the aftermath of the great recession continues to dissipate.

Still, the problem remains of managing the huge percentage of salespeople who aren’t fully money motivated. And, to be clear, what I mean is that they might tell you they want to make more money, that they like the idea of making more money, but they just may not be willing to alter their life to do so. They might not be willing to do whatever it takes to make more money.

Another Concern

Let me throw more stats at you. While 60% of sales managers are competent at motivating, most don’t possess all the key components required to do so, which is especially problematic. The chart below shows the percentage of sales managers who have each of the specific traits that combine to support the Motivating Competency. This data is taken from 45,000 sales managers, also provided by Objective Management Group.

Fewer than 50% of these sales managers develop strong relationships, have beliefs that support motivation, and take responsibility for outcomes (vs making excuses). Yikes. How on earth can these managers be expected to adequately inspire an intrinsically motivated salesperson?

To make the job even harder, if they don’t even believe that it’s their job to motivate (as in they don’t have beliefs that support motivating their people), how can we expect them to effectively reach and inspire that intrinsically motivated soul?

Understand Individuality

Managers must understand what makes each person tick to adequately motivate everyone on the team. They must develop rapport and build strong relationships with each person, whether that person’s traits are similar to the manager’s or not. They must understand that to be the most effective team leader they can be, a sales manager must help inspire everyone, individually.

While we would all love to have a team of completely self-motivated individuals, I am sorry to say, it doesn’t work that way – especially if there is an over-reliance on the compensation plan to motivate and inspire. If your team is like most, the compensation plan alone won’t cut it. And finally, if managers are making excuses, instead of accepting responsibility for outcomes, then they likely are accepting excuses from their salespeople as well.

More about Motivation

I noticed this trend away from money motivation in salespeople a few years ago and have written several times about it. If you would like to read more on the subject, check out the additional articles below. The book Drive, written by Daniel Pink in 2010, is a particularly fascinating read on the subject of motivation.

Reading List: