Executive Blueprints

Sales Force Motivation

Your Sales Force is your Revenue Generating Engine. Does the engine need a tune-up? Are you giving high octane fuel to your sales force engine, or are you pushing the pedal to the metal and never getting out of second gear? The right motivation can accelerate sustainable revenue growth. 

Motivation does not Guarantee Performance

Motivation does not guarantee performance. Motivation inspires performance from capable sales associates. Motivation is necessary to retain and sustain performance. Without motivation, sales associates will lose interest or relinquish loyalty over time. However, motivation alone does not guarantee success.

Select qualified candidates based on the presentation of your product or services. All sales cycles are not the same. Support new and existing sales associates with equal passion. Continually measure performance internally and externally to identify trends. Develop a culture to nurture the sales force and feed the economic engine.

Sales Motivation does not come from Posters or Slogans

Professional Sales Associates are evaluated based purely on performance, not on buzzwords, catchy phrases, or slogans that appear on motivational posters. Some other career position evaluations are conducted with a yearly review, summarizing teamwork, progress, and ability to follow or give direction. Sales professionals are evaluated daily, monthly, and quarterly based on financial metrics. Performance is determined by the bottom line. In the language of the sales professional, actions and attainment speak louder than words. If you want to motivate the professional sales force, be prepared to speak in the same language.

How to Motivate the Sales Force

There are three critical elements to motivate a successful and high performance professional sales force. These elements are Appreciation, Recognition, and Compensation. It is necessary to provide all three ingredients with integrity.


Giving Recognition and Compensation is not the same as demonstrating Appreciation. Recognition implies personal performance. Appreciation requires a mutual understanding of the value of the personal performance as a contribution to the greater good of the organization. The sales professional is just one important participant. All of the employees and roles in the organization contribute to the success of the organization. To effectively demonstrate appreciation, it is necessary to understand and communicate how the roles of the various departments and functions work together, and the impact of each on another.

Once appreciation is measured in terms of benefit to the organization, then it becomes easy to identify how to express appreciation. Quite often, this expression of appreciation is bestowed in the form of training and development. The training is intended to help the sales associate sustain and expand on successful performance by providing a platform to learn more about the product, process, integration, or techniques. Appreciation may be presented in the form of tools that enable and empower the sales associate with hardware, software, or knowledge. Appreciation acknowledges contribution to the organization and empowers continued success.

The contributions of a sales associate may be worthy of demonstrating appreciation, even when personal attainment has not achieved the necessary levels for recognition or compensation.


Give recognition for the attainment of personal goals. Recognition may be shared in the form of awards, certificates, or personal accolades. It may also be provided in the form of written communication. It is important to give team or group recognition when appropriate, just as it is important to provide individual recognition when appropriate. Recognition should be fair, balanced, and earned. When it is earned, it should not be forgotten.

Verbal recognition is a nice gesture, but not a lasting one. If the contributions of the sales associate have had a significant benefit to the organization, and if the associate has achieved personal commitments, give lasting recognition in the form of a certificate or award. An award is a lasting reminder to the recipient, and to those individuals who may also want to receive one, that the organization recognizes and appreciates personal achievement.


The professional sales associate is measured by compensation to the organization in the form of revenue. Is it a surprise that the sales associate measures the performance of the organization to the sales associate in the same manner? Commission and bonus plans should be clear and easily understood. Commission, as pay for performance, should be realistic, even when it is treated as a 'stretch goal'.

Some sales cycles and customers take longer to close. Does the company strategy or compensation plan change more frequently than the product offering? How significant are these changes, and how well are they understood? Are compensation plans based on history, opportunity, the sales pipeline, or an unattainable pipe dream? Does the plan reward the team as a percentage of individual effort, thereby encouraging reciprocal support? Commission plans should be based on an allocation, as opposed to a budget. Commission should be an appropriated investment as incentive for team building and individual compensation. 

Putting It All Together

Is your sales force treated as the pipeline to profit, or as a necessary evil? Beware if your competitors value your top performers more than you do. Loyal customers are just as likely to be loyal to a trusted sales associate as they are likely to be loyal to a company or brand. Cultivate, educate and motivate your sales force to nurture a high performance revenue generating engine.

Use a balanced approach of Appreciation, Recognition and Compensation to acknowledge, reward and motivate the sales force as an investment to growing revenue.


Words of Wisdom

"In the modern world of business, it is useless to be a creative original thinker unless you can also sell what you create. Management cannot be expected to recognize a good idea unless it is presented to them by a good salesman."
- David M Ogilvy

"Everyone is in business for himself, for he is selling his services, labor or ideas. Until one realizes that this is true he will not take conscious charge of his life and will always be looking outside himself for guidance."
- Sidney Madwed

"Money was never a big motivation for me, except as a way to keep score. The real excitement is playing the game." 
- Donald Trump


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About the Author:
John Mehrmann is a freelance writer and President of Executive Blueprints Inc., an organization devoted to improving business practices and developing human capital. www.ExecutiveBlueprints.com provides resource materials for trainers, sample Case Studies, educational articles and references to local affiliates for consulting and executive coaching. http://www.InstituteforAdvancedLeadership.com provides self-paced tutorials for personal development and tools for trainers. Presentation materials, reference guides and exercises are available for continuous development.

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