5 Ways to Motivate Sales People (Without Cash)

The old standard is that sales people can only be motivated by money (better known as “cash”).  While cash certainly works, not ever manager has a huge budget that allows them to be throwing big money incentives to their sales team.

According to new research by the Aberdeen Group and distributed by the Incentive Research Foundation, non-Yellow Page companies that use non-cash rewards and recognition programs report higher revenue increases – 9.6% as opposed to 3% who don’t.   Simply put, organizations that provided non-monetary rewards and recognition performed better as a cohesive whole.

So we’ve assembled five things that managers can do to positively impact the morale of their sales reps right away, today, and they don’t involve cash.

1)      Be real.  Be genuine. This may seem overly obvious, but to start with, effective recognition isn’t just sweet talk and a fake smile.  It needs to be inspiring. As a manager, you need to show that you truly appreciate their contributions and achievements. It’s also very important to know whether a goal/objective deserves formal public recognition, a casual announcement, an “at-a-boy” during a team meeting, or a more informal praise.

2)      Be Specific (aka “Tough Love”).  Sometimes, when people are not delivering on their objecitves, the problem is not laziness or incompetence.  Often, they simply don’t know what they should be doing. For example, a rep I recently rode with was having issues selling new, non-advertisers.  I discovered he wasn’t using any spec art in his proposals especially in proposals to larger companies who were already spending big bucks on advertising, but just not with his company.  Now I know he was trained on it, but apparently, he had never actually ordered any spec.  People need to know specifically what behaviors need changing and why.  In my example, by working with the rep on how to request spec art, and then use it in his sales presentation, he has started to post higher new sales results.

3)      Be Candid. Let’s be honest – the past few years haven’t been real good ones for the industry.  Your people often depend on the manager to be the intermediary between them and senior management/ownership/corporate governors, and they expect you to share information that may affect them and their jobs. While you certainly need to filter things to some degree, you also need to be honest with them by keeping your team current of what’s going on as much as possible. During tough times, that candor can mean the difference between an office where everyone is upbeat and performing, and one where employees are always on edge about what will happen to their job tomorrow.

4)      Be Personable.  Write handwritten notes. Even if it sounds a bit corny or old fashion, the impact from a handwritten note lasts a lot longer that a pat on the back or “well done” comment. Former US Secretary of State Colin Powell in a recent speech talked about a note of thanks he sent to a corporal for a job well done.  Powell hadn’t thought about that note until months later, when he walked past the corporal’s office and saw that the note he sent had been framed and hung in a prominent place.

5)      Time off. One great way to reward successful results (and also sow some seeds of loyalty) is to acknowledge your reps’ hectic schedules and give them some extra time off for bringing in higher than expected results. Even if your corporate policy forbids granting employees an entire day off, you can still find hours here and there to offer them.
To have a chance to succeed today, salespeople need a lot more than just a rewarding commission plan.   Sure, good training, more technological tools, and assistance from others help.   But we’ve established that money alone cannot satisfy every motivation needed for every sales rep.  Acceptance, recognition and personal esteem can also play a big role.  Adding non-cash rewards to regular result compensation can create some added excitement and competition for results.   Try a couple of different things and let us know the results at ken@yptalk.com.

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One response to “5 Ways to Motivate Sales People (Without Cash)

  1. This is great stuff Ken. Thanks for the constant reminders. I think we get so busy looking for bigger and better that we forget the basic stuff.

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