Sep 5, 2023 • Podcast

How do I motivate my sales team?

Paul shares the seven secrets to creating a motivational environment for your sales team.

Show Notes

You can’t motivate people. Really?! Listen to find out just what that means.

Education is critical to building confidence. Help your team develop the necessary skill set to sell successfully.

Selling is a delicate balance between controllable effort and uncontrollable outcomes. Increase your team’s belief in their desired outcomes by sharing success stories. 

Eliminate those non-selling activities your sales team is required to do. 

When you expect more from your team, you’ll get more from your team.

Did you enjoy the podcast? Go to Apple Podcasts to rate/review the podcast: Click “Listen” then the “ratings and reviews” button.

Visit to get started on the 30-Day Tough-Timer Challenge!

Order your copy of Selling Through Tough Times from Amazon or Barnes & Noble!

Click here to purchase the latest edition of Value-Added Selling!

Interested in our public seminar offerings? Click here to learn more.


Thank you for tuning in. Our show is updated weekly with the questions you ask. So, please go to the home page to ask the question that you want answered.

Thank you to our production team at The Creative Impostor Studios.

Be sure to follow our show in your favorite podcast app and share this episode with a colleague or friend.

And most importantly…make it a big day.

Check out this episode!

How do I motivate my sales team?

(Transcribed from podcast)

So, I’ve got to talk about what prompted today’s call. So recently I was on a discovery call with a group of sales leaders. And during our call, we’re just trying to figure out, okay, what are the key challenges? What’s going on? And the sales leader said something that really struck a chord. And he said, “You know what? I wish my salespeople were more motivated. They just seem complacent. How can we motivate our sales team?” And I know that it was especially frustrating for this passionate sales leader because he didn’t understand why salespeople don’t share his same passion and excitement for their company and also for their customers. And so this is a challenge that many sales leaders face. So we’re going to address it on today’s show.

Now, before we get into that, just a reminder. Pick up your copy of Value-Added Selling. Value-Added Selling is your go to guide for selling more profitably. Not only that, on September 27th and 28th, I am hosting a two day Value-Added Selling public seminar at our training center in St. Louis, Missouri. We’re going to have a link with more details. If you need a refresher on Value-Added Selling, now is the time to act. Or if you’re just starting your career or you’re looking to sell more profitably, please join us for this two day event. Again, more details will be available in the show notes.

So let’s get back to motivation. You know, early on in my career, I learned something, really, really interesting. And this is from a great sales leader who happens to also be my old man. He said to me one day, he said, “You can’t motivate people.” And he said it in a way, and it really was quite shocking, because he’s a motivational speaker. I mean, there’s a motivational element to what he does. And so he said, “You can’t motivate people. Motivation is an inside-out process. But you can create an environment where people motivate themselves.” And as sales leaders, that’s where we need to focus. We need to focus on creating a more motivational environment for our team. So I’m going to share the seven secrets to creating a motivational environment for your team. And we call them the seven Es. So we’re going to go by each one of them.

The first one is to Educate. Education is critical. Education builds confidence. And one example of this, a few years ago I tried motivating my kids to play golf and it didn’t work. They didn’t want to play. They flat-out would refuse to go. And I kept thinking, “Okay, why wouldn’t they want to play? Golf is amazing.” But I realized something after a few weeks of trying to coerce them to go play golf. Initially, golf is not fun. It’s frustrating. And they didn’t want to go play because they didn’t have the skills that they needed. I was too focused on trying to make them play versus teaching them to play. So I changed my approach. I focused more time on teaching them the skills: working on putting, going to the driving range. And, all of a sudden, once they started to develop skills, they were more motivated to play.

You think about how often we do this as sales leaders. We tell our people, “Hey, just go out there and sell. Just go make more calls; go sell,” and we don’t train them on how to do it. It’s interesting, because we sometimes feel hiring experienced professionals will get us out of training, because if they’re experienced, they should know the product. They should know how to sell, when in fact we all need training. We need that skill set to be developed. So training is not a one-time event. It’s ongoing. Make sure you’re educating your sales team.

The next E that we’ll talk about is Efficacy. So do your salespeople believe their actions will lead to the desired result? You know we think about selling, it’s really a delicate balance between controllable effort and uncontrollable outcomes. You can do everything right on a sales call and you still don’t get the business. And so, for salespeople, this is frustrating because they may start to doubt that their actions are leading to the desired result. So as a sales leader, your goal is to make sure that your team believes their actions will lead to a desired result. So increasing the seller’s belief is going to help create a more motivational environment.

One tactical way to apply this concept, at your next company meeting, have people share their success stories. Have them highlight the actions that they took in order to achieve that success. And make sure that those action items are part of your sales process. Again, we’re trying to increase the seller’s belief that the action they’re taking will lead to the desired result. That’s efficacy.

The next E: Eliminate barriers. It’s amazing some of the requirements salespeople have, non-selling-related activities that they are required to complete. And this could be anything from CRM maintenance, pointless reporting, customer service activities. And in one case, I remember at a company meeting where the salesperson, one of their sellers, was forced to barbecue at a customer event, instead of having the opportunity to go out there and sell, which is one of their greatest selling environments. You have all your customers together and he was forced to cook instead of sell. You know, if we’re going to create a motivational environment, we don’t want to put barriers in the way of our salespeople achieving what they need to achieve.

So, I would conduct a barrier analysis with your team. Ask your team, “What’s getting in the way of you going out there and achieving your goal?” And anything that’s non-sales-related, you’ve got to ask yourself, “Okay, why are we tasking our salespeople with these items?” Remove the barriers. You can’t fish if you’re too busy mending nets. So find a way to unburden your sales team.

The next E: elevate Expectations. Salespeople will rise or fall to the expectations you place on them. When you expect more from people, you tend to get more. Leaders inspire others through their expectations. In fact, the best leaders instill a belief that there’s a greater possibility than what’s perceived by the seller. So challenge your team with the right sales objectives. Great leaders are able to stretch their team’s capacity by raising goals: goals that are challenging, goals that will excite. So challenge your salespeople to achieve more with your expectation. Let them know that you expect more from them. You expect them to be more professional. You expect them to have more appointments. You expect them to gain more margin, conduct more demos, et cetera. Raise that level of expectation.

It’s interesting. I will work with sales organizations, and I always tell them, “If your customers don’t occasionally challenge your price, then you are not charging that customer enough. You should raise your prices.” And if your salespeople are not challenging the expectations that you set, you’re not asking enough of them. Think about it. You want a certain percentage of your salespeople to come to you and say, “Wow, this target is too high or this target, it seems unattainable,” or “I’m not sure if I can hit this. This seems like a lot.” When you get to that point, you are right at that sweet spot where the goal is challenging enough. You’re going to force them to work harder. Motivate them, and do that by elevating your expectations.

Next, we’ll talk about the Endowment effect. So, how involved is your team in the goal-setting process? Here’s the typical way most organizations will handle forecasting. The sales leader is given an overall target, and then he or she will divvy it up among the sales team. The forecast is issued to each seller, and there’s almost like a ping-pong negotiation where the seller says, “I can’t hit that.” And then, you start negotiating with each other. It’s back and forth/back and forth. And the salespeople end up leaving complaining about the number and leaders are frustrated with the seller. So there is a better way. The endowment effect is leveraging an emotional bias where people place a higher value on what they own.

See, what happens is, when you incorporate your sales team into the goal-setting process, you’re giving them a sense of ownership. And if they own the goal, they’re going to work harder to achieve it. So sellers are motivated to attain goals over which they have perceived control. So get your team involved in the process and you may be surprised at the shift in their level of commitment. So make sure that you’re involving them in their process. Ask them questions, get their opinions on what they think is possible, and what they think is probable. And in doing so, you give that sense of ownership.

The next E is Energy. Energy is key. You know, it’s interesting watching any sporting event. You see the winning team’s sideline, and it’s filled with energy, enthusiasm, encouragement, right? Everyone’s working towards that common goal, and the individual energy multiplies as team members engage with one another. Now the question is, would this describe your sales team? Do you have an enthusiastic team that is full of energy and ready to go out there?

Now, leaders, your role is to protect the team’s energy. You want to build what we call a positive perimeter around your team. You want to shield them from all the corporate struggles and all of the downers in the organization. You’ve got to protect your team from negative people. And you know who they are, right? I’m sure that you’re thinking of those people right now. You know, if these individuals are part of the sales team, you’ve got to be very direct with these low-energy complainers and tell them, “Hey, you need to adjust your attitude,” and you have to be specific. Call their attention to specific behaviors that are negatively impacting the team. It could be negative comments at meetings. It could be incessant complaining. You want to be specific. They need to know exactly what they need to change. And as the guardian, you have to observe your team’s overall energy and, at all times, you must be that positive leader.

Now, I’m not saying the Pollyannish view of the world, but what I am saying is that yes, be realistic, but you have to be optimistic as well. So make sure that you are leading by example in this regard. And when there is negative people within the group, you have to address that concern. Nothing can create a more demotivating environment than a bunch of negative people. You have to address it.

The final E in creating a motivational environment: the pay has to be Equitable. Equitable is the keyword. Here’s a question to think about. Is it fair to pay your top performers marginally better than the low performers? No, it is not. Top performers deserve more, and you know what, the low performers deserve disparity. In sales, marginal compensation gaps produce mediocre performers. Your goal is to create a comp plan that is going to motivate those top earners to become even more successful financially. You want to overhaul your comp plan and make sure that it’s not only rewarding top performers, but it’s motivating underperformers as well.

I mean, think about this, if you, let’s say you have two or three top performers within your organization, and they are making a significant amount of money. When you onboard a new salesperson who may struggle for a year or two before they get the hang of it, they’re looking at their performance. They’re looking at the gap in pay to what they want to become, and they’re going to work harder to close that gap. There should be a significant difference between the top performers and low performers.

You know, and I remember one company meeting where I was giving a keynote presentation, and before my presentation one of the top performers came up and you know, gave a little speech, that the focus was, okay, what is this guy doing different? You know, why is he so successful? And he basically got up there and answered that question. And then he was given an award. This is the third year in a row where this top performer received this award. And it was a plaque—a plaque that basically said, “Congratulations on being our top salesperson.” It was hilarious. When he received the plaque, he said to the leadership team, “I want to thank you again for providing me with this plaque. It’s going to have a prominent space right here in my office. However, I must say I tried submitting this plaque to my mortgage company, and they will not accept it as payment. So maybe I’ll try again this time.” And when he said that, everyone laughed because he got a plaque instead of getting a check. You’ve got to reward your top performers and you’ve got to reward them significantly more than the underperformers.

Well, guys, those are the seven Es. Remember, you can’t motivate salespeople, but you can influence the environment. Use these seven Es to help you create a more motivational environment. And in doing so, your team is going to motivate themselves. Make it a big day.

Ask a Question


Selling Through Tough Times

Selling Through Tough Times

The Ultimate Guide to Grow Your Profits Through Any Downturn

Order Now
Value Added Selling

Value-Added Selling (4th Edition)

The global, go-to guide that started the Value Selling Revolution - now updated for today's market.

Order Now