Sales people are not coin operated

That should turn some heads. Of course, some sales people are motivated by money, but not all of them and they don’t all start off that way.

Coin operated sales people are made

As someone who’s hired hundreds of entry level sales people, I’ve come to learn that they don’t come pre-formatted to understand commission plans. It is a behavior that is learned on the job.

They have to go through a few commission cycles to understand the relationship between their efforts and their pay checks. Then they need to hit a big pay day once or twice to feel what a tangible difference in income really means. Sometimes they need to have a bad month, before they realize that they don’t want to go back to their previous earnings.

Over time they grow into that mature, money motivated sales person that plans out how much they want to make in commission each month.  Then they start to work backwards from that goal to understand that types of deal sizes that they need to close, or the volume of meetings they need to have.


So what motivates people aside from cash?

So if they don’t start off coin operated, what motivates sales people? They are the same as other employees. Look around your company, what motivates everyone else? Why are they working without a commission plan?

  • Expertise
  • Recognition
  • Competition
  • Career progression
  • Autonomy
  • Mission Driven

The Mastery /Autonomy / Purpose Driven Sales Person

This person seeks to become and expert, and wants to be the best at their craft. This group is focused on constant learning, they are the super geeks that just want the knowledge.

I can’t believe this video below only has 85k views, but take a look and see how clearly Daniel Pink makes the case for non cash types of motivation:

The recognition driven sales person

This team member loves positive feedback loops, and the idea of social recognition. Not everyone wants to be on an email thread to the entire company or to the entire sales team. Not everyone wants to be called up on stage to receive an award for their accomplishments. This person does.

The mission driven sales person

This sales person is driven by a greater purpose (see the video above). They like knowing that what they’re doing is having an impact on the world, not just bringing home cash for another TV or Rolex. They typically don’t like working in a big company where they can’t feel like they are part of the progress.

The key motivating this sales person is putting them in a position where it’s very easy to see how their work ties back to the company mission. Additional communication or transparency about how the company is doing will go a long way with them.

The competitive sales person

This person wants to be top of the charts, even if there’s not more money involved.  Public competitions and dashboards or emails visible to the whole organization are what get the energy flowing for this group of people.  You could do this on an individual basis, or you could have entire teams race to a goal.