10 Questions You Should Be Asking to Identify What Motivates Your Salespeople

You may, like many leaders I know, think that all salespeople are motivated by money. After all, isn’t that why they are in sales? The problem is, that thought, assumption, or oversimplification of human behavior can cost you big time.

motivation wordleIn my role as a sales consultant, facilitator, and coach, I see company leaders roll out compensation plans designed to drive behavior, results, and attitude. How effective are these efforts? It works … some of the time and for some people.

That’s why I often hear: “We changed our compensation plan to reward our reps for _________ (fill in the blank with: selling to new accounts, spending more time on cross-selling, selling our new product or service) and nothing has happened.”

Sound like something you’ve said or heard recently?

I have. More interesting though, is what I hear directly from the sales reps! Yup, straight from their mouths to my ears.

I regularly interview sales reps: for hiring insights, as part of our comprehensive salesforce evaluation process, for research, and for coaching.

In recent interviews with a team of sales reps, once again I heard information that reinforced my own experiences as a sales and HR leader… not everyone is motivated by money. Once they have ‘enough,’ more money is not an incentive at all.

Now don’t read more into this than what I stated…money IS important, it’s just not the most effective motivator to get someone to take action on things they deem unimportant, don’t want to do, or may take extra effort to complete (like prospecting).

What was more important to them? This particular team shared:

  1. Flexibility in their work schedule.
  2. Feeling important to their leaders.
  3. Making a difference with their customer—being seen as a valuable resource.
  4. Ownership of their territory.
  5. Accountability – this was a huge surprise! They want to be held more accountable.

These responses are KEY to coaching each sales rep to their top level of performance. Compensation is an external motivator and most of these listed are internal motivators—not as easy to “pay out” but yet important to these people.

When you know what is important, help them get more of it. Remind them of these benefits when discussing activities and results needed.

My advice then, to motivate your salespeople?

[Tweet “Design your compensation plans to reward for actions and results AND then supplement it with other motivating factors each person on your team needs.”]

Yes, it means individual conversations—coaching and asking for different information than you may have ever asked for. It also means that you need to earn the right for them to be honest with you.

To identify your sales reps motivators, use the thought starter questions below:

First, start with a statement of intent such as:

Terry, I want to help you succeed. To best know how I can help… followed by:

  1. Please share with me what makes you feel good about your job.
  2. When you need to ‘dig in’ and find a way to get things done, to act on some of the initiatives, how do you find the energy? Where do you pull the energy from?
  3. Share with me an example of when you believed you were effectively rewarded for your efforts?
  4. What makes your work meaningful and satisfying?
  5. How do you like to be rewarded for a job well done?
  6. When you succeed, what is your preferred way of being recognized?
  7. What makes you feel valuable at work?
  8. How does your work support the things that are most important to you outside of work?
  9. What gets in the way of you achieving even higher levels of success? Or What gets in the way from you achieving the goals for your job?
  10. How do you measure how successful you are? Or… what does success mean to you personally?”

There you have it, 10 questions that yield valuable information about motivators…and here is one question NOT to ask…

“Don’t you want to make more money?” (Who is going to say, “No?”)

So, while sales compensation planning is not for the faint of heart; it is necessary.

To make your comp plan and leadership efforts most impactful and “motivating,” balance your compensation offer with the conversations that tap into the real motivators that will drive your people to succeed.

[Tweet “It’s not hard to spot motivators if they trust you, but you’ll never know if you don’t ask”]


4 Success Drivers You Need to Know...and Grow


How do you strengthen this "Will" among your sales associates? How does the lack of drive impact your daily life? I discussed this and so much more on a recent virtual training event you can access below. It's valuable information for any business leader who needs to maximize performance of their people to grow their company.

Click here to access the replay.