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Simon, Inc. | Metro Atlanta

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As published in the Gwinnett Business Journal (January/February 2010)

“My sales team is doing well! We are the number two branch in the country out of forty, and we are meeting our corporate goals.” After hearing my lunch companion says this, I was curious as to why he wanted to meet with me. Normally, people who are running a company only want to meet with me if the sales team is struggling. It didn’t take long to find out. “We could be doing so much better”, he said. “My sales guys are all experienced, and that’s part of the problem. They are stuck in their comfort zones, and do not try to get new business or grow existing business. They simply take orders – they’re not really selling. We rarely take business away from a competitor unless the prospect comes to us and says they are unhappy with the competitor’s performance. Even then, we do not win enough of those.”

Oh yes, the comfort zone problem. A common theme is “how do I motivate my salespeople to greater performance?” That’s a complex issue. First of all, I believe (and many “experts” agree) that you cannot motivate anyone. Motivation must come from within. What managers and leaders can do is inspire their people to motivate themselves. That means pushing the right buttons with each of your team members, and being aware that each individual will respond to different buttons. So there is no way to inspire a team all the same way. You must take a different approach to each person, based on the type of motivation needed. Here are the types, in no particular order:

1)     Money-motivated.  This is the most common type, and the stereotype for variable-compensation sales positions. Many salespeople will respond if you give them the opportunity to make more money by selling more. These types usually have multiple sources of income, not just the commissions from their main career job.

2)     Recognition-seeker. There are those individuals who do not get so worked up over making more money. They will, however, work very hard to get your approval, and/or the approval of their peers. They want their name at the top of the sales list, and they want everyone to see the list. They get a kick out of being singled-out verbally at the company meeting or in the company newsletter with an “attaboy!” or an “attagirl!”. Their non-career time might be spent chairing committees or other high-profile activities.

3)     Achievement-oriented. Some salespeople are more goal-oriented than others, and these types will set high goals and go after them with zeal. They do not care so much whether they make a lot more money (although they won’t turn it down) or whether anybody notices. The important thing is that they get a kick out of achieving the goal. They often have hobbies like running marathons, mountain climbing and pursuing black belts.

4)     Thrill-Seeker. This type is often the consistently high performer in any organization. He or she loves the thrill of the hunt, the rush of competing against a formidable opponent, or the challenge of coming up with a strategy that is a little different and trying like heck to pull it off. These types are sometimes easier to spot, because they have hobbies like spelunking, sky-diving, or deep-sea diving. They might compete in serious individual sports at a high level.

If you are a salesperson, did you see yourself in any of these four types? If not, why are you in sales? If you are a leader/manager, can you categorize each of your team members? If not, endeavor to find out, and begin pushing the appropriate buttons. You just might find yourself being inspired by them!

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