What Motivates a Salesperson? A Lot of Positive!

What Motivates a Salesperson? A Lot of Positive!

Written By Jeffrey Gitomer

KING OF SALES, The author of seventeen best-selling books including The Sales Bible, The Little Red Book of Selling, and The Little Gold Book of Yes! Attitude. His live coaching program, Sales Mastery, is available at gitomer.me.


What can I do to motivate my people?” and “What can I do to stay motivated?” are two of the three most asked questions I get. The third is “Jeffrey, where did all your hair go?” But that’s another story.

The subject of motivating a salesperson to succeed or to achieve more is as much an enigma as it is a challenge.

A quick look at the TV will give you some answers. Big corporations and ad agencies are aware of what motivates people, and make commercials accordingly.

The big four buying motives (mental incentives to take action) are: fear, greed, vanity, and guilt. These all seem to have a negative twinge to them. And the long term of playing on these motives will lose, but the TV only uses them for a minute. They poke you in the eye with a sharp stick real fast so that you just wince with guilt or greed then act.

These messages are actually called “memes” from the science of memetics (memes are to memetics as genes are to genetics) Memetics is the science of how we are stimulated to act and programmed by the messages we see and hear. (Go buy the benchmark book on memes: “Virus of the Mind” by Richard Brodie at www.amazon.com)

OK, I’m down the road far enough with that one. What motivates a salesperson to act and sell is the message I’m trying to convey.

Here is the list of positive motivators:

Money: The greatest self-motivating force in the world.

Contest or Prize: A chance to win, and be seen as “best.”

Desire to win: The inbred instinct to finish first.

Award: A plaque that says, “I’m great.”

Recognition: Telling others, “I’m great.”

Ego stroke: Wanting to feel good inside, or be the center of attention.

Helping others: The need to be or feel needed.

Opportunity: The dangling carrot to get more.

Desire to succeed: The inside fire that burns.

Family: The will to secure the people you love.

Achievement: The personal drive to accomplish.

Advancement: The desire to “get ahead” personally.

Independence: The want to “be my own boss.”

Challenge: The desire to achieve a goal (or gold).

Exercise: Positive physical stimulation. (Buy everyone on your team a health club membership.)

Fun and recreation: The desire to have a beer at the beach. The desire to play golf.

Someone inspirational: Someone who, by their words or action, inspires you to “do it.”

New knowledge (learning a new or better way): Sales audio/video, seminars, courses and books provide some of the best sources of inspiration and motivation. The key is to take action after you learn. (Record your notes and action items on as soon as you learn them. Listen every day.)

Making a sale: As soon as you make one, you want to make another (and the best part is, that it’s the easiest time to do so. You’re on a mental high and an emotional self-confident roll. Go Go!)

The thrill of (repetitive) victory: The desire to keep on (re)winning. Making a sale right after you just made one.

Belief in product: The conviction that your product is the best gives motivation to self-confidence.

Love of job: The thrill of loving what you do creates a stronger belief in what you sell.

Encouragement: “You can do it” goes a long way to achieve. Encouragement is the biggest (and least used) outside positive motivator.

There’s the list, BUT:

BEWARE: Adding negative motives (quotas, minimum numbers of calls, fear, threats) will ruin the process.

BE AWARE: Some people are motivated by a fear of failure. Big mistake. If you can convert that negative energy into a positive motivator, you will create the internal atmosphere where success will thrive.

BEWARE: Some bosses try to use threats or impose minimum quotas to get sales “numbers.” Big mistake. Convert that negative energy to encouragement, training, education and supportive sales tools and you will win big.

BE AWARE: To succeed, one (positive motive) will not be enough. I recommend you take this list, and create a plan to incorporate positive actions into each motivating factor.

BEWARE: Taking yourself or “it” too seriously can also be a de-motivator. It causes stress, and takes the fun out of selling.

BE AWARE: The daily, self-disciplined actions salespeople take are the keys to making motivators work.

So, here’s the quick answer: Don’t try to motivate people, rather set an atmosphere in which they will motivate themselves.

And, here’s the long term answer: Positive forces and reinforcements will KEEP salespeople happy and successful more than negative ones.


FREE GitBit… Want a list of 23.5 things you can do to become more persistent? Two pages of thoughts and self-motivator actions to hang in there no matter what. Just go to www.gitomer.com click Access GitBit register and enter the word, PERSISTENCE in the search box.