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ATD Blog

6 Ways You Can Motivate Your Sales Team

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Sales leaders want their salespeople to be motivated about the sales goal, work toward that achievement, and go the extra mile to reach beyond it. The hard part is identifying the motivation. There are many obstacles to overcome when influencing others through what motivates them.

First of all, everyone has different motivations. Secondly, those motivations—and the accompanying intensity—can change quickly. You may feel charged up and ready to face any challenge your job offers after a raise, bonus, or some other form of positive recognition, but that intense drive may not be there all the time.

Additionally, although motivations vary between people and can change within the salesperson, there are usually one (or two) dominant motivating factors that drives an employee.

To be a successful sales leader, you must be adept at identifying dominant motivations and recognizing motivation signals. Six common factors motivate salespeople are:

  • Money
  • Opportunity
  • Teamwork
  • Independence
  • Visibility
  • Excellence

MOTIVE is an acronym for remembering the sales motivators.


Money, or what money can buy, is important to most salespeople. Other motivators may be equally or more important. Ways to impact money as a motivator include:

  • Relating sales results to money
  • Setting up special incentives for superior performance
  • Discussing and reinforcing personal and financial goals for the future


What constitutes an opportunity varies from person to person. However, motivational opportunities usually fall into the categories of challenges or the possibility of improving one’s situation on the job or in life in general. Ways to create opportunities include:

  • Showing how success leads to advancement
  • Providing for career pathing (where possible)
  • Delegating responsibilities that prepare the person for a future role within the organization


The nature of a sales position attracts people who are independent and prefer working by themselves. However, many salespeople do not fit into that stereotypical image. They are motivated by the social aspects of being part of a team and contributing to that team’s success. If you identify this motivator as a factor for several of your salespeople, you may:

  • Hold frequent sales meetings or social functions.
  • Involve them in team projects.
  • Use teamwork and related ideas in your speech.
  • Build-in team incentives.


Some salespeople are motivated when left on their own. This involves empowerment, independence, and freedom, enhancing feelings of power and control. This motivator should not be ignored or minimized because people belong to a team. Instead, use it to motivate your salespeople to be successful.

You can:

  • Delegate special projects or assignments (and then keep your hands off).
  • Provide added responsibilities and authority (as it’s earned).
  • Have the salesperson conduct a segment of a sales meeting or lead the entire meeting.



Recognition, approval, or a need to stand out from the crowd drives some salespeople. Whereas opportunity comes from internal recognition of achievements, visibility involves recognition from others. When a salesperson is motivated by visibility:

  • Give them lots of approval for even small accomplishments.
  • Applaud successes with a personal note and publicize it to salesforce or upper management.
  • Be sure the salesperson knows accomplishments are recognized.


An excellence-motivated person wants to excel at what he does. This person takes great pride in achieving or surpassing personal and professional expectations.

The key to motivating this person is in a behavioral theory called the Pygmalion effect (or self-fulfilling prophecy). This theory states that your confidence in a person’s abilities will unconsciously be communicated to them via body language, actions, tone, and verbal interactions.

If you’re convinced that your salespeople are capable of achieving their goals and letting them know it, this will reinforce their desires and motivation, and they’ll likely achieve and surpass goals. To move the self-fulfilling prophecy in a positive direction, you could:

  • Establish personal and professional development goals and action plans together to enhance confidence that the salesperson will be able to fulfill them.
  • Try to build on strengths.
  • Ignore minor mistakes.
  • Congratulate people on their achievements and progress toward goals.

We all are motivated by different factors, including salespeople. Identifying these factors using the MOTIVE acronym and managing those factors is crucial for a sales leader to maximize their team’s potential.

About the Author

David Jacoby is a managing partner at the Sales Readiness Group, an industry leading sales training company that helps Fortune 500 companies develop and deliver customized sales and sales management training programs. David is a thought leader in instructional design and the use of innovative technologies to deliver online sales training programs. Previously, he was a principal at Linear Partners, a sales consulting firm focused on providing sales effectiveness and development solutions to emerging growth companies. He writes frequently on the topics of selling skills, sales management, sales coaching and sales training. Follow David on Twitter: @DIjacoby  

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